Willis Law Estate and Trust Bulletin: Fall 2019

Willis Law Estate and Trust Bulletin

Introducing the Newest Attorney at Willis Law

Please join us in welcoming one of the newest attorneys at Willis Law, Verelle H. Kirkwood. Verelle has worked for the firm since May 2018 after having graduated from Michigan State University College of Law in 2017 and working for Farmworkers Legal Services in his first year of practice. Licensed to practice in the State of Michigan, Verelle practices primarily in civil litigation, including real estate, corporate, and personal injury suits. Verelle is also experienced in Medicaid planning, Social Security and VA disability, and criminal defense. Verelle is a First Lieutenant in the Michigan Army National Guard JAG Corps, currently serving at Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing, MI. Verelle is originally from the Metro-Detroit area, has lived extensively in other countries, speaks fluent Spanish, and even had a short stint of professional basketball. He channels these experiences into his law practice, resulting in his remarkable passion for assisting his clients with various needs. He also shows his dedication to giving back to the community by providing pro bono services through his military work and at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.

Charitable bequests

Rick Warren says that he reverse tithes, which is to say that he gives away 90% of his income and utilizes the other 10% for his own personal benefit while on earth. A priest I consulted with a couple of times provided a view that above a certain asset level it is incumbent on individuals to give back to charities in their estate planning, and maybe a much higher percentage than they would otherwise be comfortable in giving. The fundamental underlying question is, assuming the client has kids, “How much do the kids need?”Is half a million enough? A million? Ten million? What is the number where the clients say “all right, what is good is good. Let’s give back to the community that has given so much to us.” These sometimes aren’t easy questions and ones that we certainly grapple with. Many arrived at where they are at not because of the wealth of their parents, but instead as a result of their own initiative and work ethic. Are those diminished in some way when one receives a sizable inheritance? Please contact us at any time if you would like to discuss these concepts in a group setting or with your clients. We would be happy to participate in such a discussion.

For Our Trusted Advisors

Estate Administration - Small Estate Proceedings in Michigan

For an alternate “small estate” option, consider a Petition and Order for Assignment of Property. If the estate value after payment of the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, and less any liens, encumbrances or mortgages on any real property, does not exceed $23,000 (in 2019), an heir to the decedent may file a Petition, describing a detailed list of all assets and values of real and personal property, along with a certified copy of the death certificate with the probate court, requesting the judge to grant an Order that the balance of the estate be distributed to the surviving spouse and if there is no surviving spouse, to the decedent’s heirs at law. After payment (or reimbursement) of the funeral and burial expenses, the court’s filing fee and statutorily-mandated inventory fee (based on the value of the estate), the remaining assets may then be distributed.

Assets in a Lifetime Trust as Opposed to Outright Distribution?

Most clients of ours deem it appropriate to deliver assets immediately to their adult children upon their death. In some instances, they will enter into a trust requiring delay until a child attains a certain age or ages where distribution might be more appropriate, say 25 or 30 years old. However, for a growing class of our clients, a lifetime trust for the benefit of their children is employed. A lifetime trust is used in part because of its significant asset protection benefits. The assets in the trust are not generally available to creditors of the beneficiary child, including the beneficiary child’s potential divorce creditor or judgment creditor. In addition, for wealthy Americans, assets in a lifetime trust oftentimes are not subject to estate tax in the child’s estate at his or her death. This is sometimes referenced as multi-generational planning that may have significant wealth transfer tax savings.

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