Michigan Wills Explored

By: Stuart Williams | Estate Planning Lawyer

A “will” allows you to determine who should receive your personal items, valuable assets, and who should act as your personal representative (executor) someday when you die. When a "will-based" estate plan is used, a probate estate is created and any assets titled in the decedent's name will have to go through the time and expense of probate in order to be inherited by loved ones.

Will-based Plans Require Probate

"Probate" is the court process of transferring title of a deceased person's assets to his or her family. A judge will order the transfer of your assets to those people whom your will says should receive them. Probate can last a year or longer and can cost tens-of-thousands of dollars, so "avoiding probate" is a common estate planning goal. A deceased person's "probate estate" is comprised of each asset that needs to be transferred out of their name, and into the names of his/her beneficiaries.

If You Die Without a Will

If you die without a will, the State of Michigan will appoint a personal representative for you and will distribute your property to your family as provided in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). The EPIC also provides that your spouse will receive the vast majority of your assets, and if you have children by a different spouse, those children will be entitled to a small share of your estate. If you have children from a prior relationship, or have other reasons for leaving your property to someone other than your spouse, you should consult a lawyer for additional ways to transfer the desired amounts or shares of your property to your desired beneficiaries.

A Will Can Be Ignored

If your spouse disagree's with what you've left them in your will, EPIC provides that a spouse has the option of ignoring their spouse's will and taking what is called their "elective share."

The thing to remember when planning with a will-based plan (as opposed to a trust-based plan) is that if you die with assets titled in your name, probate will be required to transfer ownership to anyone other than your spouse.

At Family Wills and Trusts, we’ll make sure that there are no gaps in your estate plan that would leave you and your family exposed to unnecessary financial waste, headaches, or stress. Request free information about estate planning or Schedule a Personal Planning Session to see how you can benefit from working with us below.