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 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.
I have minor children. 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 is an important piece to that puzzle. 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.