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Estate Planning


At Varnum, we believe that each person has a vision for life and the legacy he or she will leave behind. The vision changes and matures, but at any one time it is expressed as an objective or goals for the future. It often includes an element of financial well being, perhaps centered around the need to preserve, manage and transfer acquired wealth. The vision may include a desire to assist family members and other loved ones to enable them to achieve their potential and their own vision. People also look to give back to the community that helped them succeed through charitable giving.

The Estate Planning Services offered by Varnum provide a unique opportunity to share the hopes and expectations that make up your vision for the future.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or Chris Caldwell at 616/336-6951 or

Partner with Your Attorney

Through confidential discussions, you are able to explore opportunities and ideas. The emphasis is on building a relationship between you and your attorneya partnership that may be relied upon long after the vision has been set down in writing. You and your attorney will spend time discussing your estate plan objectives and dealing with important issues such as:

  • Establishing a plan to accomplish your personal and financial objectives
  • Providing financial security for your family and assuring that dependents are cared for
  • Reducing the tax burden on your survivors by taking advantage of opportunities
  • Avoiding probate
  • Establishing a succession plan for a family business
  • Establishing a succession plan for a family cottage
  • Exploring options for charitable giving

Service and Experience

As one of the largest estate planning practices in the state, we will ensure that you receive attentive, timely and committed personal service. Our knowledge of the most sophisticated tax and planning techniques permits us to offer a broad range of services to fit your needs, ranging from the simplest plans to the most complex:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Durable powers of attorney
  • Living wills and patient advocate designations
  • Gift planning
  • Succession planning for closely held companies
  • Succession planning for family cottages
  • Retirement distribution planning and IRAs
  • Charitable giving
  • Private foundations
  • Guardianships and conservatorships
  • Marital agreements


Death and taxes are notorious as two things in life we can count on. In fact, the estate tax includes some of the highest tax rates we face today. Through technology and continuing legal education, our attorneys maintain their position as strong leaders in the field of estate planning. We work continuously to ensure that you have an opportunity to explore the most creative and effective techniques in use today to achieve your vision:

  • Generation skipping trusts
  • Irrevocable life insurance trusts
  • Charitable trusts
  • Qualified personal residence trusts
  • Grantor retained annuity trusts
  • Planning for retirement
  • Family limited liability companies and partnerships

Whatever your estate planning needs, our attorneys are committed to providing you the appropriate plan for your needs. We know this means more than just the right documents. We provide summaries, analyses and visual graphics to help illustrate the plan your technical legal documents create.

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Estate Administration

Estate Administration

We offer a wide range of probate and trust administration services upon the disability or death of a client. Some of the most important work we do is in this area. These situations present difficult problems to our clients. We see our role as that of family counselor, striving to assist our clients in a time of great need.

Administration work typically involves gathering assets and important documents, assisting individual fiduciaries in valuing estate assets, preparing appropriate tax returns, and generally assuring that our client's wishes are followed. Often the administration process also presents the opportunity to do postmortem planning which can be useful in further minimizing tax and probate exposure.

Our experience in the decedent's estates area has taught us to recognize the signs of difficult family dynamics that often arise after the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, these dynamics occasionally lead to serious disputes and even litigation. Our goal, of course, is to avoid such conflicts, but when such disputes prove unavoidable, we utilize our trial team's litigation expertise to protect our client's interests.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or Fred Sytsma at 616/336-6808 or

Elder Law

Elder Law

Varnum's elder law attorneys work with individuals and families to discuss and establish plans regarding health and long-term care planning, the legal capacity of the elder, decision making, estate planning and public benefits (which include Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security).

When advising on these issues, our attorneys will be able to discuss, explain and implement plans for:

  • Preparation of powers of attorney, patient advocate and guardianship
  • Collection of information and verification for Medicaid application and Medicaid asset declaration
  • Wills, trust, and probate of estate
  • Reviewing and re-titling assets to at-home spouse
  • Discussion and counseling with regards to asset strategies

Whatever your needs, our attorneys are committed to providing you the appropriate plan.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or Linsey Gleason at 616/336-6528 or

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