As a Grand Rapids, Michigan estate planning attorney, I take special note of conversations in the media about estate planning.  That’s how I ran across this recent Grand Rapids Press article entitled “Aging Issues Can Imperil Retirement.”  I believe the overall emphasis of the article is important for two reasons: (1) it points out that everyone needs an estate plan; and (2) trusts are not just for the financially wealthy or for minimizing estate taxes.  After a general discussion, the article lists specific, basic guidelines that can help protect seniors and their families from the consequences of declining mental health.

You’ll notice that #1 on the list is to prepare an estate plan.  I couldn’t agree more.  Why?  No, it’s not just because I’m an estate planning attorney.  It’s because everyone has an estate – either you can say how you want it handled by working with an estate planning attorney to put an estate plan in place, or you can let the Michigan government’s one-size-fits-all plan control what happen.  I think it is important to quickly note the article’s mention of having a living will.  As I previously wrote about in this post, living wills are not legal documents in Michigan.  So make sure you have a Michigan healthcare power of attorney and patient advocate designation.

You’ll notice that having a living trust is #3 on the list.  I’m happy to see that it made the list.  Why?  Because there are so many misconceptions about trusts . . . the biggest being that you have to be wealthy to need one or benefit from one.  I assure you that most of the great families who work with me to create a trust plan for their family are not wealthy by any means.  To give you some examples of “everyday people” reasons, read this previous post.  I’m also pleased to see that the article discusses the benefits of a trust while you are still alive.  There is a big misconception “out there” that trusts are only for when you pass away.  Not so – there are huge benefits to having a trust while you are living.  I will add that in my experience the fees are not usually the 2-3% stated in the article – in my experience that is a high number.

And finally I think it should be emphasized that these issues are too important to do it yourself.  Here in West Michigan we have a very strong work ethic and like to “take the bull by the horns.”  I know . . . I’m that way too.  That’s why we have so many successful individuals and companies.  However, this is not an area where you should do it yourself – there is too much to loose.  To get some real world examples you can read my previous posts on the topic by clicking here, here and here.

After reading the article and this post, why wouldn’t you call us to make sure you have a plan that is uniquely you and provides for you and your family during life and after life?  Call us at 616-827-7596 and mention this blog post for a special treat.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and business planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate and asset protection planning for  the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses and pet planning.  He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.