Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Estate Planning – Funeral Planning


When clients engage in Estate Planning we plan for a number of matters.  Wills or Trusts provide for property disposition after death.  Durable Power of Attorneys provide protection for our financial and legal affairs during our lifetimes if we are disabled.  Patient Advocate Designations or Medical Power of Attorneys provide for a continuum of medical care if we are disabled and unable to communicate our medical treatment preferences.

Now we have a new planning tool.  The Designation of Funeral Representative is permitted in Michigan.

This permits an individual to name other individuals who they know and trust to have the authority to dictate their funeral at death.  Under the prior law, the next of kin was legally authorized to make the arrangements even if those arrangements were not in keeping with the wishes of the deceased.

Now you can name anyone other than the funeral director, to plan your funeral in accordance with your own wishes.  This assures that it will be done your way.  Whether you want cremation, embalming, traditional interment, or a green funeral, your preferences will be followed in spite of family members who object.

It is important to make this designation to assure that your final wishes are honored.

Estate Planning – The Family Vacation Home – golden memories or family discord?


As we wrap up another beautiful summer in Northern Michigan, many are closing up the family vacation home for another season. For many parents and grandparents, these homes hold the fondest memories of magical summers filled with good times and warm feelings.

You may dream of leaving this vacation home for your children to pass down and enjoy for generations to come. But is this what your children really want?

While your children enjoyed their childhood days at the summer cottage, they may not be eager to recreate this experience again. Life is different today.

Parents and grandparents are often surprised and disappointed to find that their children and grandchildren do not want the responsibility of a summer vacation home. They are not interested in re-creating the memories of childhood. They are eager to move on to new experiences in new places.

While you may dream of your family gathered around the campfire long after you are gone, it may be that they do not share your dream. Often children hang onto family property, not because they want to, but because of a sense of guilt. It’s what Mom wanted.

It may be difficult to believe that what you want to give to your children is not, for them, going to be a blessing, but a source of guilty feelings and sibling discord.

As you close up the summer cottage, now may be a good time to have a conversation with your children and grandchildren. Find out how they truly feel about the home, both now and into their future. You may find that alternative planning is required.

ESTATE PLANNING: Can you loan your children money? For College? For Automobiles?

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You have the money and your child needs a loan.  The rates for student loans or for a car loan are high.  Should you be the bank?  Should you or can you loan your child money?

Yes.  You can.  There are times when an outright gift is not appropriate.  You may feel that it is appropriate for your child to earn what he or she desires.  If you are financially able, then a loan is an option.

There are some requirements that must be followed to be in line with the IRS and with Estate Planning concepts as well.  The loan must be in writing and must specify the amount of the loan, the interest being charged, the time over which it must be paid.

Why should it be in writing?   If challenged, you must be able to produce a document that is written and signed by the parties.  Additionally, if you pass away prior to the loan being paid off, it could be ignored by the child.  This could change the distribution of your estate by giving a windfall to one child over the others.

Why should there be interest?  If there is no interest on the loan, it is a gift.  There are minimum amounts of interest that must be charged for the loan to qualify as a loan for IRS purposes.  These interest rates vary and you must check to find the correct minimum at the time of the loan.

How to treat the interest?  This is a loan and the interest that is paid is income to you.  It must be claimed on your income tax return.

Can the loan be forgiven?  If the intent from the beginning is to forgive the loan, then it does not qualify as a loan.  It is a gift.  If however, due to a change in circumstances, you decide that a part of the loan is to be forgiven, then it is permissible.  To the extent that the loan is forgiven, it is a gift and if over the threshold amount, must be claimed on a gift tax return.   You may also state in your estate plan that unpaid loans are forgiven and are not be counted as a portion of the distribution of your estate.

As long as you follow the rules, it is possible to be the bank and loan your children money.  It simply must be written down and above board.

Estate Planning: Aging as an “Elder Orphan”

Portrait of a senior woman contemplating. Isolated on black background.

It is becoming more common to find aging individuals who have no spouse and no children. While this may provide freedom in their younger years, it leads to more troublesome issues when they age.

There are the issues of isolation and loneliness. Additionally, there are concerns about assistance. Who will be there to help during a time of illness or incapacity.

This article gives some tips on how to prepare to age alone.


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As a parent of kids that went to college, I know how costly college, cars and living for them become. Although they are adults (over 18) they still need our help.

Unfortunately, this comes at a time when we should be mindful of protecting our estates for our retirement. A “little” help can cost a parent substantially.

This is especially true when it comes to co-signing loans. It seems innocent enough to do. You co-sign, they get the loan, they will pay it off. This could be for a car or for a non-federally backed student loan.

Under most circumstances, this works out really well for everyone concerned. We want to be optimistic and look forward to a great future for our children. However, there are pitfalls, as a New Jersey family recently found.

When their college daughter murdered, they were grief stricken. Immediately thereafter, they were shocked when the state of New Jersey informed them that they were on the hook for their daughter’s student loans through the state. While the federally backed student loans are waived upon the death of the student; that is not the case for all loans. Nor would it be the case of a car loan through a bank or credit union.

Read the fine print and ask lots of questions. If your child were to die prior to the loan being paid off, would you be held responsible for the repayment? This could be financially devastating to your retirement plans if you had to pay off a $50,000 loan.

Be helpful for your children. Be wise for your own financial security.

Estate Planning, Legal Affairs & Cherry Festival

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Many long term Traverse City residents lay low during Cherry Festival. They hole up in their homes, trying not to come to town or conduct any business.

