Wills and Trusts in Ann Arbor, Michigan

An estate plan is a toolkit designed to meet the essential goal of providing security and peace of mind for your family. Depending on your needs, your estate plan may contain different documents, but wills and trusts are some of the basic building blocks of most estate plans.

At Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon, P.C., we serve the estate planning needs of families throughout Washtenaw, Oakland, Wayne, Livingston, Jackson, and Lenawee Counties, including creating wills and trusts that are customized specifically for the client.

Michigan Wills

A Last Will and Testament, simply called “a will,” is the estate planning tool with which most people are familiar. With a will, you can provide written instructions about who should inherit your probate estate, who should serve as your personal representative, the person who manages the probate process, and who should be your funeral representative.

Another critical function a will can serve is to designate a guardian for your minor children and a conservator for any assets you may leave them within the probate process. In Michigan, a guardian is responsible for a person, and a conservator is responsible for financial matters. The guardian and conservator may be the same person, but need not be. In the event that you die while your children are still minors, the guardian and conservator you choose will step in to care for your children and protect and manage their probate assets until they are legally able to do so.

In addition, your will can appoint funeral representatives who will make any decisions needed to carry out your funeral and burial or cremation wishes.

Trusts for Michigan Residents

Like a will, a trust can distribute your assets after your death to people whom you have designated. The trust document creates the trust and describes the rights and responsibilities of the grantor, also known as a settlor (the person who created and funded the trust); the trustee (the person who manages the trust); and the beneficiaries of the trust.

There are different kinds of trusts for different needs, such as reducing taxes or protecting assets from creditors. Many people choose to create a trust because it allows them to keep the assets owned by the trust out of probate. A revocable living trust is one of the most common types of trust. It allows the grantor to use, manage, and enjoy trust assets during their lifetime; they act as both the trustee and the beneficiary. After the grantor’s death, a successor trustee immediately takes over and continues to manage the assets in the trust for the beneficiaries named in the trust document. The trustee will distribute trust income to the beneficiaries, and ultimately distribute all trust assets to them, according to the terms of the trust document.

A revocable trust, as the name suggests, can be revoked or changed easily by the person who created it so long as that person is alive and has capacity; this offers great flexibility. An irrevocable trust means the grantor gives up control of trust assets, but doing so can offer greater tax benefits and asset protection. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you identify your goals and choose the type of trust that best serves them. We can help identify the best type of trust for you--from a simple revocable trust to more complex irrevocable Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), Spousal Lifetime Annuity Trusts (SLATs), Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT), and various charitable remainder trusts.

How We Help You With Michigan Wills and Trusts

You have multiple options for providing for your loved ones and distributing your assets after your death. Creating a will or trust that is right for your family’s needs will offer them security after your passing, and will give all of you peace of mind in the present.

If you have recently gone through a family change or reconfiguration, like marriage, divorce, or the birth or death of a family member, it is especially important to make sure that your estate plan is up to date. Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon, P.C. will help you create a will, trust, or both, designed specifically for your unique circumstances. We invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation regarding your Michigan estate planning needs.

Frequently Asked Questions - Wills & Trusts

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that allows you to designate what happens to your assets when you die. You can also do several other things with a will, such as decide who will be the guardian or conservator over your minor children, who will manage your estate and pay your bills, who will distribute your assets, who will make your funeral arrangements, and do you wish to make any special gifts to friends or loved ones, such as jewelry; art, stamps, guns, or coin collections; family heirlooms and antiques; and other special items you would like distributed.

Do I really need a will?

Having a will is a good idea so you can anticipate and minimize the potential for disagreements between family members and loved ones. Not everyone needs a will; however, for most people, having a will is an effective way to ensure that your estate is handled exactly as you would like it to be handled. If you die without having a will (or other document such as a trust) in place, you open yourself up to a greater potential for family disputes and your estate being handled according to Michigan default laws for probate estates rather than according to your wishes. If you have no spouse or children, it is especially important to have a will, so you, not a law of the state, will decide what happens to your property when you die.

Does a will avoid probate?

No. Having a will helps your loved ones carry out your wishes after you die, but it does not avoid probate. There are several ways to avoid probate such as having a proper trust, certain beneficiary designations, certain types of deeds, and joint ownership of certain property. It is best to consult with an experienced attorney to determine what is the best way to set up your estate plan according to your personalized needs and desires.

Are there any special considerations regarding estate planning for minor children?

Yes. We all hate to think about what would happen if we die while our children are still minors. However, doing nothing should not be an option. Having a plan in place is important, and a will or trust that designates who will care for your minor children in the event of your untimely death. For most people with minor children, a trust is likely more appropriate than having a will for many reasons that you can discuss with one of our experienced attorneys. We encourage you not to put off this important decision because you are having difficulty in deciding who to name as the guardian or because you are fearful it will be too costly. It is too risky to do nothing and leave it up to the courts to decide what happens to your children. Take the steps to have it done correctly, and soon. Our attorneys can give you sound legal advice regarding how to pick the appropriate person for your individualized situation. Learn more about estate planning for minor children >

Do I need a trust?

Many people think they need a trust for various reasons: their financial planner recommended it, their friends told them they need one, or they know other people who have one and want to do the “right thing.” But trusts are not always needed and each individual person’s needs and circumstances should be considered before deciding whether you need a trust. There are several questions your estate planning attorney should be asking you to help you determine whether you need one:

  • Do you have minor children?
  • Do you have adult or minor children with special needs?
  • How large is your taxable estate?
  • Are you married, and if so, what is the size of your spouse’s estate?
  • Do you own real estate outside of the state?
  • How comfortable are you with having your estate made public through the probate process?
  • Do you want to control your assets after your death? For example, do you want to make sure your heirs have money to pay for college tuition, a wedding, purchasing a business, or buying their first home?
  • Do you want to make sure your heirs have money to pay for college tuition, a wedding, purchasing a business, or buy their first home?

What is the difference between and trust and a will?

There are several differences between trusts and wills. Generally speaking, a trust will help avoid probate while having a will does not. A trust may cost more money to create than a will does, but it may provide more protections for your assets than a simple will. Generally, a trust will not be made public (unless there is a lawsuit over the trust), while a will is subject to the public probate process. A trust can also help you control or direct your assets well after your death, while typically, a will does not allow your personal representative to do the same.

Can an attorney help you implement, fund, or administer your trust?

Yes. Our attorneys will advise you on how to use your trust. Sometimes, our clients have set up a trust with another attorney, but they don’t know why or how to use their trust. It is important to fully understand the reasons behind the trust and to make sure the trust is property “funded,” so it is used as it was intended to be. Please feel free to consult with one of our attorneys to better understand your own trust.