Page 6 - Senior Times South Central Michigan - June 2018 - 25-06
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Page 6 Senior Times - June 2018
By: Tracie L. Tomak, Attorney
“I want my family to avoid the Probate Court.”
“Why did my parents leave me this mess?”
These are the two most common state- ments I hear when I meet with clients and discuss their goals regarding their estate plan and final wishes.
Often times, clients will have recently experienced the death of a loved one, and the loved one’s estate was handled in the Probate Court. Other times, clients will tell me that
a parent never executed a Power of Attorney and the client had to seek a Guardianship and/or conservatorship in the Probate Court for the parent.
The Probate Court handles matters relating to the following:
1. Decedent Estates (with or without a Will) 2. Contested Trust proceedings
3. Guardianships
4. Conservatorships
While the Probate Court handles many other types of matters, these are the common issues and greatest concerns of the great majority of clients.
If an individual executes a Power of Attorney, he or she is nominating an agent to act on his or her behalf to make medical and/or financial decisions, should the indi- vidual become incapacitated. By doing this, the individual is taking steps to ensure that the person he or she trusts the most will be acting on their behalf. At the same time, the individual is taking steps to avoid the need for the Probate Court to appoint a guardian or conservator in the future.
Further, individuals will often opt to uti- lize Trusts, beneficiary designations, joint ownership options, and transfer on death options as tools to avoid decedent estate proceedings in the Probate Court. A compre- hensive estate plan will include the review of all of these options to ensure all assets have beneficiary designations and/or that the joint ownership of assets is appropriate. Each of these options avoids oversight by the Probate Court.
When creating an estate plan it is import- ant to ensure that the documents themselves are complete and thorough. The client’s desires and intentions should be clear. Therefore, if there is ever a dispute that requires the Probate Court intervention, the client’s wishes can be easily interpreted and followed by Court.
Sometimes, handling a matter within the Probate Court is unavoidable. This could
occur in several situations, including, but not limited to the following:
1. An individual passes away without a Will. 2. An individual passes away with a Will, but
no Trust.
3. An individual did not execute a Power of
Attorney when he or she had the capacity to do so, and now, a guardianship and/or conservatorship is necessary.
4. Family members, or beneficiaries, dis- agree about what was left in a Will or Trust.
5. Family members, or beneficiaries, do not believe a Personal Representative or Trustee is acting responsibly or carrying out the wishes of the deceased.
6. Loved ones become concerned when an individual’s nominated agent in the Power of Attorney is not acting responsibly or in the best interests of the incapacitated indi- vidual.
While the Probate Court can assist with each of these issues, and more, it is a time consuming and expensive experience. Avoiding the Probate Court is one of the greatest gifts we can leave our loved ones for the simple reason that our wishes can
be clearly carried out with a comprehensive estate plan. Estate planning is not reserved for the wealthy; rather, it is for anyone who has the desire to ensure that their loved ones do not endure unnecessary time and expense upon their passing. It truly is the final gift.
Tracie L. Tomak can be reached at Tomak & Podolsky, PLLC, in Battle Creek, at
(269) 965-3185 or visit them online at
The Law Office of
When you need legal help, you deserve a Law Firm that will work for you.
We are a different kind of law firm.
Call us today and find out the difference for yourself.
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Kellie E. Podolsky
• Wills
• Power of Attorney
• Trusts • Deeds
FREE CONSULTATIONS for Probate & Estate Planning Clients.
601 S. Shore Dr. #329, Battle Creek 49014 • • (269) 965-3185 • Find us on facebook!

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