The State Will Write Your Will If You Don’t

Oct 21, 2016 | 0 comments

Jessica Arends, Eldercare Attorney
October 2016

We have the freedom to choose who will inherit our personal belongings and financial resources—but when we fail to do so, the state of Michigan will choose for us. Creating a Last Will and Testament is a simple way to direct who will receive what you leave behind, and to have your voice heard once you are gone.

It is important to identify in your Will who will handle the details. The person you name in your Will to handle such affairs is called your personal representative or executor. You should name the person you think would be best suited for the job and at least one successor in case your first choice is unable to act.

Your Will states what should happen with your personal belongings. Your Will might reference a list of items to pass to certain persons, which your executor will be required to honor. Otherwise, you can name specifically to whom your belongings should go.

Most importantly, a Will identifies who will get any other financial assets you leave behind, which can include your home or other real estate. The people and/or charities you name to receive these assets are commonly referred to as your beneficiaries. You can divide the assets however you want among your beneficiaries.

What happens when someone dies without a valid Will?

First, the term to describe a death without a valid Will is called “intestate.” Let’s look at a situation where a person dies intestate and leaves behind a home that was titled in their name only. This person’s estate would have to be probated. Someone would have to step up and file paperwork with the court in order to open an estate. Then someone would have to be appointed as personal representative. During this process, the personal representative would identify who is entitled to inherit the assets. This is where a Will really becomes important.

The person that died intestate has no say on where the assets will go. The personal representative would have to reference the intestacy statute for the state of Michigan. The assets might go to surviving children or the heirs of deceased children. If a child is estranged from their parent, they would still be entitled to inherit. If a person doesn’t have a spouse or children, the assets would go to the parents, or otherwise down the family tree if the parents did not survive. Persons who the deceased never would have wanted to get their estate might get it. The money might fall into the hands of an 18-year-old who is not ready to manage the money, or to a financially irresponsible child.

With so many uncertainties, it is worth taking the time to create a Will so that your wishes are granted and stress for your family is reduced.


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