How Long Does a Michigan Probate Take?

February 24, 2009

Filed under: Estate Administration,Estate Planning,Living Trust,Probate — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:32 pm

“How Long does a Michigan Probate take to complete?”  Many of our clients ask how long the process will take.  Just like the good lawyer I am, I answer “it depends.”  What I do know is that at the very earliest the process will take at least 5 months after appointment of a persona representative.

There is quite a bit going on during those 5 months, which is the earliest not the average time of a Michigan probate of an estate.  In that time a personal representative is appointed, notice is sent to interested parties, claims period runs with newspaper publication, etc.

One of the reasons many of our clients opt for a living trust based Michigan estate plan is to avoid the Michigan probate system.  Our clients do not want to be involved in the lengthy, time consuming Michigan probate system.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Probate Lawyer | Michigan Estates Lawyer

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Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer Co-Authors Estate Planning Strategies Book

February 20, 2009

Filed under: Elder Law,Estate Administration,Estate Planning,Life Insurance,Living Trust,Planning for Pets with Pet Trusts — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:34 pm

Estate Planning Strategies: Collective Wisdom, Proven Techniques, the book I have been working hard on has been published and is available on Amazon.  Estate Planning Strategies: Collective Wisdom, Proven Techniques was co-authored by my colleagues and I, estate planning lawyers across the nation.

In this new book Estate Planning Strategies: Collective Wisdom, Proven Techniques we, estate planning attorneys, have outlined essential estate planning strategies for everyone, no matter level of wealth, in easy-to-understand language, Estate Planning Strategies: Collective Wisdom, Proven Techniques helps people comprehend the entire estate planning process from start to finish.

Estate Planning Strategies: Collective Wisdom, Proven Techniques is a great reference book for all professionals. The chapter I wrote on Testamentary capacity is particularly important since it is so frequently misunderstood.

Estate Planning Strategies: Collective Wisdom, Proven Techniques explains:

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer

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History of The Federal Estate Tax

February 19, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning,Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:35 pm

Many of our Michigan estate planning clients are concerned about the Federal Estate Tax or “death tax”.  This is especially important for small business owners, as the estate tax can cause small business owners to sell their business due to the cash needs in an estate.  The following is a year by year account of how the Federal Estate Tax has changed over the years.

The moral of the story?  The laws are constantly changing.  They are going to change again this year, in 2009.  Will we freeze the current $3.5 Million exemption?

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer

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Problems with Joint Tenancy in Michigan | Parents, Don’t Add Your Children To Title of Your House

February 18, 2009

Filed under: Estate Administration,Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:37 pm

As a Michigan estate planning lawyer it seems like a couple times a month  I run into the issue where a parent has named a child on their deed to their property so that the parent creates a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.  More often than not this leads to problems down the line.  People think this is effective Michigan estate planning, but it often just leads to a messy administration.

Let’s look at a hypothetical, a husband named his second spouse and daughter (the wife’s step daughter) as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  Well now the husband has passed away, leaving the surviving wife and her step daughter who she doesn’t speak to as joint owners.  If the surviving wife wished to sell the property, she would have to get the step daughter’s permission since she is a joint owner.  Maybe that was the husband’s wishes, maybe not.  We don’t really know.

So, some problems of joint tenancy with rights of survivorship in Michigan are:

Joint tenancy is fraught with issues, and as a Michigan estate planning lawyer, I see too many people using it as their “estate plan” when they do not understand the ramifications.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer

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Michigan Probate and Estate Planning Case Summary | Check Your Title

February 11, 2009

Filed under: Estate Administration,Estate Planning,Probate — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:40 pm

The Michigan Court of Appeals heard an interesting case as it relates to Michigan Probate and Michigan Estate Planning.  As a Michigan probate lawyer, it is important to stay on top of the latest case decisions.

In Tkachik V. Mandeville decided Feb 5, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that even though a husband and wife had been separated for 18 months, the title of the property, which was held in tenancies by the entireties, remains intact.  Therefore, the property passes to the surviving spouse.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that a decedent’s spouse’s estate can sue the surviving spouse for contribution for expenses made related to the entireties property based theory of unjust enrichment.

In other words, the court reinforced, that how your assets are titled controls.  It is important to review titling of your assets, such as house, bank accounts, IRA’s with your Michigan estate planning lawyer, otherwise there could be unintended consequences.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Oakland County Probate Lawyer

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Why You Should NOT Listen To Suze Orman!

