Labre Law Office | Family Law & Criminal Defense Lawyer | Edwardsburg, MI

Estate, Trusts and Probate

At LaBre Law Office, we guide our clients through the complexities of estate, trusts, and probate with excellence as our standard.

Estate, Trust, and Probate in Edwardsburg, Michigan

What happens to your assets when you die without a will in Michigan? The state distributes them according to Michigan’s intestacy laws, which outline a predetermined asset distribution plan based on familial relationships. Unfortunately, this distribution may or may not align with your wishes or honor the unique circumstances of your family. Imagine the stress for your loved ones as they go through probate, only to discover that Michigan laws—and not you— have the final say in what happens to your assets?

Dying without a will can lead to various legal challenges and disputes among family members. Without explicit instructions, disagreements may arise regarding the distribution of assets, guardianship of minor children, or even the appointment of a personal representative.

These disputes can prolong the probate process, causing unnecessary stress and emotional strain for grieving loved ones. Moreover, the lack of a clear plan can result in additional expenses, including court fees, attorney fees, and potential litigation costs.

With more than 43 years of combined experience, our team of attorneys understands the importance of having a properly drafted will as part of a comprehensive estate plan. A will upholds your wishes after your death, allows you to provide for your spouse, children, loved ones, and pets, and lets you name a trusted personal representative to handle your estate.

A will only becomes active upon your passing, and must go through probate, including probate court, where a court administrator carefully examines its contents. If any family members contest the will, the probate process can become lengthy and complicated.

Are you currently navigating the probate process and seeking the guidance of an experienced probate attorney? Drawing upon our extensive knowledge of Michigan probate law, we can assist you with all probate matters, including probate court.

Unlike a will, a trust—another crucial estate planning document—takes effect the day you create it. Another distinction between a trust and a will is that a trust does not have to go through probate when the grantor (the person creating the trust) dies. Furthermore, no one can contest a trust.

Regarding estate, trust, and probate planning, everyone, no matter their age or the value of their assets, should consult an experienced estate planning attorney to draft a will and other estate planning documents, based on their unique preferences and circumstances. You can rest assured that your estate assets will pass on to your intended beneficiaries when you implement a well-designed estate plan.

At LaBre Law Office, we understand the critical nature of these legal services. Based on more than four decades of experience, we know that proper estate planning reduces family conflict—especially during a time of grief.

LaBre Law Office Can Handle Multiple Types of Cases Related to Estate, Trust and Probate

Whether you need help with the estate planning process, have questions about a living trust, or need a probate attorney to represent you in probate court for a loved one’s will, our compassionate and skilled lawyers can help. We have extensive experience with the following estate planning areas:

  • Estate Planning
  • Wills and Trusts
  • Probate
  • Living Trust
  • Guardianship
  • Elder Law
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid
  • Estate Administration
  • Long Term Care
  • Non-Probate Administration
  • Advance Health Care Directives
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Testamentary Trust
  • Special Needs Trust

We recognize the emotional aspects of estate planning; however, we’ve also witnessed the devastating consequences of neglecting the estate planning process. Save your family and other loved ones the additional hardship of trying to decipher your wishes while mourning your death. A LaBre Law Office estate planning lawyer will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and devise an estate plan that offers peace of mind with your desired asset distribution.

Remember, estate planning is not a “one and done” exercise; as your life circumstances change, so must your estate plan, to ensure it aligns with your wishes. You can rely on the estate, trust, and probate attorneys at LaBre Law Office. We are here for you now and throughout the rest of your life.

We Can Guide You Through Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are vital documents in the estate planning process. These legal tools can safeguard your assets and pass them on to your heirs. A will is a written document that conveys the desires of a deceased individual and ensures the financial well-being of a spouse, children, loved ones, and even pets after their passing. Additionally, a will designates a personal representative to handle the estate. However, a will only takes effect after the individual has died.

A living will, on the other hand, serves a different purpose. It provides explicit instructions for medical care if you become incapacitated and unable to make healthcare decisions.

