The nation recently mourned the tragic loss of both Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, within just a day of one another. While neither of them passed away in Michigan and we have no idea whether they had a will or trust, or what those documents might have said, their story serves as a window into some of Michigan’s probate laws.

If Debbie had died without a will or trust in Michigan, her estate would pass to her heirs via the laws of intestacy. In Michigan, those laws say that if you are unmarried at the time of your passing, your children share equally in your estate. But if your child predeceased you, that predeceased child’s share passes to their children, or in Debbie’s case, her grandchildren. Is this what Debbie would have wanted? We have no way of knowing. But if it wasn’t, a will or trust would direct the survivors to who she wished to inherit what would have gone to Carrie.

Complicating matters even further, Debbie passed away just a day after Carrie did – leaving Debbie no opportunity to amend her estate plan. While relatives do not frequently die so close together in time, it is not uncommon either. In probate, we unfortunately see family members dying in close proximity to one another as the result of a common accident. And we have all heard about older couples dying within days, and even hours, of one another. Debbie and Carrie’s case also shows that family members do not always die “in order.”

Debbie and Carrie’s case highlights the importance of having a will or a trust to direct the disposition of your assets. Your wishes may not be in line with Michigan’s probate laws, but a will or trust will allow you to control the disposition of your assets, regardless of what the laws say. Wills and trusts can also put safeguards in place to protect against unintended consequences, such as a close proximity passing of parent and child or both spouses.

Death isn’t convenient or timely. It is never too early to complete an estate plan, yet 55-65 percent of adults pass away without one. Let us help provide you and your family that peace of mind. Call The Probate Pro today for a free consultation regarding your estate planning needs.

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