Grand Rapids Attorneys & Counselors


44 Grandville Avenue SW, Suite 200 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

Estate Planning FAQ

Q. Why is a Will necessary?

A. A Will is the cornerstone of every sound estate plan. A Will directs the transfer of a person’s property upon passing. In some simple situations, a well-drafted Will is sufficient to effectively and efficiently transfer assets of an estate. In more complex circumstances, a Will provides valuable protection to ensure all assets are transferred into the trust.

A Will should:

  • Nominate a trusted individual as personal representative to properly administer your probate estate.
  • Nominate guardians and conservators for any minor children.
  • Express your intentions regarding distribution to beneficiaries of assets titled in your name at death.

Q. If I have a Will, do I avoid probate?

A. No.  Whether you have a probate estate is based on title. It doesn’t matter if you have a Will, a Trust, or powers of attorney. If the title to property was in the decedent’s individual name at death, the asset is subject to probate.

A few assets not subject to probate include:

  • Jointly held assets (with rights of survivorship).
  • Assets held by contract with correctly-designated beneficiaries (such as life insurance, 401(k) plans, etc.).
  • Assets held in trust.

Q. What is a Trust?

A. A Trust is an agreement, recognized by law, which governs the conservation and distribution of your assets. A Trust is a very flexible tool that can be shaped more specifically to your desires. Most Trusts can be amended or revoked at any time.

Q. How does a Trust work?

A. A Trust works like a pitcher into which assets are poured. The assets held in the pitcher can then be measured and distributed over time, in accordance with your wishes, instead of being given to your beneficiaries all at once.

Q. What are the benefits of a trust?

Probate avoidance.  A properly funded Trust will shield assets from probate. Funding is both one of the most important and neglected aspects of estate planning with trusts.

Control assets (and children) from beyond the grave. Simple gifts by Will result in minor beneficiaries receiving those gifts in their entirety at the tender age of 18. Trusts can be used to delay distributions over a period of years. Trusts can also give a trustee discretion to withhold distributions from beneficiaries who are not going to use the gifts properly (such as a beneficiary who will use distributions to support a drug or gambling addiction).

Reduce or eliminate estate taxes. Properly funded estate tax planning trusts can reduce or eliminate estate taxes.

Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys

If you are in need of a knowledgeable, experience attorney that understands the nuances of the estate planning process, please contact Andrew Rassi at 616.828.5375.