The types of wills include:

Formal Will

A formal will is a legal document that outlines how you want your property and possessions to be distributed upon your death. It typically includes the following elements:

  1. Identification: The will begins by identifying you as the testator, the person creating the will. It also includes your full legal name, address, and any other necessary identifying information.
  2. Appointment of Executor: You will appoint an executor, also known as a personal representative, who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions outlined in your will. This should be someone you trust to handle your affairs competently and efficiently.
  3. Asset Distribution: Your formal will clearly states how you want your assets to be distributed. This can include specific bequests (gifts) to individuals, such as family members or friends, as well as instructions for the distribution of your remaining assets.
  4. Guardianship of Minor Children: If you have minor children, your will can designate a guardian who will assume responsibility for their care and upbringing in the event of your passing. This ensures that your children are placed under the care of someone you trust.
  5. Debts and Taxes: Your will can outline how any outstanding debts, taxes, or expenses should be paid from your estate before distributing the remaining assets to your beneficiaries.
  6. Residual Clause: The residual clause, also known as the “catch-all” clause, covers any assets or property that may not have been specifically mentioned in your will. It ensures that these assets are distributed according to your overall wishes.
  7. Witnesses and Signatures: To make your formal will legally valid in Michigan, it must be signed by you in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses must also sign the will, attesting to its authenticity.

Holographic Will

A holographic will offers a unique approach to estate planning. It is a handwritten document that is entirely created and signed by the testator (the person making the will). Unlike a formal will, a holographic will does not require witnesses. Instead, it must be entirely in the testator’s handwriting and contain their signature.

To be considered valid in Michigan, a holographic will must meet the following requirements:

  1. Handwritten: The holographic will must be completely written by the testator. It cannot be typed or printed.
  2. Intent: The document must clearly demonstrate the testator’s intention to create a will, including provisions for the distribution of their assets after death.
  3. Signature: The holographic must be signed by the testator at the end of the document.
  4. Date: Including the date when the holographic will was written is crucial because it helps establish its validity and ensures clarity regarding any potential conflicts with other wills or estate planning documents.

While a holographic will can be a convenient option for some individuals, it may not be suitable for everyone. Due to its informal nature, a holographic will may be more susceptible to challenges and disputes after the testator’s passing.

Living Will

A living will is a legal document that allows you to express your wishes for medical treatment if you are unable to communicate or decide on your own. It will usually addresses the following:

  1. Medical Treatment Preferences: In a living will, you can outline your preferences for medical treatments, such as resuscitation, life-sustaining measures, and the use of artificial nutrition and hydration. This communicates your wishes to your healthcare providers and loved ones so they can make informed decisions on your behalf.
  2. End-of-Life Care: A living will can provide guidance on end-of-life care options, including the use of palliative care, hospice care, and pain management. By expressing your preferences in advance, you can alleviate potential burdens on your loved ones and uphold your wishes.
  3. Dementia and Mental Incapacity: A living will can also address specific instructions regarding medical treatment and care in the event of dementia or other mental incapacities, allowing you to maintain control over your healthcare decisions even if you cannot communicate or make choices independently.
  4. Healthcare Proxy: Alongside a living will, you may consider designating a healthcare proxy or agent who will have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person should be someone you trust implicitly and who understands your values and wishes regarding medical treatment.

Creating a living will empowers you to have a say in your healthcare, even if you cannot actively participate in decision-making at a later stage. It provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones, knowing that your treatment aligns with your values and beliefs.

Self-Proved Will

A self-proved will paves the way for smooth probate proceedings in Michigan. This type of will has been executed with certain formalities to make the probate process easier. In Michigan, a self-proved will requires the following steps:

  1. Testator’s Signature: The testator, the person creating the will, must sign the document in the presence of two witnesses. The testator’s signature should be at the end of the will.
  2. Witnesses’ Signatures: The two witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator. It is important to note that the witnesses should not be beneficiaries or heirs named in the will to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
  3. Affidavit of Witnesses: Along with signing the will, the witnesses must also complete an affidavit. This affidavit states that they witnessed the testator signing the will, that they believe the testator was of sound mind and under no undue influence, and that they are over the age of 18.
  4. Notarization: To further strengthen the validity of a self-proved will, it is recommended to have the will notarized. The testator and witnesses can appear before a notary public, who will acknowledge their signatures and the execution of the will.

With the completion of these steps, a self-proved will offers several advantages during the probate process. It allows the probate court to accept the will without requiring the witnesses to testify or be located at a later date, which can save time, effort, and potential complications during the administration of the estate.

Statutory Will

A statutory will is a pre-drafted will form provided by the state legislature. It simplifies the estate planning process by offering a standardized template that individuals can fill out to create a basic will. The purpose of a statutory will is to ensure that even those without legal expertise can have a legally valid will in place.

