Many people believe they do not need a last will and testament or other estate planning prior to death. People in this group generally think their situation is rather “simple” and believe they do not need help planning their estate. People in this group also tend to believe that, after their death, everything will magically work itself out with little to no effort. They often say, “I don’t need a will. It’s just going go to my wife anyway.”

Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Not having a will or other estate planning documents can have devastating consequences. At the very least, the lack of proper planning can cause a tremendous hassle for your loved ones at an already trying time.

Does Your Spouse Automatically Receive Your property Without a Will?

Does your husband or wife automatically inherit your estate? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. The assumption, by some, that their property will automatically pass to their spouse presumably stems from the rules of intestate succession. This set of default rules set forth by the State of Michigan directs “who” receives your estate when you pass without a will. While it is true that your estate generally passes to your spouse, this is not always the case under intestate succession. There are situations where your spouse or children do not inherit your entire estate. As a result, it is a good idea to have a will and other estate planning in place to ensure the proper people inherit your entire estate.

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Benefits of Having a Last Will

Estate planning offers the opportunity to execute many crucial documents. Medical and financial powers of attorney allow you to appoint someone to help with financial and medical decisions should it become necessary. A last will and testament allows you to name whom you want to receive your property when you pass. A last will also allows you to direct who will manage your estate and be a guardian for your minor children. Clearly laying out your desires will go a long way to prevent dissent and fighting amongst your family members.

A good estate plan can also help you avoid the probate process. Sometimes this can be done rather simply by reviewing your asset portfolio to ensure your accounts and real property are titled appropriately. This review is typical done with the assistance of an estate planning attorney. If needed, the attorney can also incorporate other tools such as lady bird deeds and trusts into your plan to help avoid probate.

About the Author: Aaron R. Shahan is an attorney at Atlas Law, PLC. Aaron dedicates his practice to virtually all aspects of estate planning, elder law, and probate.

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