Five Ways to Bungle Trust Administration in Michigan

Filed under: Do It Yourself Estate Planning Gone Wrong,Estate Administration,Federal Estate Tax,Probate,Probate Litigation — Christopher J. Berry @ 7:34 pm

Estate planning with revocable living trusts answer at least three main questions which includes: Who gets what?  How do you minimize settlement costs, such as probate and estate taxes? And, who is in control after the trustmaker passes away?

Barron’s has a great article entitled “The Five Biggest Ways to Bungle a Trust” that describes many of the mistakes that do-it-yourselfers face when they go at trust administration alone.  As Michigan trust administration and Oakland county probate lawyers, we are often brought in to clean up theses messes.

The first way people screw up trust administration involves keeping faulty records.  Generally trustees in Michigan must provide at least annual accountings to the beneficiaries.  Often, these accountings are slapped together at the last minute by an overwhelmed trustee.  As Michigan trust administration and estate administration lawyers, we professionally manage this process for our clients.  Whether we handle it in-house or outsource it to highly qualified CPA’s, our client’s understand that it’s professionally done and the beneficiaries of the trust appreciate the clarity.

Another way that trustees botch the trust administration process is by failing to diversify the trust assets.  It may be tempting to sit on a big chunk of a single stock, but often times, as prudent investors, it’s important for the trustee to diversify the portfolio so as to minimize risk for the beneficiaries.

Yet another trustee issue we see is that of biased distributions.  Trustees owe a fiduciary duty to the current beneficiaries and the remaindermen.  Therefore, a trustee cannot favor one beneficiary over another or allow any personal bias into the decision making.

The fourth area we, as Oakland county trust administration lawyers, see trustees making poor judgements is in the concept of the trustee expecting a payday.   Trustees, when acting without the aid of an trust administration attorney, often expect at the end of the day they will get a windfall for the efforts, when in reality, more often than not, they are only entitled to reasonable expenses and fees.  Quite often this is a source of probate or trust litigation.

Lastly, as a trustee acting alone, often times we’ll see that they have a false sense of safety.  A trustee acting without experienced Michigan trust administration counsel can feel that there is an entitlement and honor in serving the role of trustee at the other beneficiaries will defer to any judgements or decisions you make.  This generally cannot be further from the truth.  Quite often beneficiaries are looking for any little mistake a trustee makes, even in the best of families.


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More Seeking Estate Planning Guidance Online

May 24, 2011

Filed under: Do It Yourself Estate Planning Gone Wrong,Estate Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits,Probate Litigation,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 8:05 pm

If you were to google “Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer“, “Oakland County Estate Planning Attorney,” or “Michigan Veterans Benefits Lawyer“, one of our websites would show up very favorably.  The reason for that is our goal and desire to educate the public on estate planning, elder law, and probate issues.

There is a recent blog post and study that suggest that more and more people are looking to the internet and going online to find guidance with regard to their estate planning legal needs according to a blog post from the UK.  According to the study, some 48 percent of individuals polled suggested they went online for information regarding estate planning.

Also according to the study, much of the “self help” or “do-it-yourselfer-ers” can pose huge risks when it comes to the estate planning process.  That’s no news if you follow some of our past posts on how this type of planning can go horribly wrong.


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Michigan Medicaid Estate Recovery Update, May 4th, 2011

May 4, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Long Term Care,Medicaid Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 5:49 pm

Well, it looks like that estate recovery in Michigan will be coming down the pike.  As Michigan elder law lawyers, we new that the time was coming when we’d implement the estate recovery law that is already on the books.  Well that day may be coming in July, as the proposed policy changes were just released and I am reviewing the changes now.  The biggie is that there is a section in the policy manuel that addresses estate recovery.  There aren’t too many surprises in how it will be implemented, but it’s important to note that without proper planning a Michigan Medicaid applicant could lose their house, car, bank account, and insurance to the state of Michigan with the new proposed estate recovery policy.

It’s more important now, that if a loved one is going into a nursing home, that they effectively plan for Medicaid with the assistance of a Michigan medicaid planning attorney.  For more information on medicaid planning, elder law, and veterans benefits, visit the Michigan Elder Law Center.

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Veterans Urged to Beware of Benefits Scams

May 31, 2011

Filed under: Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:48 pm

As an elder law attorney accredited by the VA, I’ve run accross numerous accounts of financial advisor/annuity salesman preying on veterans to sell a quick annuity while bungling their VA benefits application.  In the most recent case in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a financial advisor had agreed to help a veteran with the veteran’s VA application, but never submitted the application, most likely because the veteran didn’t have enough assets to make money on selling the veteran an annuity.  You can read the article here: Veterans Urged to Beware of Benefits Scams.

This isn’t the first instance of annuity salesman fleecing veterans; hop over to our other blog, Michigan Elder Law Center, and you can see numerous blog posts addressing this very issue, including a link to an AARP article that discusses the VA benefit scams.

It’s important for veterans and families of veterans to understand that there is free help at the local Veteran Service Organization or at the local county Veteran’s services office.  We have one in Oakland County.  Here is the contact informaiton for the Oakland County Veteran’s Services office:

Pontiac Office
North Office Building 26 East
1200 North Telegraph
Pontiac, Michigan, USA, 48341-0468
248-858-0785  -  map

Southeast Oakland
1151 Crooks Road
Troy, Michigan, USA, 48084-7136
248-655-1250  -  map

1010 East West Maple
Walled Lake, Michigan, USA, 48390-3588
Please Call Pontiac Office  -  map


Social Security Cuts Put Veterans Back in the Line of Fire

May 27, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:05 pm

As a Michigan elder law attorney helping seniors and veterans all over metro-Detroit and Michigan, I recognize that Social Security is crucial to veterans and military families when the veteran retires, becomes disabled or passes away.  The blog has an article discussing the potential cut they feel that veterans would face with some proposed in some lawmaker’s policies.  You can read the article here: Social Security Cuts Put Vets Back in Line of Fire.

For more on Michigan veterans benefits issues and other legal issues affecting seniors around metro-Detroit, please visit our other blog, Michigan Elder Law Center.

What is Michigan Elder Law?

May 26, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:28 pm

Many people in Michigan ask what what is elder law and how is it different than estate planning?  For that reason we created an online resource, Michigan Elder Law Center, that focues entirely on elder law issues.

Elder law is an area of law that focus not so much on what happens after your death, but more on what happens if you do not die, and you continue to age.  This is a very different conversation than your generalist attorney or even your estate planning attorney would have with you.

For example, if you continue to age, how are you going to pay for home care, assisted living or a nursing home, if necessary.  Those costs can run up to $8,000 per month.  Much of what we discuss as Oakland county, Michigan elder law attorneys revolves around being able to age with dignity.


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