This is the most common questions I’m asked as a Grand Rapids, Mi will and trust lawyer. And the short answer is: usually not, but it depends. You see, Michigan actually has a rather simple post-death automobile transfer procedure. It isn’t the best for all situations, but it works well in many situations. There are requirements for using the procedure. You can find out more about the procedure and its requirements by reading this previous blog post.
Another reason for not putting your automobile into your living trust is because of a common public misperception of people who have trust . . . many people think families with trusts are “rich.” As I’ve previously written here and here, that is certainly not the case. Trusts have many benefits to families from all walks of life, including the heart and soul of our fine country – the middle class. If your car or truck is registered in the name of your trust and you cause an accident, the injured party may think you are “rich” and take actions they may otherwise not think of taking, hoping to dig into your deep pockets.
All that said, there are occasions when I do recommend that my client families transfer ownership of their automobiles to their trust. The first is when the value of their automobiles exceeds the dollar value in the post-death procedure mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. And the second is when one or more of their automobiles is a collector car. And, in fact, usually if they fall into the second category they almost always fall into the first category.
As with all situations involving families and the law, every situation is unique. So, make sure to give us a call if you have questions, need to review your estate plan, or your family needs a caring plan in place!
Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable 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 “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you. He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning. He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.