The Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C. are dedicated to providing quality legal services in the areas of estate planning, probate and trust administration.

Committed to specialized attention to each client’s individual needs, whether that client is planning his or her estate, administering the affairs of a loved one after a loss or facing the difficult task of caring for a family member who is no longer able to care for him or herself, Ms. Gross brings compassion and years of expertise to achieving the goals set by her clients.




Don't delay-deal with your estate planning today!

This Thanksgiving, as I have for the past couple of years, I asked that we go around the table and have each guest tell the group in a few words, the things for which they are grateful.   I really appreciated hearing each person’s perspective on this year’s gratitude. When it was my turn, I, of course, stated the obvious items; I was grateful for the health of my family, that my mother traveled north to brave the cold and be with us and for the opportunity to have everyone around the table year after year. My mother indicated her gratitude to live in peace which is clearly a thing of extraordinary value. While this country is far from perfect, having lived and traveled abroad, I am 100% certain there is no country on earth in which I would rather live. I don’t think however, her remark was intended as pure patriotism as I believe she was also referring to her personal life. As we approach this holiday season, familial peace or lack thereof resonates prominently in our lives and there is no single issue that can bring a family closer or tear them apart than the sickness or loss of a parent. Even the closest of families can be fragmentized by conflict, secrets or even a perception that one child is favored over another.

An article I read today prompted this blog, A Conversation Too Long Delayed illustrates the importance of having the discussion about end of life decisions  and post mortem wishes with your family. In Amanda Brown’s film “Black Heirlooms,” we hear a story that is all too familiar in my world. Ms. Brown “chronicles her family’s dispute over dividing her grandmother’s estate.” One would think these types of conflicts would be confined to multi-million dollar estates, however as Ms. Brown shows us families are just as likely to fight over grandma’s nominal teacup collection as they are the priceless antiques.    In fact, her family’s dispute has arisen over a mere $51,283.50 estate and her grandmother’s failure to document and disclose her wishes.  

Other opportunities to gather will occur next month when I implore families to do more than just share a meal and reminisce. While I am not suggesting that your table conversation during your Christmas ham or Chanukah latkes centers on your end of life wishes, this family time might be a good opportunity to take one hour to have the uncomfortable conversations.  If your children or another family member are in charge of your decision making in the event you become incapacitated, tell them what you want.  It may be just as important to share these wishes with the people who are not in charge as with those who are along with a statement like, ”While I love you all equally, I picked Sally because she is a nurse or Johnny because he is an accountant.”  The people in charge need to understand their role as a fiduciary and how important it is to act in the best interest of the person whom they are serving.  Whether you are a child who wants to broach the topic with your parents, a parent who wants to impart your wishes to your children, or an individual who hasn’t yet prepared their estate planning documents, the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C.  can provide you with tips to get the conversation started, facilitate these meetings on your behalf and of course, assist with the preparation of your estate planning documents.  Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.  


Estate and Trust Administration

A recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision has prompted this blog entry.  Independent Bank v. Hammel Associates, LLC, et al., Court of Appeals No. 306813 (July 2, 2013) deals with creditor's claims and the importance of handling them with care and precision in an estate and/or trust administration. When I meet with a new client on an estate or trust administration, in addition to bringing me information about the decedent's assets, it is critical that I obtain information about all possible known creditors. Before distributing assets, a trustee or personal representative is obligated to pay debts, however, they are only required to pay validly presented claimsThe law is clear on the procedure that must be followed. There are precise deadlines and language that must be used in notices to creditors. Creditors are equally obliged to follow certain protocol. Many creditors do not understand these procedures and lose out on recovering payments from estates. Clients are often shocked when I explain that creditor "X" failed to timely file a proper statement of claim.  In plain language, this means that the estate or trust does not have to pay that particular claim because it wasn't validly presented and the statute of limitations on the creditors claims period has run. Fiduciaries could even be personally liable for improper payment of a claim that was not validly presented. This means that they would have to reimburse the estate from their own pocket if they disbursed estate/trust funds to the claimant.

If you are a nominated personal representative or trustee of a trust, it is critical to obtain the advice of competent legal counsel when dealing with creditor's claims.  Contact the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross for assistance in navigating this process.


What is our legacy? The importance of an ethical will.

What is our legacy? The loss of two of my friends' fathers in the last month prompted me to contemplate this blog. As a probate and estate planning attorney, I deal with the “who, what and how” of a clients’ financial legacy on a daily basis. What assets does the client have, to whom does the client wish to leave those assets and how best to leave those assets to one’s beneficiaries so that the client doesn’t DE incentivize his or her beneficiaries from pursuing their dreams and attaining their own successes.  These are all important goals and considerations; however, today I wish to explore one’s legacy of values.  What will people feel and say about us when we pass away?  What life lessons should we impart to our loved ones? How can we preserve this legacy so it passes from generation to the next.

Many years ago, while working with the planned giving director of the American Heart Association, he shared the concept of ethical wills.   While these are not legal documents, they are documents written to communicate values and wisdom, history and stories.  An ethical will, which could be a simple letter to your children, preserves who you are and what matters most to you.   It is a way to share your values, blessings, life’s lessons, hopes and dreams for the future. 

What types of topics should be addressed in an ethical will?  Personal stories that were particularly impactful or shaped you into the person you are today are important to share.  Personally, I think sharing life’s failures or missteps can be very valuable life lessons to impart to the next generation.  Especially, when we are able to overcome those failures and go on to something even better.  Stories of resilience are invaluable.  Ethical wills may express gratitude for one’s blessings, i.e. friends, family, personal wealth.  You may request forgiveness for regretted actions. You may wish to share why you chose certain recipients of charitable contributions and the importance of giving back.  Whatever you choose to share, remember that your words will remain long after you have left this earth.