Characteristics of a statutory will in Michigan:

  1. Standardized Format: A statutory will follows a specific format mandated by Michigan law. It includes sections for personal information, appointment of a personal representative (executor), distribution of assets, and other provisions commonly found in a will.
  2. Limited Customization: While a statutory will provides a basic framework, it may not accommodate complex situations or specific wishes that go beyond the standard provisions. It is important to consider consulting with an estate planning attorney to assess whether a statutory will is suitable for your unique circumstances.
  3. Legal Validity: To be considered legally valid, a statutory will must be properly completed, signed, and witnessed in accordance with Michigan’s requirements. It is crucial to follow the instructions provided on the form and ensure compliance with all necessary formalities.
  4. Updates and Modifications: If you have previously created a statutory will but wish to make changes or updates, it is recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney. They can guide you through the process of modifying your existing will or creating a new one if necessary.

Writings Intended as Wills

In some cases, individuals may attempt to create wills through informal writings, such as notes or letters. While Michigan recognizes certain writings intended as wills, understanding the specific requirements to ensure their validity is crucial.

In Michigan, a writing intended as a will , also known as a holographic will, must meet the following criteria:

  1. Handwritten: A holographic will must be entirely handwritten by the testator, the person creating the will. It cannot be typed, printed, or created using digital means. The handwritten nature of the document demonstrates the testator’s personal involvement in expressing their wishes.
  2. Testator’s Intent: The writing must clearly indicate the testator’s intent for it to serve as their will. This can include explicit statements such as “This is my last will and testament” or any other language that demonstrates the testator’s intention to dispose of their assets upon death.
  3. Signed and Dated: The holographic will must be signed by the testator. Although Michigan does not explicitly require the will to be witnessed, it is advisable to have at least two witnesses sign the document to strengthen its validity and provide additional evidence of the testator’s intent.

Writings intended as wills are subject to scrutiny and potential challenges during the probate process. Without the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, mistakes or ambiguities in the document could lead to unintended consequences or disputes among beneficiaries.


Trusts offer exceptional benefits from the day they are created. With different types catering to various needs, trusts offer a seamless transition of assets, bypassing the burdensome process of probate and remaining uncontestable, ensuring your wishes are upheld. Michigan trusts include:

  1. Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust allows you to maintain control over your assets during your lifetime. You can modify or revoke the trust as needed, and it becomes irrevocable upon your death. The primary purpose of a revocable living trust is to avoid probate and procure a smooth process of asset management and distribution.
  2. Irrevocable Trust: An irrevocable trust cannot be modified or revoked once it is established. This type of trust is commonly used for advanced estate planning purposes, such as reducing estate taxes, protecting assets from creditors, or providing for long-term care planning.
  3. Special Needs Trust: A special needs trust provides financial support and protects the assets of individuals with disabilities without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. This trust ensures that the individual’s needs are met while preserving their access to essential public assistance programs.
  4. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT): An ILIT holds life insurance policies outside of the insured person’s estate. It helps minimize estate taxes and provides liquidity to cover estate settlement costs while ensuring that the life insurance proceeds are distributed according to the grantor’s wishes.
  5. Charitable Trust: A charitable trust allows the grantor to donate assets to a charitable organization while retaining certain benefits during their lifetime. This type of trust can offer tax advantages and fulfill philanthropic goals by supporting causes and organizations close to the grantor’s heart.
  6. Testamentary Trust: Established through a will, a testamentary trust takes effect after the grantor’s death. It allows for the distribution of assets to beneficiaries according to specific instructions outlined in the will.
  7. IRA Trust: An IRA trust is the designated beneficiary of an IRA account. This specialized type of trust holds and manages IRA assets for the trust beneficiaries. Its purpose is to provide additional control, protection, and flexibility in the distribution of IRA funds while maximizing tax advantages.

Do You Need Help With Probate or Estate Administration?

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy. In addition to the emotional toll, there is also a mountain of paperwork to handle, due to probate. Probate is the legal process that occurs after someone passes away. It involves managing the deceased person’s estate and going through court proceedings to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes.

For some estates with significant assets, probate can be a long, arduous process. That’s where the LaBre Law Office comes in. After the loss of a loved one, we will sit down with you and explain everything in clear, straightforward terms. Let us alleviate any worries or confusion that may arise for family members tasked with handling these matters during this difficult time.

Estate administration can be overwhelming for anyone. If you’re not familiar with probate or estate administration, you need the assistance of a lawyer who not only has the necessary experience, knowledge, and resources but also possesses empathy to guide you through this delicate process.

