The Dugas Law Office is an experienced comprehensive Estate Planning Law Firm in Brighton, Michigan

Law Office of Dugas & Associates has extensive experience in all aspects of Estate Planning, Probate and Elder Law. We represent and have provided, since 1986,  ongoing advice to our clients through out the State of Michigan.  Our firm is located in Brighton, Michigan.  

Ms. Dugas holds a Law Degree and a Special Masters Degree (Masters in Legal Letters - LLM.)  in taxation and estate planning from Boston University Law School.  Thus the firm is uniquely qualified in areas other law firms in the county are not.  The staff also is well experienced in areas of estate planning and have been with the firm since 1987.  There is a respect for our clients and the issues that are presented.  Both staff and counsel are intertwined in working to assist the clients in a compassionate and competent manner unlike many production line law firms. 

Our firm handles legal matters in the following practice areas:  Estate Planning, Taxation, Trusts and Estates, Estate Litigation, Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Durable Powers for Health, Guardianship, Conservatorship, Probate and Decedent's Estate, and Elder Law, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security Issues
.Law Office of Suzanne M. Dugas, J.D., LLM.  (810) 227-2702
Living Trusts - Everything you want to know but were afraid to ask.
A Living Trust, which is similar to a Will in following your directives of asset distribution and designation of beneficiaries, is very different because it:

  • avoids Probate at your death, 
  • controls ALL of your wealth and assets, and 
  • prevents court intervention if you become incapacitated during your lifetime.

Perhaps years ago only the wealthy had living trusts.  Today over 90% of  individuals, whether single or married, choose the advantages of a living trust when deciding on an estate plan.   If you own real property, bank accounts, and other wealth management vehicles such as certificates of deposits, bonds, stock holdings, a living trust is the estate planning tool you need. 

How does a living trust avoid probate?
When you set up a living trust you will name yourself as the Trustee.  As trustee you will have absolute control over all assets funded into the trust.  For example, your certificate of deposit is now in the name of May and John Doe, husband and wife.  You then transfer this asset to the trust, Mary and John Doe, as Trustees of the Doe Family Trust.  

Once this is completed everything you own has been funded into the Living Trust and you no longer own them in your name, rather belong to your trust.  There is nothing for the court to probate when you die. 

During yourr lifetime you maintain absolute control and as trusteee do anyhting with your assets you could do before.  Nothing changes but the names on title. 
What if I become incapacitated? 
If you and your spouse are co-trustees, either of you can act if the other becomes incapacitated.  If both of you become incapacitated, or you are sole trustee, the person you specifically named in your trust to act as successor trustee steps in and acts on your behalf to manage the assets of the trust. 

The successor trustee will manage your financial affairs for as long as necessary .   All of this is managed quickly without court intervention or the need for your family to begin a costly probate petition for conservatorship over your assets.  Your trust can specifically require your successor trustee to address all beneficiary concerns, management decisions, and provide accounting during the period of your incapacity.

Should you recover from the incapacity, you automatically resume control over your trust assets.  
Who would be the successor trustee? 
The successor trustee can be family members such as adult children, parents, brothers and sisters, trusted friends.  In many instances our firm recommends co-trustees when using the above individuals.  This provides insulation for the persons who have been named and creates a system of checks and balances. 

It is also possible to name a corporate trustee, such as a bank, however, it is important to understand the administration fees and requirements of a bank etc. 
What happens to my trust when I die?
There are a number of things that can happen after your death.  If married and your spouse is still alive the trust will continue on with your spouse being the sole trustee of the trust.  If both you and your spouse are deceased, or if you were single, the trust does not  die upon your death.  Whatever your directives are in the trust will determine if there will be an immediate distribution to your beneficiaries or not.  If there are minor children and the trust provides for future distribution at a certain age, the trust will continue until such age has been achieved by the beneficiary.

There are many reason for delayed distribution such as a special situation wherein the trust continue to provide support and maintenance for an individual.  

It can also be a simple as an immediate distribution to your beneficiaries if all requirements of distribution are met. 
Can my estate save on inheritance tax with a trust?
A Credit Shelter Trust for married individuals is a wonderful vehicle to take complete advantage of the federal estate tax exemption of $5 million per individual for the years 2011 and 2012.  However, as discussed on the home page,  many consideration must be taken due to the 2 year limitation on this federal estate tax exemption.

The good news is most of us do not have estates in excess of $5 million dollars per individual and therefore are relieved to know our families will not be struggling with paying federal estate tax.  Many refer to this tax as the Inheritance Tax. 
Do I need a Will?
Yes.  In Michigan it is called a pour-over will.   If you think of your personal property such as clothing, jewelry, furniture and all of the tangible personal property inside a tea pot.  When you pass away your pour -over will "pours" these non titled assets into your trust. 
Contact the Law Offices of Suzanne M. Dugas to discuss your estate planning needs.  Our office is a premier estate planning firm and has been helping families achieve their estate planning goals.  Call today (810) 227- 2702 for an appointment or email us at:      
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Law Offices of
 Dugas & Associates
Suzanne M. Dugas, J.D., LLM.
810 W. Grand River
Brighton, Michigan 48116

Call us at:
(810) 227-2702