This week I met with Lisa, who described the sudden, tragic death of her brother, Jeff. At 38 years old, he died in a motorcycle accident while enjoying the warm fall weather. With tears flowing, she described Jeff with admiration as a lovable, kind human being. Sadly, she told me “Jeff died without a Will, without a spouse and without children.” And, if the tragic death was not enough, she told me that Jeff had lost his mother a month earlier and was survived only by his father – a dead-beat, whom Jeff had not seen since his father abandoned him when he was 8 weeks old.

Jeff’s closest heir was his father. Jeff’s failure to prepare an estate plan magnified his tragic death and sent shock waves through his entire extended family – a sister, two brothers and cousins who cared deeply for him. The last thing that Jeff would have wanted was about to occur. His lack of planning was going to cause his entire estate to be distributed to a person that he did not know…a person he wouldn’t have recognized had he passed-by on a street.

Yes, the dead-beat dad was in line to inherit Jeff’s entire estate…his childhood home in Troy, his $148,000 bank account and his prized boat.

Tragic Death.
Tragic Planning.
Tragic Result.

This tragic death exemplifies why an estate plan is so critical. A properly drafted estate plan allows people to completely control the disposition of their assets after death.

When there is no Will, the estate is called an intestate estate. An intestate estate is distributed in accordance with Michigan’s intestate statute. The statute dictates a distribution according to a pre-determined plan that the legislature created. So, without an estate plan, the entire estate is distributed as the government thinks the decedent would have wanted it to be distributed.

MCL 700.2103 provides that if there is no surviving spouse, the decedent’s estate passes in the following order to the following individuals who survive the decedent:

  • The decedent’s descendants by representation.
  • If there is no surviving descendant, the decedent’s parents equally if both survive or to the surviving parent.
Tragic Death.
Tragic Planning.
Tragic Result.

Benjamin Franklin is widely credited as stating “…nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  With taxes, we can plan to pay them every April. But with death, it sadly can occur without notice.

Since death is both a certainty and unpredictable, estate planning is critical. Creating an estate plan can be a simple process allowing you to control how your assets will to be transferred to your loved ones or charitable organizations. As exemplified by Jeff’s tragic death, if you do not have an estate plan when you die, your affairs will be handled in probate, and your property could be distributed differently than what you would like. An estate plan allows you maintain control of how your assets are distributed

Tragic Death.
Tragic Planning.
Tragic Result.

Jeff’s tragic death may be viewed as a blessing for all who decide to prepare an estate plan after learning of his story. By working with an experienced estate planning lawyer, you can create an estate plan which will:

  1. Determine exactly who receives the property that you worked so hard to accumulate over a lifetime. This property may include the family home, investments, bank accounts, stocks and bonds and valuable collectibles. Without an estate plan, state law will dictate who receives your assets.
  2. Provide financial security for your family.
  3. Allow you to provide for non-family members, including friends, charities or institutions. Without an estate plan, the state laws determine how your assets are distributed.
  4. Allow you to distribute heirlooms to specific individuals or institutions.
  5. Minimize inheritance taxes.

Most importantly, it will provide you with peace of mind.

The Probate Pro prepares Wills, Trusts, Revocable Living Trusts, Supplemental (Special) Needs Trusts, Powers of Attorney, estate plans for persons with disabilities, and other creative Trust plans. Call (248) 399-3300 today for a FREE consultation, a FREE discussion regarding estate planning, and a FREE review of your existing estate plan.

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