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Having a say after death

Estate planning is not restricted to the wealthy. Estate documents, such as wills, are necessary for anyone who wants a say on how their property will be distributed after they die. Families of those who failed to make plans are not completely unprotected, however. Michigan law governs the distribution of property for people who die intestate.

These intestacy laws will determine who receives personal property and other assets and the amount each heir receives. Property normally passes to spouses, children, parents, siblings or the closest living relatives under these laws. Having a will, however, places this decision in the testator's hands. It allows them to dictate who will receive the property and the amount that will be distributed to each heir.

Named heirs in a will may not have rights to the proceeds of retirement accounts and life insurance policies. The named beneficiaries in those accounts and policies govern their distribution, regardless of heirs identified in the will. Accordingly, these accounts should be regularly reviewed and updated to assure that a former spouse or estranged relative are not unintended beneficiaries.

Parents may also name a guardian for their children in their will. This provision addresses a vital issue when the parents are unable to care for their children. Designating guardians helps prevent conflict among relatives at a tumultuous time when quick action is needed.

A power of attorney grants authority to a trusted designee to oversee finances and pay for expenses if a person becomes incapacitated. Medical directives allow a person to outline their desires on health care, particularly end-of-life decisions, if they cannot communicate these wishes.

Seeking legal assistance can help with these basic but important estate needs. An attorney can help assure that the documents are clear and valid and effectively reflect a person's wishes.


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Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302

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