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Have a plan and relatives will be grateful

When many Michigan residents think about estate planning, they usually know at least the starting point: a will. Even though some reports continue to show that about half of the people who should have a will don't have a will, those people who don't have a will probably still know what a will is supposed to be designed to do. They know that this document is used to designate property distribution for a person's assets, including personal property, after death, and that for people with minor children guardians are named to care for those children in the event that the other parent is also deceased. Some people will say that a will is a way to provide a person with "peace of mind." But some of our Michigan readers may be overlooking who else will be helped by a solid, complete and comprehensive estate plan: relatives.

In American society it is common for people to leave their assets to their children, siblings or other relatives. In fact, estate plans that don't include any relatives are probably fairly rare. It can be hard to think about, but maybe our readers can imagine this scenario: if you were to die this very minute, who would be coming over to your house and going through your personal property? Without a will, a person dies "intestate," and in that case the answer to this question could be a different relative than you'd like.

Part of drafting a will is appointing an executor who will marshal assets and complete an inventory. The executor is the person who will be going through personal property to find specifically designated property, as well as determining which assets aren't specifically named for a bequest, in which case those assets would become part of the overall estate.

If there is a plan in place when a person dies - which we are all bound to do at some point - it can make things easier on those relatives who would otherwise probably be sorting through everything without a goal in mind. A will is a plan, a framework for action - and it is always better to have one than not.

Source: Cleveland Jewish News, "Without will, your death could kill your relatives," Andrew Zashin, Sept. 19, 2013

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