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Blog Articles

Estate Planning is vital now, not later

Posted on September 28, 2018 at 4:40 PM
see why you should be estate planning NOW and get a discount if you call now! 517-347-2100

Back to school

Posted on August 22, 2015 at 9:20 PM


Every fall we have joyful parents who are ready for their kids to be back in school, and we have sad parents who are saying goodbye to their college children as they travel far away from them.

Regardless of where you fall, there is planning that needs to be done for your children. If you have minor children your will needs to name a guardian to take them in the event of your tragic early death. You must also decide if you want the same person who has custody of your children, to have custody of the money. Some people we trust to handle both. Sometimes we may want someone to raise our children in a similar way to the way you are currently raising them, but they may not be great with money. You can name a separate conservator for your children to handle all the finances. This allows you to make sure your kids get the best care, and the best money management for their future.

And what about incapacity? In a world full of uncertainties it may not be death that takes you away from your children. It could be a threatening disability. Your will may name a guardian in the event of your death, but it only impacts after your death, not incapacity. Accidents are unfortunately all too common today, your estate planning documents thus need to cover more than just death.


Adult children are a different issue. They no longer need to go to the neighbor or your sister if something happens to you, but children are children a lot longer today than the age of 18. They aren't always prepared to take care of themselves just because they hit that magic age. Nor do young adults make wise financial decisions. You can make decisions in your estate planning documents to cover this interim period of their lives until they reach a more responsible age.

Additionally, your 18+ year old is no longer a minor under your guardianship. You no longer have the right to make decisions for them, or even in the event of incapacity. Young adults need to have their own Powers of Attorney in place naming you as the parent as their potential agent. If they are injured at school, seeing a doctor, or having financial difficulty, those Powers of Attorney are what give you the authority to act as you would want to as a parent, even though they are an adult.

To the Parents of New Graduates

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 10:30 AM

If you have a young adult, they need to sign a Power of Attorney for Health Care to insure that you as the parent can make decisions for them should they not be able to themselves.  

It's that time of year again.  High School seniors everywhere are anxiously awaiting their graduation dates and looking forward to what life has ahead of them.  18 is the magic number to distinguish between a child and a legal adult. But let's face it, they will forever be your child.

As parents are getting ready for college moves and planning in advance of their child leaving the nest in August, they need to consider more than sheets and dorm storage.  Some parents are excited for this change, some are nervous and others are both.  But now that your child has reached the age of 18, they are a legal adult and with that comes a lot of changes for mom and dad. Parents no longer have the authority to see records, nor can they automatically make health care decisions for their child.  

Health Care Powers of Attorney are especially important now for your young adult.  As they venture out into the world, you want to make sure they are safe, and part of that is having their documents in order.  If something does happen, you want to have the easy ability to take charge as you always have.  Having your child name you as their Patient advocate will insure that you do not run into any hurdles should something happen to them.  You can speak to Doctors, as well as make decisions if they can't make decisions themselves.

If your child has asset accounts that may also need monitoring or assistance should your child not be able to do so himself/herself, then a Durable Power of Attorney is also a necessity, and will cover any financial powers that may be needed.  

So get in to see us! Your child will always be your child, regardless of hitting that magic age of 18.  But you need to make sure that you as the parent will be in control, not the hospital, doctors, or state of Michigan. 

Pitfalls of Estate Planning 1 Not planning!

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Not Estate Planning is a detriment to you and your family!

I've been doing a lot of Estate Plan reviews lately.  Seeing what happens when clients leave my office is always interesting.  Seeing what happens after individuals have left our free seminars is equally as enlightening as it is frustrating.  So what are the common pitfalls that people run into?  We'll be discussing them one at a time. 




The most common pitfall is people who do not plan.  No Last Will & Testament, No Powers of Attorney, no long-term-care preparation, just nothing. 

This is not only frustrating to me, as the Estate Planning attorney.  But it's equally frustrating, if not more so, to the family that is left to administer your estate.  I hear so often, "I know I need to do something, I'm just not sure I've decided what I want to do," or "I haven't had the time," or "It's too expensive," and the most common, "I don't have much, so what do I need to plan for?"

Estate Planning covers more than what happens to the money you are leaving (or not leaving) behind for your family.  Who makes medical decisions for you if you are in an accident? And the most common misconception is that the spouse can make the decisions without issue.  That is not always the case. And more importantly, what happens if your spouse is not there, or was in the accident with you?  Not preparing for that can lead to some great expense and time spent with your local county court and adult protective services agents.  So to, what if the problem you face is not physically related, what if it is mentally related. Alzheimers, Dementia, and Parkinsons are becoming all to common amongst seniors today.  So be prepared for the possibilities.  Powers of Attorney are necessary for everyone! Better to have it and not need it, then not have it in a time of need!

