Monday, January 4, 2016

Planning for the inevitable: a short guide to Michigan's laws of intestacy

(Warning: This is a cross-post from the Estate Planning News in Michigan blog- which I also write. It's not a complete guide to intestacy laws, but the first in a series).

New Year's Day, and the season in general, is full of reflection on how to live a better life. This leads to the tradition of making resolutions.

One resolution many adults should have is to plan for the future, and if one thing in the future is certain, it is that either you will read my obituary, or I will read yours. (Sorry, but the old adage of "death and taxes" is true, sadly.) It's better to face facts, be prepared, and let your intentions get carried out after death. Otherwise, the state of Michigan will do your planning for you, through its laws of intestacy. (Intestacy means dying without a will).

Q: I don't have a lot of things to pass to other people, or much money to pay an attorney. But what if I care about a few important things?

A: Michigan's probate code (also called EPIC, the Estate and Protected Individuals Code) can be found at MCL 700.2101 (or find it here).

The intestacy portion begins with "any portion not disposed of by will . . . " This means that Michigan allows for a partial will. In other words, if you have a piece of property (real property- like the family cottage, or personal property -- an heirloom, or your speedboat) you can write a will to dispose of those "things," and leave the rest to be sorted out by a probate case after you die.

As far as the cost for an attorney to write your will, the costs can reflect how simple (or complicated) your issues might be.

Q: I have siblings that I don't get along with. Will they inherit from my estate? 

A: It depends. If you have a spouse or children who live after your death (or "survive you" as it is legally termed), they will inherit first.

This assumes, of course, that you will have something for them to inherit after debts from your estate are left, as EPIC insists that costs, such as funeral expenses, be paid first.

If you have no spouse or kids when you die, your parents will inherit from your estate, if they survive you. Only once these potential heirs have inherited, will other descendants of your parents inherit.

However, it could possibly be that you die with your spouse, or shortly after, and that your parents are already deceased. The better thing to do, instead of leaving it to chance, is to write a will or partial will, that makes your intentions clear that your sibling (or whomever) will not inherit from your estate.

1 comment:

  1. Another way to address the issue of the siblings, without using disinheritance, would be to leave a gift to the siblings, but make sure that any residue of the estate goes to someone else.

    But again, with no plan (no will) no one will know what you'd have intended with your estate! So that means: get to making that will!