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What makes for a comprehensive will and estate plan?

For readers that might not yet have an estate plan, there are several reasons to start today.

First, Michigan will generally appoint an executor and apply the rules of intestate succession to an estate that doesn’t have a will. The rules functionally create a default will, providing for the transfer of shares of the estate to one’s heirs in a specific order and percentage. However, many people have preferences that vary from those rules. For example, the rules generally exclude friends and charities. Accordingly, drafting a will is the solution for avoiding the rules of intestacy.

Since a will can include non-monetary preferences, even smaller estates will benefit. For example, an individual may have specific requests regarding his or her memorial service and handling of remains. A will can also name the executor, the individual authorized to make decisions about distributing personal items and attending to any debts of the estate.

State laws differ on the requirements of writing a valid will. In Michigan, a simplified probate process is available for small estates. A full probate process, in contrast, may require the court to authenticate a will. An affidavit of the will in the simplified approach will hopefully bypass that process. An attorney can customize an individual’s will to utilize informal probate procedures to save time and administrative expense, where applicable.

Finally, a will can also reference other estate planning documents, such as a living revocable trust. In a pour over will, for example, an individual directs the residue of his or her estate to go into the trust. 

Source: FindLaw, “Living Trust Information,” copyright 2016, Thomson Reuters

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