Where will your assets go? Whether youhave only one bank account with a few hundred dollars in it, or several with a financial planner and investments, you need to establish how your assets are going to be divided, and to whom.  Meeting with us as estate planners, allows us to guide you to the perfect plan for you.  There are many new estate plan techniques that don't always involve a trust or a will.  But to know and understand them, and more importantly to utilize them, you have to come see us.  We at Crenshaw Peterson pride ourselves on giving our clients tailored plans.  We don't stick everyone in the same templated generic estate plan. We want to give you something that works for YOU!  No two people have the exact same life situation and asset levels, so we're not going to give them the same estate plan.  

Finally we need to discuss long-term care potential.  The longer we live, the longer we have expenses, and the potential for in home care or nursing home care becomes more likely.  Many of our seniors have saved over their life times and they want to be able to leave a legacy to thier children, big or small.  In order to preserve the assets, your family, powers of attorney, and agents all need to have the powers to do what is necessary, and your property needs to be titled, and addressed in a way that protects it from long-term care needs.  Without the proper planning, it is a certainty that your estate will be dwindled down.  At an aproximate cost of $7500 a month in a nursing home, your estate will be depleted quickly without the proper planning.  And if you have a spouse at home, what do they have left to live on? 

So come see us! It all starts with a conversation.  We ask a lot of questions to get you thinking, and we provide a lot of answers to guide you to making those decisions that are so tough to decide.  Give the reassurance to your family, prepare for your future!  Mention this blog article, and the consult is free. 

The Mistakes of Joint Ownership

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 2:20 PM

We've been asked a lot about Joint ownership verses Powers of Attorney.  In the event of incapacity many people add a second person to their bank accounts.  "I have my son/daughter on my account with me." or "Why can't I just add my neighbor who helps me out when I need it."  "Why should I get a power of attorney instead, when I can just add a joint owner?"

These are common misconceptions to achieving the goal of getting help if needed. The problems with joint ownership, and yes I said problems plural, are far reaching and usually unknown to the client.  

Pitfalls to Joint ownership:


  • -LOSS OF CONTROL: If you are a joint owner you lose total control over that asset. If it's real property, you cannot sell, mortgage or refinance it without the consent of all the owners.  By adding a child or neighbor or grandchild to your deed, you have given them that asset early, and they now control along with you. If they disagree with your decision, they can hold you up on doing what you want to do with your own property. If it's a bank account, they can go into the bank and use the bank funds as they see fit, without regard to you. 
  • -TAX LIABILITIES: When you add a joint owner you have gifted your property.  If a bank account, half of that money is attributable to the new owner. Same with real property.  If that amount is greater than the annual allotted gift by the federal government of $14,000 there could be significant tax consequences. If it is over the life time limit, there could be additional tax consequences.  
  • -LONG-TERM CARE LIABILITY: In the event that any long-term care needs are necessary in your future, a joint ownership could be deemed as gifting. There is now a 5 year look back period.  If you have gifted within the last 5 years, you could be penalized by that amount. 
  • -CREDITORS OF ALL OWNERS: Adding a joint owner opens the door to the creditors of that new owner.  Just because they never contributed funds to that account, doesn't mean a creditor won't garnish the entire amount inside that account, or lien property in order to recover on the debt. The asset is subject to the creditors of each owner. 
  • -TRUMPS DISTRIBUTIONS IN YOUR WILL/TRUST: Some people have prepared for the end of their life and put into place a Last Will and Testament, or Living Trust.  Within that document, they listed who was to receive their assets and how much.  What many people don't realize, is that titles and licenses trump your estate plan. This is why attorneys emphasize the importance of making sure all your account assets match the desires of your Estate Plan.  If you add a joint owner in the event of your death or disability, the survivor of the two of you takes it all. They are under no obligation to share with siblings, friends, charities, etc. as indicated in the Will.  
  • -DISABILITY POWERLESS: just because you have a joint owner on your bank account does not mean they have the express power to pay all bills, or assist with all finances. If they have to call consumers, or AT&T they have no authority to do so.  And many joint owners run into problems as they use the assets for another's needs. It has the potential to create many financial problems. 


THE SOLUTION: A Durable Power of Attorney.  A power of attorney is a document in which you select an agent to act on your behalf in the event that you cannot.  The agent is given the powers to do all that they could have done had they been a joint owner, but without any of the cost or liability to you.  

So my question is:

Why not a Power of Attorney?