We provide the following Probate & Estate Planning Services for our clients:

Wills and Trusts

Providing for Minor Children

Planning for Incapacity – Powers of Attorney

Guardianships and Conservatorships for Adults

Probate Estates

Probate Litigation – Will, Estate and Trust Contests

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Estate Planning and Probate

Planning for your future and the future of your family gives you peace of mind to know that your wishes will be followed both during your lifetime and after.  Let Stull & Associates assist you in protecting your assets, preserving your property and investments, and creating a plan for the distribution of your effects.  In addition, we can help you provide for the care, guardianship, and education of you children. 

Stull and Associates offers a full range of legal services from basic wills to establishing Guardianships and Conservatorships for minors and adults to probating estates and trusts after a loved one passes.  We also assist with transfer and succession arrangements for business and partnership interests, asset management and durable powers of attorney, healthcare directives, living wills, and guardianship issues.  Our focus is to provide our clients with the maximum control over the disposition of assets. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Wills and Trusts

Do I need a will or a trust or both?

Depending on your circumstances, you may need both a Will and a Trust.  If you only have a Will, everything you own will pass through a court managed process known as probate.  Establishing a Trust and transferring your assets to your Trust during your lifetime may allow you to sidestep probate and accelerate the timeframe for finalizing your Estate.

Providing for Minor Children

If my spouse and I both die, will my children automatically be wards of the State?

No.  If you have minor children, it is critical for your estate plan to address issues regarding their upbringing and financial stability.  A contingency plan should be established if both parents pass before your children are adults.  This plan should include the names of the person or people who will manage your child’s money (Conservator) as well as who will provide for their care and custody (Guardian).  The person who manages the financial needs of the child need not be the guardian.  In many situations, designating different people maintains a system of checks and balances.  You may also decide to establish a Trust to ensure that any assets are given to the child when he or she is old enough to manage the particular asset.

I want to provide money for my children (or grandchildren), but do not want the child’s parent or guardian to have control over the assets I am leaving to the child, how can I appoint someone else or a financial institution to monitor the assets?

A Trust will allow you to appoint a fiduciary who will manage the assets under the terms set forth in the document.

What is a Guardianship for a child?

There are three types of Guardianships for children under Michigan Law, which include a full guardianship, limited guardianship, and temporary guardianship.  For more information, please see Michigan Child Welfare Law, Guardianship, also see Kalamazoo County Powers of Attorney and Guardianship of Minors.  Kalamazoo County also provides a video of what to expect if you are appointed Guardian of a Minor.

What is a Conservatorship for a child?

A conservatorship is where a person or financial institution is appointed by the probate court to manage the property and financial affairs for a child.  For more information regarding roles and responsibilities, see Conservatorship in Michigan.  Also see, Kalamazoo County Conservatorship of Minors.

Planning for Incapacity

I am young, why should I plan for incapacity now?

If you become incapacitated, you will not be able to manage your own financial affairs or make medical decisions.  Proper planning can provide you with peace of mind now and prevent court involvement later.  Michigan allows for Financial Powers of Attorney and Medical Powers of Attorney.  Without proper planning, your family may be required to request that the Court appoint a Guardian or Conservator [hyperlink].  Allow Stull & Associates to draft the appropriate documents for your situation to manage your affairs, pay your bills, and make medical decisions when necessary.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows you to designate an individual to handle your financial matters on your behalf.  Choosing a Power of Attorney is not a simple task as your Power of Attorney will be allowed access to your bank accounts and can even borrow money or sell real property if you allow for these transactions.  However, if a trustworthy agent is designated, it can prevent court involvement during what can be an already stressful time.

What are some of the powers of a Power of Attorney for financial matters?

Your agent can pay your bills, borrow money on your behalf, manage your property, handle any legal matters, prepare and file tax returns, give gifts, manage income, and enter into contracts.

What is the difference between a Medical Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Patient Advocate Designation, and a Living Will?

All are forms of advanced directives that give you the ability to tell others what type of medical care you want, or do not want, in the future when you are unable to make decisions.  A Medical Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Patient Advocate Designation, are terms for the same type of document, which allows the appointed person to make medical decisions on your behalf only when you are unable to make the decisions on your own.  A living will informs doctors and family members what type of medical care you wish to receive if you cannot make the decisions.  For more information see Advanced Directives.

Guardianships and Conservatorships for Adults

What is a Guardianship for an adult?

A guardianship is when a person (the Guardian) is appointed by a probate court and given power and responsibility to make decisions about the care of a legally incapacitated individual.  For information regarding roles and responsibilities, see the Handbook for Guardians of Adults, see also Kalamazoo County Guardianship of an Individual with Developmental Disability and Guardianship of an Individual with Legal Incapacity.

What is a Conservatorship for an adult?

A conservatorship is where a person or financial institution is appointed by the probate court to manage the property and financial affairs for another adult.  For more information regarding roles and responsibilities, see Conservatorship in Michigan, see also Kalamazoo County Conservatorships of Adults

How can I avoid having a Guardian appointed for me if I cannot make decisions for myself?

Good planning can prevent guardianships.  Medical Powers of Attorney also known as Health Care Directives or Patient Advocate Designation and Mental Health Powers of Attorney provide the legal authority for someone else to act on your behalf without a Guardianship.  Alternatives to Full Guardianship for Adults.

How can I avoid having a Conservator appointed for me if I cannot manage my own finances?

Again good planning can prevent Conservatorships.  As part of your estate plan, a fully executed Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters will prevent the necessity for a Conservatorship.

Probate Estates

What happens if a person owns personal or real property when they die?

Often, when a loved one passes, the family members must go through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration.  In this process, the court assists the family in managing and distributing the assets of the Estate. 

What steps are involved in the probate process?

Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • Filing a petition or application to open the probate estate
  • Sending a Notice to Heirs
  • Publishing a notice in the newspaper
  • Inventorying the assets
  • Payment of debts
  • Providing documentation to the heirs of how the assets were managed
  • Distributing that assets of the Estate

Does probate administer all of the deceased’s property?

No.  Any assets that are owned by the following are not included:

  • The deceased’s Trust
  • Property owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship
  • Retirement accounts, bank accounts, IRAs and 401k accounts with beneficiary designations
  • Life insurance policies where a beneficiary is designated

How much does probate cost and how long does it take?

The cost and duration of probate can vary substantially depending on a number of factors.  An estate must be open for at least five months.  If there are no contested proceeds, most can be settled through the probate process within 9 to 18 months.

Probate Litigation

What is Probate Litigation?

Probate Litigation is court involvement in legal disputes over issues related to aging, disability and death.  It can include disagreements over Conservatorships, Guardianships, Estate, Wills, and Trusts.  Probate Court’s also have authority over Abuse and Neglect cases.

Is there any way that I can avoid a will or trust Contest if my heirs want to fight over my assets?

No.  Unfortunately, appropriate estate planning does not guarantee that your wishes will be carried out as you intended. Wills and trusts are frequently contested for a variety of reasons. A controversy might arise due to a simple misunderstanding or a clerical error.  Sometimes an heir of beneficiary feels that he or she has been unfairly left out, or a family may believe a close friend or caregiver has improperly convinced the deceased to name him or her a beneficiary. Additionally, wills do not provide for the confidentiality afforded by other estate planning devices such as a trust.

Are the rules different in Probate Court?

Yes and No.  The usual rules regarding civility and honesty control, but there are several additional rules regarding issues such as who can file, what can be filed, who needs to be notified, and what discovery can be conducted control the probate court process.