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When a person has properly addressed the future needs of his or her family, his or her business, and his or her estate with the help of a knowledgeable estate-planning attorney, he or she can enjoy today’s moments even more.
The estate planning attorneys at Cooper & Riesterer, PLC, provide the peace of mind that comes with a properly prepared plan for the future to families, individuals, and business owners in the Brighton area and throughout Livingston County and Southeast Michigan. We provide a full range of essential estate planning and estates-related legal services including:
- Preparation and establishment of wills and trusts
No matter how large or small your estate may be, proper planning is required to ensure that you and your heirs are able to preserve as much of it as possible. With carefully crafted wills, trusts and other estate documents, you can ensure that your estate and assets are passed on to the loved ones you want to have them — not the relatives listed in Michigan’s intestate laws. The estate planning attorneys at Cooper & Riesterer can assist in drafting estate plan documents for any type of estate plan. We also have expertise in drafting unique estate plan documents appropriate for special circumstances, such as special needs trusts for the protection of special needs beneficiaries of an estate plan.
- Estate tax planning
The estate planning attorneys at Cooper & Riesterer stay abreast of the most recent changes in tax law impacting estates and can advise individuals and families of the tax implications of various estate structures. We also have experience in implementing various types of complex tax-savings estate vehicles, such as charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs) and charitable remainder annuity trusts, estate freezes, and other strategies to ensure not only that your estate avoids any unnecessary taxes after your passing but that you are able to use your estate plan to take advantage of tax-saving strategies during your lifetime.
- Asset protection strategies
In addition to estate tax planning/tax avoidance, we can assist clients in using estate planning strategies to avoid creditors and protect assets, such as preparation of asset protection trusts. In addition, the attorneys at Cooper & Riesterer can advise individuals regarding specific asset planning needs, such as Medicaid planning.
- Powers of attorney / patient advocate documents
By executing medical and financial powers of attorney, you can designated a trusted individual to carry out your wishes should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions in the future. These documents can avoid the difficulty and expense of guardianship and/or conservatorship proceedings and ensure that you have control in making the decision about who will make legal, financial, and medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make them yourself. We can advise in all aspects of the process and craft documents that meet your unique needs.
- Business succession plans
We combine our wide-ranging and extensive business expertise with our estate planning experience to help you create effective, comprehensive business succession plans that accomplish your unique goals.
With several decades of experience helping people create effective estate plans, our lawyers have the knowledge you need to plan for your future. We also understand that your estate needs are not just like anybody else’s.
Contact an estate-planning lawyer at our law firm today to hear about what we can accomplish for you.
Probate and Trust Administration
Probate is the court-supervised process for distributing assets owned by an individual at the time of their death. Probate is necessary whenever an individual passes away with property still titled in their name that does not pass automatically to another individual, such as by virtue of a beneficiary designation. Probate requires the appointment of a personal representative (also known as an executor), who is the individual responsible for administering the probate estate. The law firm of Cooper & Riesterer has expertise in all areas of probate administration and guide the personal representative through all of the necessary activities that are typically part of probate administration, including:
- Locating or accessing the decedent’s will
- Opening a probate estate and appointing a personal representative
- Locating and collecting funds owed to the Estate
- Creating an inventory of trust property
- Identifying and resolving any claims of creditors
- Assistance in selling estate property, including real estate
- Keep records of estate administration
- Preparing an accounting of probate income and expenditures
- Keeping beneficiaries apprised of important information
- Defending attempts to contest the will
- Preparing necessary documents to administer the estate and transfer title to estate property
Unlike the probate process, trust administration does not usually require court oversight. Trusts are administered by one or more trustee. Trustees have certain obligations throughout the process of trust administration, including the collection, management, investment, and distribution of trust assets, as well as dealing with any potential creditors’ claims or other issues that arise. The law firm of Cooper & Riesterer is experienced in advising trustees at all stages in the process. We understand that every trust and every trustee are different. The process can be overwhelming, but we know how to make it simple. We can assist trustees with all aspects of administration, from start to finish, including these typical trust administration tasks:
- Interpreting the trust document to determine rights and obligations
- Prepare certificates of trust existence and authority documents to certify the validity of the trust for third parties
- Collecting funds owed to the trust and paying valid expenses
- Advising the trustee regarding claims of creditors and others
- Preparing and maintaining an inventory of trust property
- Communicating with beneficiaries, as required by the trust, regarding trust administration
- Assisting in the management and sale of trust property
- Maintain records of trust administration activities
- Assistance in filing tax returns
- Preparation of annual accountings
- Distribution of trust assets to beneficiaries
- Handling legal challenges to the trust by beneficiaries, creditors, and others
Guardianships and Conservatorships
When a person is incapacitated, whether through disability or minority, and can’t manage their own financial and legal affairs, appointment of a guardian or a conservator might necessary. Being “incapacitated” typically means that the person is so impaired that they do not have the ability to assess and make good and safe personal decisions or meet their basic personal needs. A court decides whether someone is incapacitated. Guardians and conservators serve distinct functions. A guardian looks after the personal needs of an incapacitated individual, while a conservator looks after the financial affairs of the individual.
The process for both appointment of both a guardian and a conservator begins with a petition asking the probate court for the appointment and explaining why the process is necessary. Guardianships and conservatorships are serious legal steps but they are sometimes necessary. The law firm of Cooper & Riesterer has extensive experience advising families and others regarding all aspects of the process, including:
- Assessing the necessity of appointment of a guardian/conservator and exploring alternatives, such as power of attorney documents
- Preparation of the petition to the probate court, including assembling the requisite evidence necessary to show the probate court judge why appointment of a guardian/conservator is necessary
- Attending any necessary probate court hearings to assist the proposed guardian/conservator in obtaining appointment
- Assisting the guardian and conservator in preparing the requisite inventories and accountings
Preparation of a comprehensive estate plan can avoid the necessity of guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. This is preferable because it allows an individual to make the decision about who will act for them in the event of incapacity before they become unable to make legal and financial decisions. We can assist you in preparing a comprehensive estate plan that accomplishes this. To learn more about the estate planning services we offer, visit our Estate Planning page.
If you are looking for assistance or advice regarding the guardianship/conservatorship process, please contact us today.