Think of a game plan or making travel plans. Both involve organizing the details for a big event. Coaches create strategies and organize a team. Travelers arrange transportation and make itineraries and packing lists.
Your estate plan details what will happen when you pass away. The plan spells out how your assets will be managed and distributed. Estate planning documents include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, deeds and beneficiary designations.
When we die or become incapacitated we want our assets administered as efficiently as possible. We want our belongings and assets in the right hands and we want to avoid extra expenses such as capital gains or estate taxes.
By using the correct combination and coordination of estate plan documents your hard earned assets go to your beneficiaries with a minimum of time and expense.
A fiduciary is a person appointed to manage the property of another person. A digital asset fiduciary can manage digital property like computer files, web domains and virtual currency.
Current law restricts fiduciary access to electronic communications such as email, text messages and social media accounts unless the original user consented in a will, trust or power of attorney.
Digital assets have value and need to be managed much like your property and possessions. Start by taking stock of your online universe. Create a digital asset inventory, including user ids, passwords and ‘secret questions’. Consider these digital accounts making the list;
File sharing and storage
Medical, insurance and utility websites
When you have completed your inventory, write down where you’ve stored the information and put that in your safe deposit box or store it in a secure location. Then consider adding the appropriate verbiage that names your digital asset fiduciary in your powers of attorney, will or trust.
Recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan as of November 2018. Yet many questions remain about usage. Here are a few answers.
Who can use marijuana? Under Michigan law, anyone 21 or older can use marijuana and travel with up to 2.5 oz. anywhere except on school property, a school bus or a correctional facility.
Where can I buy it? At this time you cannot legally purchase recreational marijuana. The state is still working on the structure of issuing licenses. Best guess is you will see recreational marijuana stores open by early 2020.
Where can I legally consume marijuana? By law, it is illegal to consume marijuana in a public space, punishable by a civil infraction.
What about drug testing? Michigan is an at-will employment state, so that means employees can be hired or fired because of marijuana use.
How does Federal law affect my use? Even though Michigan has legalized recreational marijuana, you are committing a Federal crime by possessing, buying or selling marijuana. Federal law treats marijuana as a controlled substance, just like cocaine or heroin. While you can be charged with a Federal crime for legal use of marijuana in Michigan, law enforcement agencies are generally reluctant to do so.
One claim of a good lawyer is they don’t let their clients end up in court. With proper planning that claim is often true. Let me remind you of a few legal housekeeping tips, that if ignored, might lead to bigger problems only solved by a trip to the courthouse.
Does your estate plan avoid probate?
Will your assets pass on to your beneficiaries?
Is your real estate titled properly?
Do you have a will?
Are you avoiding unnecessary estate taxes and fees?
How are you protected from personal or financial liability?
Have you named a power of attorney, should you become incapacitated?
Does your business have a buy/sell agreement?
If any of these issues are a concern, I suggest a consultation to review your circumstances. Proper planning is the secret to avoiding legal problems that the court might have to resolve for you.
PARENTS You cannot, under any circumstances, give alcohol to your children’s friends, even in your own home, even with their parent’s permission.
You cannot knowingly allow a person under 21 years of age to remain in your home or on your property while they are consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages
IF YOU BREAK THE LAW You can face a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and or a $1,000 fine. You can be held responsible if you give alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age and they, in turn, hurt someone or damage property.
Did you know that pets are legally classified as property? This is hard to imagine when we consider them companions, best friends and family. But as property there are legally enforceable documents that can help secure a pet’s future.
This is worth consideration, as informal vows and promises made by friends and family to care for your pets, should you pass away or become incapacitated, often fail. Reasons such as allergies, conflicts with other pets, or the exclusion of pets from some residential communities can get in the way.
By adding a provision to your will, details regarding the care and guardianship of your pet can be spelled out. You can go a step further and create a pet trust during your lifetime. This would allow for the disbursement of funds from the trust to cover pet expenses.
The idea of legally enforceable documents that ensure companion animals’ continuing care is relatively new but increasingly popular.
One of the great mysteries of our 60’s is when to claim your social security benefit. The dilemma is whether to start at the earliest opportunity (62), wait until full retirement age (66) or delay until 70 to receive the maximum benefit. The question is compounded when we are married and have the option to claim a spousal benefit against our spouse’s Social Security.
The timing of potentially four different claims (yours, your spouse’s and each of your spousal benefit claims) can have a significant impact on your ultimate benefit and when those benefits should start.
A new online social security calculator runs the math for each possible scenario. The site is called Open Social Security. It’s free and does not ask for your Social Security number. You’ll input your marital status, gender, birthdate and current estimated Social Security payments at 66. It will report the best strategy to maximize the Social Security benefits you and your spouse will receive over your lifetime(s).
The best way to solve the Social Security dilemma is to do your homework. Taking a look at the math for your situation is the information you need to plot your financial future.
TEENS Minor in Possession MIP A minor who attempts to purchase alcohol, consume alcohol or has bodily alcohol content is in violation of state statues and will face both fines and sanctions by the court.
Driving Under the Influence DUI The first offense of driving under the influence is punishable by up to six month in jail. Repeated offenders face felony charges, jail sentences of several years are not uncommon. In addition to jail sentences, the courts impose large fines for DUI’s
Other Consequences In addition to legal penalties, offenders may have their driver’s license suspended for a substantial period of time, insurance companies may cancel your policy or drastically increase rates. A drunk driving charge stays on a person’s driving record for many years. Certain jobs that require driving may no longer be an employment option. The real financial cost of a first offense DUI can total anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.
This deed, with a colorful name, is a very handy tool. A lady bird deed transfers lifetime interest in your property to you making you the life tenant. The deed names a remainder beneficiary who has a future interest in your property upon your death.
Your remainder beneficiary can include multiple people, trusts, or organizations. You can change your remainder beneficiary at anytime.
As the life tenant, you still have the right to sell, gift, mortgage or otherwise dispose of your property without the consent of your named beneficiary.
A unique benefit of lady bird deeds is the automatic transfer of your property upon death thus avoiding the need for probating the transfer through the court system. Medicaid Asset Protection is another benefit of using lady bird deeds. Property transferred with a ladybird deed is not subject to a Medicaid lien on your probate estate.
Why the name lady bird deed? A law professor simplified the legal name, Enhanced Life Estate Deed, in honor of former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, Claudia ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson.
In order to qualify for Medicaid assistance with the expense of nursing home care you must have exhausted the majority of your assets. Your cash assets cannot exceed $2,000, but your homestead real estate equity is allowed up to $560,000. This discrepancy in allowances means that you can protect a significant portion of your assets with proper planning.
At our office, we use ‘lady bird deeds’ and other legal means to protect you from Medicaid liens or the supervision of the probate court. If you or a family member are facing these issues contact us for an appointment. In this area of the law, pre-planning is critical.