Last Will and Testament Documents
Every estate plan should include a will even if other estate planning documents and strategies are implemented to distribute or manage property. For some, a will may be a more complicated document that works with other estate planning documents like a living trust or power of attorney to accomplish the client's goals of distributing property.
At a minimum, a will can be used to effectively accomplish a client's goals if another document or property disposition is invalid. In some cases, clients may not effectively transfer property to a living trust, which then cannot distribute property upon the settlor's death. This may occur because the maker of the trust does not get around to funding a do-it-yourself trust or the maker of the trust acquires additional property later on and does not transfer that to the trust. In other cases, a client may receive property from an inheritance or other source that is not accounted for.
Clients should consider a comprehensive plan using a will and other documents as needed to distribute property to family and loved ones in a way that protects those assets and the loved ones who receive them. If you have questions or need assistance with developing or reviewing a comprehensive estate plan, call attorney Andrew M. Steiger at Law Office of Andrew M. Steiger, PLLC.
Avoid an Intestate Mess
When someone dies without a will or other estate planning documents, any probate property is distributed under the Michigan intestate rules. The Michigan intestate laws determine who may be the estate's personal representative and who are the heirs that may receive property distributions.
The Michigan intestate rules reflect the legislature's view of who typically would receive property from the estate and what proportion of the estate. This means the spouse and children are first, followed by other family members if there is no spouse or children. If there are no family members, then the state of Michigan would receive the property.
In some cases, when there is no spouse, children may compete to be appointed personal representative (PR). The PR is responsible for managing and distributing the estate assets. While the PR is a fiduciary who is responsible for providing an accounting, notice to heirs and creditors, and other duties, sometimes the PR does not always notify other heirs or distribute property according to the law, resulting in probate litigation.
Probate requires notification to heirs regarding initiation of the case, as well as various updates. If unsupervised, the PR may claim and distribute property, close an estate, and leave the other heirs with nothing. In these cases, there is a statute of limitations that may run and prevent heirs from seeking recourse against the PR in court.
Having a will or other estate planning documents can prevent these problems. A will can appoint an executor and an alternative executor who can be trusted and who knows the person drafting the will. Executors should be responsible and act timely. Often this is a person who has worked with the testator to manage their affairs near the end of their life. Without a will, this trusted person could be challenged for the executor role.