Our obituaries and eulogies typically are comprised of thoughts written by our loved ones. Ultimately, our legacy is defined by what others say about us.  Nevertheless, why shouldn’t we play a role in shaping our legacy by memorializing our thoughts, dreams and values?  While the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C. are happy to help you with any legal matters with which you may require assistance, the ethical will can be tackled without the assistance of any attorney. To quote 19th and 20th century philosopher and psychologist William James,   “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” Consider writing an ethical will today.  


Birthdays, Babies and Estate Planning

This week marks the one year anniversary of the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C.  What a great year it’s been!   I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude to my colleagues, attorneys, financial advisors, CPAs and insurance specialists, who provided guidance on starting my own business and referred me to their clients.  Thank you to my current and former clients; the opportunity to work with you, your family members and friends are the highest compliment.  This weekend as I reflected on the firm’s first birthday, I read a practical article for parents entitled “For Parents-to-Be, a Few Financial and Legal Tips.”  Estate planning is hugely impacted by life’s changes.   In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting a blog about estate planning and divorce. 

Today, however, the topic concerns another huge life changer…having children. For many this is the catalyst for doing their first estate planning documents.  One could argue that having children forces us to become adults ourselves.  The NYT article imparted a lot of practical advice about what to do prior to the baby’s arrival and then soon after.  The article recommended that both parents purchase life insurance, even if one plans upon staying at home.  Remember, even if one spouse is not currently contributing an income because he or she chose to stay at home to care for the family, his or her death will likely result in the need for an outside caregiver for the children.   The article further recommended that women apply for life insurance prior to becoming pregnant or in the early stages of their pregnancy, since medical complications during a pregnancy can delay an insurance company’s decision to insure them until after the pregnancy. Feel free to contact the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C. for a referral to an insurance specialist.

You should create a will which names guardians in the event that you should pass away.  The Michigan courts will give great deference to a parent’s written document.  Additionally, in Michigan, if you have minor children, you should create a revocable living trust and appoint a trustee who could manage your child’s assets in the event that you pass away while they are minors.  Minors cannot inherit assets over a certain dollar threshold, therefore, if assets are left directly to the minor, then it will be necessary for the court to establish a conservatorship for the minor’s assets, which terminates at the age of 18 in Michigan.  Most of my clients object to idea of even having an 18 year old inherit a significant sum of money and would prefer to have someone else control it for their child’s benefit.  (I speak from experience, since I have an 18 year old.) A trust can be set up for your child which could provide for their health, education and everyday needs.  Most clients establish ages at which they would like to distribute the assets to the child, but others prefer to condition a distribution on attaining a college degree or some other incentive plan. Whatever you choose, the idea behind this strategy is that you control the purse strings even if you are already gone and that’s an idea that brings comfort to many clients even when they have to deal with such difficult issues. 

Once you have created a trust, make sure that it gets funded with assets.  That means you need to update your beneficiary designations so that your trust is a named beneficiary. Thanks for reading!


Be prepared with proper estate planning

It’s been several months since I’ve posted a blog. However, this weekend I read an article in the New York Times entitled, “A Shocking Death, a Financial Lesson and Help for Others” that resonated with me.  Recently, my office has seen a number of clients faced with the loss of their spouse.  Many of these clients have been younger, so the loss was obviously unexpected. This is a tragic occurrence which is only exacerbated by a lack of planning. Grief stricken by the loss of their spouse and overwhelmed by the daunting task of searching  for asset information, computer passwords and other information that was never addressed while their spouse was alive, these clients come into my office with more questions than answers.  How will they pay the bills? Will they have access to the individual accounts? Did their spouse have adequate life insurance? What are their spouse’s computer passwords for his various accounts?

In the NYT article, the subject, Chanel Reynold’s lost her husband after he was hit while riding his bicycle.  Chanel and her husband were ill prepared to handle this horrific tragedy.  They had inadequate life insurance to replace his six figure income, an unsigned will, a blended family and a huge mess.  Chanel however, took her tragedy and turned it into a life lesson for others.  She launched a website entitled “getyours***” I’ve bleeped out the actual website name due to its crudeness, however, the lessons imparted are valuable and worth checking out. While I do not agree with all of the recommendations made by Ms. Reynolds, I am a proponent of learning from other people’s mistakes, as this can save you from making your own.  At the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C., we assist clients by preparing easy to understand documents that address both incapacity and death.  We provide checklists that allow clients to get organized. I encourage clients to share their goals and information with the people whom they’ve appointed in their documents and will conduct a meeting with trustees, guardians and other agents to explain their role in my client’s estate plan.  It’s a new year, start 2013 off right and get your “act” together by doing your estate plan.  


Powers of Attorney for your College Bound kids

Updated on Monday, March 11, 2013 by Registered CommenterKristen R. Gross

So, you’ve made 12 trips to Bed and Bath for their sheets, towels and other dorm supplies.  You bought her the computer and arranged for the bank account near campus.  However, there are a couple of crucial legal documents that you may have overlooked when helping your son or daughter to prepare for his or her freshman year.  Are you able to manage the financial and health care matters for your child in the event he is unable to?  If your child is 18 years old, then you no longer have the legal authority to make his or her healthcare or financial decisions.  

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What to Tell the Children About Their Inheritance and When

In this article, Paul Sullivan writes about some individuals who inherited money at a fairly young age. Some of these “kids” were ill prepared to deal with the issues associated with receiving such a windfall. We work hard to provide for our families but are we doing a good job of educating our children from a young age on the importance of hard work even if such a windfall should occur? While most of us view the “inheritance” as a blessing, it is important to consider how it will impact our beneficiaries.  

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