Guardianship From an Estate Planning Perspective

Guardianship is a legal arrangement that allows a person, known as a guardian, to make decisions on behalf of another individual, known as a ward, who is deemed incapable of managing their own affairs.

Here are key points to understand about guardianship in Michigan:

  1. Who Needs Guardianship: Guardianship is typically sought for individuals who are minors (under the age of 18) or adults who are incapacitated due to physical or mental impairments. This can include individuals with developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, mental illnesses, or those who are elderly and no longer able to make sound decisions.
  2. Types of Guardianship: Michigan recognizes two types of guardianship: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate. Guardianship of the person involves decisions related to the ward’s personal care, health, and well-being. Guardianship of the estate pertains to managing the ward’s financial matters, assets, and property.
  3. Establishing Guardianship: To establish guardianship, a formal legal process must be followed that involves filing a petition with the probate court, providing evidence of the ward’s incapacity, and demonstrating that guardianship is necessary to protect their best interests. The court will evaluate the circumstances and appoint a suitable guardian based on the ward’s needs.
  4. Duties and Responsibilities of Guardians: Once appointed, guardians have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the ward. This includes making decisions regarding medical treatment, living arrangements, education, and other necessary aspects of the ward’s life. Guardians are also responsible for managing the ward’s finances, ensuring their bills are paid, and protecting their assets.
  5. Ongoing Oversight and Reporting: Guardianship is a legal arrangement subject to court oversight. Guardians are required to provide periodic reports to the court, detailing the ward’s status, care, and financial management. This ensures transparency and accountability in the guardianship process.

Navigating the complexities of guardianship can be fraught with challenges, which is why working with an experienced estate planning attorney is vital. They can guide you through the legal process, help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a guardian, and ensure that the best interests of the ward are protected.

The Importance of Planning Early for Yourself and Your Family Members

The significance of planning early for yourself and your family members cannot be stressed enough. Here are the key reasons why early planning is crucial:

Preserving Your Legacy

Early estate planning allows you to establish a comprehensive plan that reflects your wishes for the distribution of assets and properties. By clearly outlining your intentions in legal documents such as a Last Will and Testament, Trusts, or Healthcare Directives, you can minimize confusion, reduce the likelihood of family disputes, and ensure the preservation of your legacy.

Addressing Elder Law Concerns

As individuals age, they may face specific legal and financial challenges related to healthcare, long-term care, incapacity, and more. Planning early with the help of an estate planning attorney enables you to navigate these concerns proactively. An attorney can assist you in creating advanced directives, guardianships, and other legal tools that uphold your wishes when you are unable to make decisions on your own.

Medicaid Planning

Medicaid planning is a crucial aspect of estate planning, particularly for individuals who may require long-term care in the future. By planning early, you can take steps to protect your assets and ensure eligibility for Medicaid benefits without depleting your savings. An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through various strategies, such as setting up trusts or utilizing gifting techniques, to help you navigate Medicaid requirements while preserving your assets.

By engaging in early planning, you can have peace of mind knowing that your wishes are documented, your loved ones are protected, and potential challenges related to elder law concerns and Medicaid planning are proactively addressed. To ensure a comprehensive and legally sound estate plan, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney with profound knowledge of Michigan laws and extensive experience in estate planning.

Understanding Your Estate Planning and Estate Administration Needs

When it comes to creating an estate plan, LaBre Law Office recognizes that clients have varying concerns and desires. During the estate planning process, we treat you as an individual with your own reasons for seeking the assistance of an estate attorney. During a consultation, we will determine what type of will and other estate planning documents will achieve your goals for you and each beneficiary. Your estate plan will comply with Michigan estate law, address the challenges of aging, such as long-term care and a healthcare proxy, and give you peace of mind, knowing you have planned well for every contingency.

Schedule a Consultation Today with LaBre Law Office

Are you ready to secure the future for you and your loved ones with an estate plan? With more than four decades of experience, our estate planning attorneys can guide you through the process and customize a plan that fulfills your wishes. Call LaBre Law Office at (269) 431-2058 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.

At LaBre Law Office, excellence is our standard.

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Why Choose LaBre Law Office?

Our clients in the Michiana area have confidence when LaBre Law Office handles their legal issues because our general practice law firm has established a record as a trusted member of the community for over four decades, serving our neighbors:

  • Caring, aggressive advocacy for your interests in many practice areas
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  • Straightforward, assertive, and dependable guidance
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  • We fully address your concerns so you always understand your case’s status
  • We will be here for you long after your legal issue is resolved

Excellence is our standard. Call today to schedule a consultation.


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