Filed under: Estate Planning,Living Trust — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:39 pm

Suze Orman has a number of financial and estate planning books and kits on the market, including the Suze Orman Living Trust Kit.  Many estate planning lawyers and financial professionals have came out against her generalized advice.  Well, count James Scurlock as another that recognizes the ills of Suze Orman’s advice.

In his post which you can read in it’s entirety here.  Mr. Scurlock goes on:

“Suze, my friends, has been lying to us, and we know she knows she’s been lying because she herself tells us that she ignores her own advice.

As a Michigan estate planning lawyer, I am worried when people follow her advice, which at best is too generalized for clients, and at worst would be legal malpractice if I told my clients what she advises.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Estate Planning Lawye

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Celebrity Estate Planning | Benjamin Franklin

Filed under: Estate Planning,Will — Christopher J. Berry @ 6:38 pm

The next celebrity estate plan we will look at is Benjamin Franklin.  Big Ben had a Will and provided for numerous gifts.  However, Benjamin Franklin could not assign his copyrights to things such as Poor Richard’s Almanac.  The reason for this was there were not yet any copyright laws to protect or recognize those rights.

It is interesting that he had revoked many previous WIlls.  Also, in one of the Codicil’s to his Will, he mentioned that he got nothing from his parents and therefore his children should get nothing from him.  He, instead, made some charitable gifts.

As a Michigan estate planning lawyer, I have seen clients who have had similar estate planning desires, such as leaving a chunk of their estate to their church or the Michigan Humane Society.

You can read Benjamin Franklin’s Will here.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Bloomfield Hills Lawyer

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President Obama’s Budget Proposal | Hint Towards Estate Taxes?

February 27, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning,Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:54 am

obama.jpgPresident Obama’s campaign proposal was to freeze the 2009 Federal Estate Tax at $3.5 million exemption.  Meaning, anything less then $3.5 million could be passed Federal Estate Tax Free.  Many estate planning lawyers were wondering whether, with the state of the economy, he would push to maintain the $3.5 million exemption or lower it.

Well, with the release of his budget proposal, President Obama may be tipping his hand, that yes, he is indeed still planning to still freeze the Federal Estate Exemption at the 2009 levels.  In Footnote 1 of table S-5, there is a line that states “In continueing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the estate tax is maintained at its 2009 parameters.”  Also, at several other passages, the proposal hints at the 2009 exemptions, notably in footnote on pg 121 and the projections on 117 and 119.

Granted, this is not a tax bill yet, but it does give us Michigan estate planning lawyers a heads up that President Obama is still maintaining his campaign promise of freezing the 2009 Federal Estate Tax exemption amount.

You can read the proposal here.

Much thanks to the ABA Estate Planner’s and Administrator’s Discussion listserve.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Estate Planning Attorney

Michigan Informal Estate Proceedings

February 26, 2009

Filed under: Estate Administration,Probate,Will — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:57 am

Today I was opening an Oakland county probate estate, more specifically an informal unsupervised estate.  Informal unsupervised proceedings are generally the norm when opening a probate estate.  This type of estate is generally handled by the probate register with little to no time in front of an actual probate judge.

An informal proceeding is started by a Michigan Probate lawyer filing an Application for Informal Probate and/or Appointment of Personal Representative, along with the other introductory papers on behalf of the person to be appointed personal representative.  The purpose of the application is to admit the will and appoint a personal representative.

If the application is granted the probate register will sign a form called a Register’s Statement showing formal admitance of the will and appointment of the personal representative.

The appointed personal representative then becomes qualified to act once they have accepted appointment and provided any required bond.  The personal representative then continues along handling and administering the estate along with the aid of a Michigan probate lawyer until the estate is closed.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Probate Lawyer

As Personal Representative do I have the right to know about the Deceased’s life insurance?

February 25, 2009

Filed under: Estate Administration,Estate Planning,Life Insurance,Probate — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:58 am

In Michigan, when you are the personal representative of a decadent’s estate, handling the Michigan probate court system and Michigan estate administration, a common question is to what information is the personal representative entitled to?

A personal representative is only entitled to handle assets that are passing through the Michigan probate court system.  Most life insurance will avoid Michigan probate due to having a named beneficiary.  However, if the there is no named beneficiary for the life insurance then the personal representative may have to include the account in probate and put the information on the probate inventory.

We help our clients avoid the Michigan probate process by setting up revocable living trust based Michigan estate plans. When necessary or referred to us, we assist our clients with handling Michigan probate estates in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Lapeer counties.

-Christopher J. Berry, Esq.
Michigan Probate Lawyer


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