What is Integrated Estate Planning?
Even if you have not yet taken steps to execute a will, you probably know the advantages of creating one. AARP outlines a few of them in its Ultimate Guide to Estate Planning, including:
- Designating a person to handle your final affairs;
- Maintaining control over distribution of your assets to beneficiaries; and,
- Expediting the estate administration process.
However, a will is just one part of an estate plan. It is an effective document, but a will is limited in the sense that it only addresses your intentions and wishes upon death. Additional estate planning options also deliver benefits during your lifetime, so you could be making a serious mistake by not considering them.
For a more comprehensive approach, you should discuss the concept of an “integrated” strategy with a Michigan estate planning attorney. An integrated estate plan is one that includes documents that work together to address three key needs and solutions:
Asset Protection and Management During Your Lifetime
Depending on your situation, there are multiple reasons you might want others to manage your assets while you are still alive. Examples include becoming incapacitated, qualifying for Medicaid, or protecting assets from taxes or creditors – through legal, non-fraudulent means.
Integrated estate planning options can help you achieve these goals, such as:
- A revocable trust, in which you have control over assets but name a trustee to manage them if you cannot;
- An irrevocable trust that transfers assets for purposes of ownership and control, offering advantages for taxes and Medicaid eligibility; and,
- A durable power of attorney, where you appoint an agent to handle your assets in the event of incapacity.
Health Care and Medical Treatment
Integrated estate planning also addresses situations where you cannot make decisions about health care. Without a plan in place, your loved ones will have to go through the legal process of guardianship in court. Instead, you can create a plan for incapacity or end-of-life scenarios through a patient advocate designation (also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, in which you appoint an agent to make health-related decisions for you.
Your Final Affairs Upon Death
If you pass away without a will, your assets will pass to heirs according to the probate process and laws of intestacy – instead of your wishes on who should inherit your estate. You might also consider integrated estate planning to keep your assets out of court entirely, such as:
- Beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and related assets;
- Titling real estate with “right of survivorship,” so the property passes to a joint owner by operation of law; and,
- A pour over will that transfers assets into a trust upon death.
Consult with an Estate Planning Lawyer at the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law
At the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law, our team is knowledgeable in all components of an integrated estate plan. We have extensive experience advising clients on the options that work for their needs, so we can assist with developing an arrangement that meets your estate planning goals. For more information, please call 810-893-5277 or visit us online to schedule a consultation.