If you are a sportsman who lived in Michigan over the past 30 years or so, the name Fred Trost may sound familiar to you.  Fred Trost was a celebrity among Michigan outdoorsmen, hosting “Michigan Outdoors” and “Practical Sportsman” on PBS.  I remember growing up watching his show, having an affinity to it over the others because he was from right here in Michigan.  Sadly, Mr. Trost passed away unexpectedly in 2007.

And to add to the shock, he died without an estate plan.  This caused no small problem in his family, with the in-fighting recently coming to an end with his wife winning a $195,000 lawsuit against his son (not her son).  You can read about it by clicking here.  Although we’ll never know, it is quite possible that much of the conflict and hurt could have been avoided with a caring and comprehensive estate plan.

You may say, “c’mon Mike, how could an estate plan have helped in this situation?  This was a matter of contract between his wife and his son.”  Well, you may be right.  But as a Grand Rapids, Mi wills and trusts attorney I’ve seen situations that were not too far off from this one that did not come to this level of conflict directly as a result of a caring and comprehensive estate plan.  Why?  Because the estate plan covered all the contingencies.  For example, in this case, Mr. Trost could have used an estate plan to say what would happen if he passed away before he received his anticipated inheritance and what would happen if his son received it as a result of Mr. Trost’s premature death (read the article to see how that caused a problem).  Or, he could have provided a way to “equalize his estate,” by using life insurance to make the monetary amounts more “fair.”  

One interesting item that was not mentioned in the article is what intrinsic value the show tapes had.  Sure, maybe they are financially valuable if they can be replayed, but I believe their bigger value to Trost’s wife is a way to remember the husband that she loved.  Remember, his “stuff” is still here, but he is gone.  When we lose someone for whom we care deeply, we usually look for something that reminds us of them.  It could be that the show tapes are that physical way for his wife to remember him.  Something of a family legacy.

Ultimately, we’ll never know what could have happened and how Mr. Trost’s family could have got along, because the fact is, he didn’t invest the time or money to do the planning that may have avoided it.  I encourage you to not make the same mistake.  Call us at 616-827-7596 to schedule a Peace of Mind Planning Session to help make sure your family is cared for and kept together in the most loving way possible.

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.