General Definitions

Will. A will or testament is a legal document in which a person (sometimes known as a testator), names one or more persons to manage his or her estate, and provides for the distribution of his assets/property at death.

Probate court. Probate courts oversee the distribution of a deceased individual’s assets. If there is not a will, state law appoints a fiduciary called a personal representative to oversee the distribution of the assets and property. Without a will, state law directs to whom the assets/property are distributed. If there is a will, the Probate court will oversee the named personal representative in his distribution of assets. If there are any issues that arise during the administration process the court will oversee and manage those issues.

Personal representative. In Michigan, a Personal Representative is appointed by the probate court to act as the fiduciary to assist in the distribution of assets

Beneficiary. Beneficiaries are individuals and organizations named in the trust or will

Interested party. Interested parties are those entitled to information related to the probate of an estate (creditors, family members including non-beneficiaries, and all beneficiaries).

Trust. A trust is an agreement in which property is held for the benefit of people and/or charities. A trust is created by a Grantor, who transfers some or all of his or her property to a trustee. The trustee holds that property for the trust’s beneficiaries:

  • Trusts are not public record;
  • Trusts are only overseen by a probate court if there is an objection or question by the Trustee or beneficiaries; and
  • Trusts are contracts and can be revocable/changed during the Grantors lifetime.

Durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is a written document in which one person appoints another person or persons to act as an agent on his or her behalf, thus giving authority to the agent to perform certain acts or functions on behalf of the principal.

Medical power of attorney/patient advocate designation. The patient advocate designation is the appointment of a health care agent to make decisions when the principal becomes unable to make or communicate decisions.

Assignment. Assignments assign personal interest in an asset to someone or something, such as a trust.

Deed. A deed is a document used to transfer real estate, often used to transfer real estate into a trust.

Special needs trusts…

First Party Special Needs Trust/d4A Trust or Medicaid Payback Trust:

  • Discretionary trust for the disabled beneficiary;
  • Beneficiary must be under 65 when the trust is established;
  • Established by parent, grandparent, guardian, conservator, individual or court order; and
  • Requires payback to State for all medical expenses.

Third Party Special Needs Trust:

  • Discretionary trust for the disabled beneficiary;
  • Beneficiary cannot be Trustee or have control over the Trust/Trustee;
  • Can be established by anyone and anyone can contribute to it; and
  • No requirements for distribution upon the death of the disabled beneficiary.