Thanksgiving is a Good Time to Start the Estate Planning Conversation

Thanksgiving is often the only opportunity in the whole year when all of your family members get together. While it’s a time to relax and spend quality time together (for some of us, at least, since I realize Thanksgiving is not always relaxing or fun for many of us too), it’s also one of the only chances that family members can engage in uninterrupted, in-person conversations with the whole family. So I encourage you to place estate planning on the top of your list of things to discuss, not necessarily at the Thanksgiving table itself but at some point during the time you’re visiting with your family this week. Remember, estate planning is a long process that starts with a conversation. Feel free to keep the wine and beer flowing during this conversation!

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, please free to contact me below for ideas. I actually would recommend filling out the Client Information worksheet as it helps you organize your thoughts and identify questions and issues that you are undecided on.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!





What Happens to Frequent Flier Miles After You Die?

More and more people are using credit cards with travel rewards programs or they have frequent flier miles with their favorite airlines. This is a great review of each airline’s policies on what happens to your frequent flier miles when you pass away!

What Happens to Your Points and Miles After You Die?

Women Really Need an Estate Plan

With Mother’s Day coming, I thought I’d write about how estate planning is just so important for mothers and women generally!  While everyone needs an estate plan, as well as a financial plan, women in particular face unique concerns in their estate planning. This is primarily because women have a longer life expectancy and thus are likely to outlive their husbands at which point they have an even greater responsibility to manage her own financial affairs. But regardless of a woman’s marital status or net worth, they need to make more decisions and prepare NOW to better protect themselves and their loved in ones in the case of incapacity or death.

Here are a few considerations that are unique to women in planning their estates and managing their assets during their lifetime:

  1. Longer Life Expectancy. As I mentioned above, women generally live longer than men. This really means that married women need their assets to last longer than men do, which in turn means that wives who will inherit their husbands’ estates, need to have a good handle on their joint finances and estate plan now. A longer life expectancy also usually means the wife might have the final word about the final disposition about her assets, including the assets she inherits from her husband. And a side note: because of her likelihood to survive, she would be the one who would potentially face pressure or influence from family members and friends after her husband’s death
  2. Unequal Income Streams. While we shouldn’t assume that men are always the breadwinners, it’s still the case for many families. For that reason it is so important to plan for when the husband dies or becomes incapacitated – couples need to ensure that both spouses have adequate life insurance policies. Even if a woman is a stay-at-home mom and not bringing in income or employed, there should be adequate life insurance on her life to help the surviving husband with childcare and other expenses that arise because of the loss of his wife. Remember, creating an estate plan is not about the distribution of your assets after death, but it is also about reviewing and ensuring there is enough assets to support both spouses throughout life.
  3. Women are usually the custodial parent. Women who are parents of young children especially need to plan for the continued care of those children in the event something happens to them. This is important if the woman is divorced or the sole custodial parent.
  4. Business Ownership. More and more woman are becoming business owners these days. They need to plan to protect their business assets and for the succession of their business.
  5. Women in high-risk professions. More and more women are in higher risk professions these days such as medicine and law – they can really benefit from proper asset protection planning as part of their estate plan.

Ultimately, while many women enter a marriage with their own wealth, many others are handling their finances for the very first time due to death or divorce. Either way, women in particular are sensitive to change in the circumstances of a marriage, whether due to death, divorce, or remarriage. It’s not recommended to wait until a life-changing event occurs to start the estate planning process. Estate planning is a life-long process that requires a periodic review of assets and your objectives.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful moms out there!

Contact me with any questions!




Incapacity Planning: how to make sure your estate is in good hands if you become incapacitated

There’s nothing more certain than getting older and eventually dying. But what about in between if  you become incapacitated? Proper planning can help ensure that your estate is in good hands as you age when

Estate Planning Starter Kit for Newlyweds

Wedding season is coming – wedding bells are in the air! Even young first-time newlyweds in Michigan without many assets should have a basic estate plan in place. Additionally, if newlyweds have a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, the Wills need to mirror the terms of the

What Is a Ladybird Deed in Michigan?

A Ladybird deed is a specific type of warranty deed or quitclaim deed that allows you to transfer real estate to someone else outside of probate, while retaining a life estate in the property. This is actually an “enhanced life estate” because, unlike a regular life estate, a Ladybird deed gives you the power to retain control over the property during your life, including the right to use it for profit and sell it.

And yes, the name derives from Ladybird Johnson. It is legend that President Lyndon B. Johnson transferred real estate to his wife, Ladybird Johnson, through this type of deed for the first time.

Here is a common scenario that illustrates the benefit of a Ladybird deed:

If a widow/widower has adult children as POD beneficiaries of all of his/her assets. then it would make sense to convey his/her real estate to all of the children via a Ladybird deed and avoid the need for probate.  This mechanism is better than adding the children as joint owners in a quitclaim deed. If the children are also partial owners of the property, then if a child were to file for bankruptcy or file for a divorce or get sued, the property could be considered an asset reachable by the creditor while the parent is alive. So if the goal is to simply avoid probate upon the owner’s death, then a Ladybird deed would work – it is akin to adding a beneficiary designation to the real estate. The beneficiary’s interest in the property does not vest until the owner’s death and the potential risks of adding a new owner during the owner’s lifetime are avoided.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

How Can I Avoid Probate in Michigan Without a Trust?

Some people may be able to structure all of their assets without the need for a Revocable Living Trust and still avoid Probate in Michigan. For your financial accounts, the best way to accomplish this is to make sure these