Did you know that this week is Estate Planning Awareness week in Michigan and across the nation?  Well, it is.  And you can read the Michigan proclamation by clicking here. Interestingly enough, Governor Granholm left one important estate planning document out of her proclamation…the durable power of attorney.  Don’t forget that one!

Estate Planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management.  It is estimated that over 120 million Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death (yikes!).  This costs the working classes and the more affluent wasted dollars and hours of hardship each year that can be greatly minimized with action and advanced planning.

Th reasons for a week dedicated to estate planning awareness are many and varied.  Some of the reasons given in the legislation that put the week in place are:

  • Estate planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of their family, heirs, or charities;
  • Estate planning encourages timely decisions about the method of holding title to certain assets, the designation of beneficiaries, and the possible transfer of assets during life;
  • Many Americans are unaware that a lack of estate planning and “financial illiteracy” may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended people by default through the complex process of probate;
  • Careful planning can prevent family members or other beneficiaries from being subjected to complex legal and administrative processes requiring significant expenditure of time, and greatly reduce confusion or even animosity among family members or other heirs upon the death of a loved one

And parents with minor children must not forget that estate planning is the way to make sure you’ve legally documented who you want to care for your children if you pass away or are incapacitated, so that they don’t end up in the arms of strangers or Child Protective Services!

If you haven’t put an plan in place for your family (young, older or in between), why not?  I encourage you to show your family how much your care about them by putting a plan in place before it’s too late.  If you don’t, the State of Michigan has a “one size fits all” plan for you.

And if you have put an estate plan in place for your family, when was it last updated?  Your life, the law and what you have are constantly changing . . . your plan needs to change along with it.  What happens if you don’t?  It’s difficult to say until something happens.  However, there is a good chance it will fail to accomplish what you wanted if it isn’t kept updated, and once something happens, it’s too late!

Consider talking with your family, friends and others you care about to share with them the importance of planning and keeping your plan updated.  National Estate Planning Week is a great way to start talking about the subject.  If you, your family or friends have any questions, call us at 616-827-7596 or contact us here.

Michael Lichterman is an estate 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 planning for  the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, and family owned business succession – and he is privileged to do so from a Christian perspective.  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.