Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lost Deeds to Trust

You're a trustee.  What are you the trustee of?  The trust, right?  Ok, so what does the trust consist of?  One of the first things you should do as a new trustee is create an inventory of the trust assets.  Hopefully you can somewhat rely on a written inventory left by the creator of the trust, but don't stop there. You have an obligation to do a little investigative work to find all trust assets.

For many years, it was customary practice to sign a deed at the time the trust was created.  The type of deed often used was a Quit Claim deed. It was very common that the client would be instructed to hold the deed with their important documents without recording it with the County Register of Deeds.  Now, trust practices have changed somewhat, but more on that in a future post.

Knowing this, new trustees should determine whether there were any deeds transferring real estate to trust, and whether or not those deeds were recorded.  Since a lost deed could cause a probate of the real estate, if you've become the trustee due to your loved one's incapacity (not death), you should act quickly.  If there is real estate that has not been properly transferred to the trust and the property owner/trust settlor is living, there's still a chance to sign the appropriate documents to complete the transfer to trust.  If the trust settlor is living but lacks the capacity to sign a deed, the property owner's agent under a valid general durable power of attorney could have the authority to sign a deed transferring the property to the trust, thereby saving the estate the expense of probate.

If you have questions about any aspect of trust administration, feel free to contact me.  You'll find me online at www.lawofficeofjoannehinds, or at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rumor About Organ Donor Costs

At an outside table at one of my favorite coffee shops in East Lansing, Biggby Coffee, we were discussing organ donation when my client raised concerns about the cost of making an anatomical gift. In all my years of practicing, I suppose I had never considered who pays the medical bills incurred in taking the organs and/or tissues after a death.

After some digging around at the Michigan organ donor website,, I found an answer in a seven page online brochure for donor families called When Your Loved One Dies:

"Families are not charged for donation.
There is no cost to the donor family. Donation is a gift. The
family of the donor is responsible for hospital charges not
involved with donation and for funeral arrangements. The
family should never be charged for anything related to
donation. If you should receive a bill from a hospital or a
funeral home that you believe includes questionable costs,
please call Gift of Life Michigan at (800) 482-4881 and ask to
speak with someone in our finance department."
Excerpt from When Your Loved One Dies, Page 3.

It appears that Gift of Life Michigan wishes to assure you that there will be no costs charged to you or your loved one's estate for the donation, and that they will provide assistance with any questionable billing issues.

If you'd like to register to be an organ donor, visit the Gift of Life Michigan website. If you know of a family who was charged for donating their loved ones organs and/or tissues, I'd like to hear from you!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Go Green with a Living Trust

We have all heard many of the great reasons to choose a trust - avoid probate, simplify the administration of your estate, make things easier on your loved ones... but have you considered the environmental impact of your estate plan?

The probate of a will typically generates more paperwork than the administration of a trust.  In my practice alone, a file for the probate of a will tends to be as much as 5 times thicker than a file for the administration of a trust - and if you add the file at the courthouse, and the pile of documents that were mailed to each interested party as required by Michigan Court rules... you can see how quickly it can add up. 

So, save a tree.  Choose a trust.  And, watch this space for more green estate planning tips.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Trust Worked! No Probate Necessary, But What Should I Do with the Will?

The Michigan law that governs wills is called the "Estates and Protected Individuals Code" or "EPIC" for short. The law can be found online at the Michigan legislature's website in Chapter 700 of the Michigan Complied Laws.

Michigan law requires that anyone in possession of the Last Will & Testament of a deceased person must forward the will with "reasonable promptness" to the probate court having jurisdiction by delivering it personally or sending it by registered (certified) mail. Failure to do so may cause the person in possession of the will to be liable for damages, or held in contempt.

But, you may ask, my loved one had a properly funded trust agreement, and there appears no reason to open a probate estate! Not to worry - the act of forwarding the Will to the Court will not, in itself, subject any part of your loved one's estate or assets to probate.

For a directory of local probate courts, visit my website.

What's on Your List of New Year's Resolutions?

Happy New Year!

About 10 years ago when newspaper advertising was my primary marketing method, I ran a very successful series of advertisements each year around the New Year, asking the simple question, "Is a Will or Trust on Your List of New Year's Resolutions?"

Well... is it? Every year around this time I get very busy with new clients eager to start the year off right by checking at least one simple thing off of their list: Call and schedule a meeting with a lawyer to get started on a trust.

It makes sense and fits in well with other typical resolutions, like getting organized, for example.

So, if this is the year for you, follow my facebook page, Learn About Living Trusts for information about upcoming seminars and tips for getting prepared.

And whatever your New Year's Resolutions may be, make 2011 your Best Year Ever!

Monday, September 20, 2010

More trust classes on the way...

This fall, I'll be speaking in Holt, Okemos, Grand Ledge, Rockford, Eaton Rapids and Delta Township. Community education classes are a great way to learn about living trusts and get your questions answered for a minimal cost.

Preregistration is required, and can often be completed online. Registration fees are paid to the school district sponsoring the presentation. For a fall class schedule and links to participating school districts where you can register online, visit my facebook page "Learn About Living Trusts" or contact me by email.

Hope to see you this fall!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sometimes it happens...

When you're serving as the trustee of a revocable living trust, sometimes you discover a little too late that there was an asset not properly titled in the name of the trust. If you can find no other way to obtain title to the asset or otherwise transfer it to the appropriate beneficiary, you may find yourself opening a small estates procedure with the local probate court.

Not to worry, a small estates procedure is not a full probate of the estate and does not subject other assets that were properly titled to the probate administration. In fact, a small estates procedure consists of the simple preparation of one court form, the payment of a $25 filing fee to the court and payment of the inventory fee to the court.

I came across a helpful tool made available online by Kalamazoo County that will calculate the inventory fee, which is based upon the value of the assets subject to probate. Although made available by Kalamazoo County, the fee calculated would be the same in any county probate court in Michigan. Follow this link to try the inventory fee calculator.

Individuals considering the cost of probate vs. the preparation of a living trust might also be interested in using the calculator to estimate court costs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Class in Holt on Saturday 1-23-2010

On Saturday, January 23, 2010, I taught a 2 1/2 hour class on wills and trusts for Holt Community Education in the Holt Junior High School library.

At 15 participants, we maxed out the registration for the class. Although the library is a very large space, we probably could not have comfortably fit more participants without resorting to theatre style seating, as opposed to sitting around the library tables. I prefer the latter - it gives seminar participants more space to be comfortable, review the course materials and take notes.

I'll be back in Holt on Febrary 10, 2010 for "This Old Trust" and again on March 3, 2010 for "Wills & Trusts for Today's Smart Parents." Registration is available online at the Holt Community Education website.

Thank you to all of the participants of the January 23, 2010 class, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Here are a few:

"Good, thought-provoking class."
"I like someone who can be 'down-to-earth.' I like your presentation."
"Very informative."
"Good presentation."
"I learned the difference between a will and a living trust."

If you'd like to review the power point presentation from the class, I have posted a similar presentation from a previous class online at Please let me know if you have any troubles viewing it.

Thank you, I look forward to speaking in Holt again soon!