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23rd June 2010
By B. Waluyo in Estate Planning
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We often hear people talk about estate planning, but what exactly is estate planning? Is it just for older people? Is it something only the wealthy should consider? Is a Will all I need? These are just a few of the questions people have when it comes to the subject of estate planning. In this article I will attempt to answer these questions and briefly address some of the common Who, What, When, Where, and Why's of estate planning.

WHO should have an estate plan? This is perhaps the easiest question to answer. Every legal adult in Michigan should consider a certain level of estate planning.

WHAT level of estate planning do I need? This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. Each individual and situation is unique, and the level of estate planning required is determined by a number of factors. Just a few of the factors to consider are your age, financial status, marital status, health, family situation, and whether you have children.

A good place to begin is by considering the following questions: How would you want to be cared for in the event of your disability or incapacity? Who will make your medical decisions if you are unable to? What will happen to your home, business, or other possessions when you die? What will happen to your children if something happens to you? How should your funeral and remains be handled? The list goes on and on.

Proper estate planning can address the issues mentioned above as well as help protect your assets, provide tax benefits, ease probate, provide for charities, and much more. While having a Will is important, it might not be the only thing you need to accomplish your goals. Regardless of your age or financial status, there is an estate plan that can be tailored to suit your needs.

WHEN should I consider an estate plan? The old saying that "good things come to those who wait" does not apply to estate planning. "There is no time like the present" is a more appropriate phrase. A well thought out and effectively drafted estate plan is an investment in your future. And many times the longer we put things off, the less likely we are to get them done.

WHERE do I begin? The first thing you should do is consider your current situation and determine your goals for the future. Speaking with friends and family members can often be helpful. You should then consult with a Michigan estate planning attorney. When talking to your attorney, be open and forthright (remember that what you say to your attorney is held in confidence). Your attorney can advise you of your options, and together you can develop an estate plan that best suits your individual needs.

WHY do I need an attorney? You should have an attorney for your own protection. Many people believe that they can create their own estate plan by using a do-it-yourself kit or an online service. Do-it-yourself estate planning can be dangerous and have unintended consequences. One very popular online website cautions (in the fine print) that the information provided might not be correct, complete, or even up-to-date, and use of the site is at your own risk.

Estate planning in Michigan is governed by both state and federal laws which can often be complex and confusing. Your attorney can analyze these laws and determine how best to apply them to your unique situation. Many do-it-yourself kits and services will entice you with their "sizzle" when what you really want is the steak. With something as important as estate planning, seek the advice of an attorney.

Conclusion. While volumes can be (and indeed have been) written about estate planning, I hope this brief overview has been helpful and informative.

This article is intended to provide general information about estate planning and not legal advice. For specific legal advice about your particular needs, please consult an attorney.
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