Last Will and Testament In Michigan
What Is A Last Will and Testament?
Commonly referred to as a “Will”, the Last Will and Testament in Michigan is one of the most common Estate Planning documents people are aware of.
Having a Will in place allows you to protect your family and ensure that your assets are distributed to your “devisees,” the people that you choose in your Will, instead of who the State chooses.
What Is A Last Will Used For?
You can use a Will to:
- Specify who should receive your home, property, or assets after you pass, and in what percentage
- Specify when your devisees should receive their share, and on what conditions
- Name a guardian to care for your children if they are minors. The guardian will make legal decisions on your child’s behalf and will decide what medical care they receive, or what schools they will attend
- Name a conservator to manage any assets or property you leave to minor children
- Appoint a Personal Representative to make sure that the wishes you specify in your Will are carried out accordingly.
What Happens If I Die Without A Last Will and Testament In Michigan?
If you die without a Last Will and Testament in Michigan, your Estate (money and property) is considered “intestate” and it becomes subject to the state’s intestacy laws. This means that the court will determine who will receive your money and property based on Michigan Probate Laws instead of your wishes – a scenario that may be less than ideal.
For example, the court could find that an estranged relative that you never intended to give an inheritance to could be entitled to your Estate, while the loved ones you wanted to receive your property could be left with nothing.
To avoid this scenario, you should have a legally binding Last Will and Testament drafted that outlines who your devisees or beneficiaries are, and what property each is entitled to. Additionally, you should appoint a Personal Representative to make sure your wishes are carried out accordingly, and that transfers are managed responsibly.
Who Should I Name As My Personal Representative?
Your Personal Representative (sometimes referred to as the Executor) is the person you appoint in your Will to make sure that the wishes you outlined are executed appropriately. For example, handling problems with creditors, fighting objections from omitted heirs, managing the transfer of your property, and making sure that each of your devisees or beneficiaries receive their inheritance. As a result, you should choose someone that you trust to act according to your wishes and has the ability to manage the tasks you outlined in your Will. Many people choose a close relative or friend. It’s a good idea to choose someone who is young and capable enough to handle the responsibility, and ideally, someone who is good at handling money and financial transactions. Most of all, you want to choose someone who is honest.
Does A Will Avoid Probate In Michigan?
No, a Will is actually your ticket to Probate in Michigan. After you pass away, your Will must be delivered to the Probate Court in your county of residence (or where you own real estate) to begin the Michigan Probate process. Your Will is essentially a letter to the Probate Court telling the court who you’d like to receive your property after your death and who should manage the distribution of that property after you pass.
Probate Court has a lot of potential drawbacks for the loved ones you leave behind. The process can be pricey, protracted, and public, but it’s also completely preventable with the proper Estate Plan in place. If avoiding the expensive and lengthy Probate Court process is a priority, you may want to consider a Living Trust (or other available legal options).
To learn more about the differences between Wills vs Living Trusts, click here.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Create A Will?
We once had a client whose brother downloaded a “Do-It-Yourself” Will off of the internet. Unfortunately, he never had the “Will” reviewed by an attorney and it wasn’t considered legally valid when he passed away. Unsure of what to do in this situation, our client came to Rochester Law Center to help him navigate the complex Probate Court process.
It took 3.5 years (and $10,000s) fighting off legal challenges trying to prove his brother’s intentions to the court.
Most online “Will Factories” that offer these types of do-it-yourself Will forms rarely mention this.
As part of the Probate process the clients was forced to declare his assets to the court. When creditors and estranged relatives saw the size of the Estate, the claims against his Estate started flowing like a waterfall. Even worse, his brother had never updated his life insurance.
The ex-wife, whom he had not spoken to in years, received a multi-million dollar payday.
What was left of the Estate was gobbled up by filing costs, legal bills, and “inventory fees” (a fancy word for taxes). Almost nothing was left for the man’s family members that he had attempted to leave his assets to.
Sadly, this is an all too common scenario.
Michigan Estate Law can be very complicated and many mistakes can easily be made by an unwary DIY drafter or even attorneys who do not focus on Estate Planning.
When drafting a Will, it’s usually best to consult with a Will Lawyer who is experienced in Estate Planning.
Over the past decade at Rochester Law Center, we’ve helped 1,000s of clients set up all manners of Wills, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Estate Plans.
We’d be happy to answer any questions you have about setting up a Last Will and Testament.
Just give us a call at (248) 613-0007 to schedule your complimentary consultation.
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Written By Chris Atallah - Founder, Rochester Law Center, PLLC
Written By Chris Atallah - Founder, Rochester Law Center, PLLC
Chris Atallah is a licensed Michigan Attorney and the author of “The Ultimate Guide to Wills & Trusts – Estate Planning for Michigan Families”. Over that past decade, Chris has helped 1,000s of Michigan families and businesses secure their futures in all matters of Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning. He has taught dozens of seminars across the State of Michigan on such topics as avoiding the death tax, protecting minor children after the parents’ death, and preserving family wealth from the courts and accidental disinheritance. If you have any questions, Chris would be happy to answer them for you – just call at 248-613-0007.