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Estate planning after death

Much has been said and written of late regarding Aretha Franklin and the fact that she died without a will. While estate planning is the better way to go to ensure that one’s final wishes are carried out, failure to do so is not necessarily the end of the world. Certain protections exist in Michigan such as recognition of oral trusts.

An oral trust is recognized if it’s existence can be convincingly substantiated. In addition, any property gifted as an advance on an inheritance will still be treated as such. Adopted children are treated the same as natural children when it comes to distribution of assets. If an heir owes money to the decedent, that money is deducted from the inherited share.

Another concern when a person dies without a will or a trust in place is privacy. While some aspects of the estate settlement will be available to the public, this does not apply to all facets of the estate. Certain pieces of information such as when probate proceedings began, the name and age of decedent, the names and addresses of heirs, and the name and address of the proposed administrator may be included in the petition. In Michigan, administration of an estate can proceed without an administrator and so without court oversight.

If a person dies intestate, that person’s privacy can, to an extent, still be protected. Faced with such a situation, the surviving family may benefit from consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will be familiar with the laws governing inheritance in Michigan and may be able to facilitate an orderly resolution of the estate.