While that may be wise if it would involve a trip downtown because the traffic would be difficult and parking non-existent, that is not true for other locations in the city.

This could be the right time for you to decide to get started on some of those business, legal and financial matters that are on the back burner. You may find it easier to get an appointment and the parking spaces at those businesses will be plentiful.

If you have thought about getting started on your estate plan, why not call for an appointment this coming week? While you might not want to go to the grocery store or the beach downtown, you will find that many of your professionals are available to help you get started on your business, legal and financial matters.

Give me a call. I will be in all next week.

Estate Planning: The Good Old Summertime

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It’s summertime and it is the time for celebration. Children and grandchildren are graduating from High School and College. Perhaps you have a wedding in the family.

These celebrations should also serve as a time to re-evaluate your estate planning documents.

If your children have graduated from High School, they have in all likelihood turned 18 years old. You may be their parent but at this point you do not have any legal authority or rights concerning them. Single children over 18 should have a Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate in place naming their parents as their legal and medical representatives. This will assure that in the case of an emergency, you can continue to assist them in the same way you did prior to their 18th birthday.

If your children have graduated from college, they may now be at an age that you trust their judgement. You may want to remove restrictions from your revocable trust concerning disposition of assets to them. You may want to nominate them as your agent under your Durable Power of Attorney or Patient Advocate Designation.

If there has been a wedding you may want to consider other asset disposition considerations. If you passed away at the same time as a married child, would you want to leave any asset to his or her spouse? Perhaps you are loaning them money for the down payment on a home. Should that be paid back out of their share? Or should the loan be forgiven at the time of your death?

If you have new grandchildren, have you remembered them in your estate plan? Even the smallest gift to a grandchild can mean so much. Also, if their parents were to die, would the grandchildren receive your child’s share? If so, what would be the terms and conditions for distribution.

Estate Plans are not static. They need to change as our lives change. Remember to take care of these details when you are planning for your major life events.


Clients are always interested in how to transfer their property to their heirs without the need to go through probate court at the time of their death. Another goal is to assure that the property taxes on long held real property do not uncap upon the transfer to the next generation.

For a period of time, we have been unable to accomplish both of these goals using a Lady Bird or enhanced life estate deed. This is due to the fact that while the amendments to the property tax laws had provided for transfers by jointly held property and transfers by a revocable trust to pass to the next generation without uncapping the taxes, it did not provide for the same result specifically for enhanced life estate deeds. Because of this, the state of Michigan and all local assessors would uncap property if held under a Lady Bird or enhanced life estate deed when the original owners died.

The law has now been amended to include Lady Bird or enhanced life estate deeds. The application of the law is retroactive to December 31, 2014. Therefore, these deeds are now effective for a transfer to the next generation upon the death of the original owners who die on or after January 1, 2015. The property will transfer without the need for probate and the property taxes will not uncap.

This is great news for clients who are not interested in a trust and have worked out most of their post-death transfers using beneficiary designations and transfers on death. They now can take advantage of a Lady Bird Deed to transfer their property to their children leaving little or nothing to run through the probate process.


Funeral Rose

A problematic issue for many clients in estate planning has finally been resolved. The right to determine the manner of disposition of our remains and the type of funeral was not our own. It resided with our next of kin – even if they did not agree with our wishes.

Many clients were troubled by the fact that their wishes for cremation and a very simple funeral could be altered by their family members. This changes effective June 27, 2016.

Act 57 of the Public Acts of 2016 was passed and was signed by the Governor of Michigan on March 29, 2016. This Act provides for the appointment of a Funeral Representative who has priority to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition or disinterment of a decedent’s body. This includes the right to elect cremation.

It will now be possible, as part of the estate planning process, to execute a document appointing the individual(s) who are trusted to make decisions in accordance with our wishes. That individual will have priority to make these arrangements, even if they are not immediate family, or next of kin.

All clients will want to add this to their estate plan to assure that their wishes are carefully carried out.

Real Estate – Downsizing and Taxes


Real Estate – Downsizing and taxes.

In the ordinary course of our lives, we purchase homes, outgrow them and move into bigger, more expensive dwellings.  Since the new home is usually more expensive than the one that we sold, there is no problem for us with a capital gain on the sale of the home.

What happens when we downsize?  When many of us approach retirement, with the kids gone, we don’t need or want all of that square footage.  The new home or condominium that we purchase might be less expensive than the house that we are selling.  Will we owe capital gains?

It will depend on how long you owned the home and how much profit you made.  For a single person, if you owned and lived in the home for at least two of the last five years, and if the profit is less than $250,000, then you will not owe any capital gain.

For a couple filing a joint return, the tax free amount will double to $500,000.  You will still have to have owned and resided in the home for the last two of five years.

The two years is a cumulative amount, does not need to be concurrent, nor does it need to be the last two years preceding the sale.  It only has to have been your principal residence for two years within the last five years prior to sale.

Also, unlike the law in the past required, this is not a one- time only exclusion.  You may use this exclusion multiple times, provided that you have owned and lived in the home for at least two years.  Therefore, you could be eligible to do this every two years.

This exclusion is enhanced for members of the military who serve “qualified official extended duty”.  In such a case, the five year period of time is extended to ten; therefore, two years of living in the home within the prior ten years.

This is good news for people who want to downsize their housing and not have to share their savings with the IRS.

© Copyright 2015
Linda E Wasielewski, P.L.C. by awasielewski