Estate Planning: Why is it Important?

by Caitlin Zanin
On May 9, 2014, Elder Law of Michigan held a free estate planning clinic at the East Glen Apartments in East Lansing with support from Ingham County TRIAD.  Nine attorneys volunteered their time and talent to draft Wills, Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, and Designation of Patient Advocate forms for 16 low-income seniors.
As a new intern for Elder Law of Michigan, I was impressed with the efficiency and organization of Elder Law of Michigan and the willingness of the volunteer lawyers to donate their Friday morning to assisting low income seniors. At the clinic, clients were allowed all the time they needed to thoroughly communicate how they wanted their estates to be handled after their death.
This clinic helped me realize how important it is to have your affairs in order. Estate planning documents are important for people of any age because it is always important to be prepared and organized.  In fact, I asked all my immediate family members if they had their affairs in order that weekend.
Important documents to consciously think about are:
1) Wills: A Last Will and Testament is a document containing instructions about how you want your assets to be divided after you pass away. Even though the laws of Michigan have a default method for dividing your assets if you don’t have a will, it will give you peace of mind knowing that things are handled exactly the way you want it.  Just telling your family how you want it handled isn’t good enough.
2) Durable Power of Attorney: A document stating that if you become mentally incapacitated, you give your agent (could be a family member or whoever you trust) the power to make decisions for you in your everyday life. This decision should not be taken lightly and should be given to someone you have complete trust and confidence in.
3) Designation of Patient Advocate: A document in which you (the patient) will elect a patient advocate (can be one or more than one person) to make decisions over your care and medical treatment if you, as the patient, are unable to make the decision yourself. This form will eliminate the need for court appointed guardians.
If you have any questions about any of these documents feel free to call The Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at Elder Law of Michigan at 1.866.400.9164, or visit our website for further information.
The Michigan State Legislature also has a booklet, titled Planning for your Peace of Mind: A Guide to Medical and Legal Decisions, that is designed to assist you in preplanning by providing frequently asked questions, general information and forms on Michigan’s Statutory Will, Patient Advocate law and organ donation. This booklet is not intended to replace the advice of a legal professional when it comes to making long-term care and end-of-life decisions.


Caitlin Zanin is an intern for the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at Elder Law of Michigan. She is currently studying law at Michigan State University College of Law.