Estate planning discussions often include how to equally divide assets among children, grandchildren, and others. An increasing number of people have chosen to remain childless and many choose to remain single as well. Some people simply outlive their heirs. So, what happens to a lifetime of acquisitions and hard-earned money when the owner is gone?
Family Searches Begin
The state does try to find someone to take ownership when assets need disbursement after a death. No immediate heirs may exist, but the state may locate a distant cousin or forgotten aunt or uncle. These people can inherit everything if the state decides they are the closest living family members available.
People that separated themselves from relatives due to conflicts in the past need to remember that the law still views these individuals as your family. Some type of estate planning must take place you don't want your least favorite relative sifting through your personal belongings or spending your money.
According to succession laws, if no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, or parents can be found, the inheritance goes to any siblings or their children. If none of these relations exist or are still living, the state will then search for grandparents and the siblings of the grandparents and their children.
Government Takes All
The process of escheatment occurs when the state can find no living relative to inherit the estate. Intestate succession does not recognize close friends or partners that were never married as the family of the deceased. Michigan courts sometimes recognize common-law marriages, but no law exists that guarantees protection of these partners.
All assets become the property of the state when escheatment takes place. Put it in writing if the plan is to allow a close friend to inherit all. Make certain to create the documents that protect a common-law partner and do not leave them homeless after you are gone. Legal documentation of your wishes is the only way to prevent the government from taking the estate.
Pets Become Abandoned
Pets are important family members to many people. Unfortunately, these pets commonly end up in animal shelters after an owner passes away. Estate planning allows owners to arrange a better choice for their animals.
A trust ensures the existence of funds to care for the pet through the remainder of their life. It is possible to name someone in the trust that will manage the funds and oversee the care of the animal. Many options exist to prevent well-meaning authorities or neighbors from sending a beloved animal to a shelter.
Homes Sit Empty
Many neighborhoods have a once-beautiful home that now sits empty and decaying. Vacant homes do can often arise when the owners die without declaring the next owner. The state may decide to auction the property, or it may become lost in paperwork and left abandoned and untended for years.
Estate planning enables people to ensure the home they love will remain cared for. A lack of blood relatives does not mean no one deserves the home. A charity could use the residence as a fundraiser by putting it up for sale or auction. Some parties may even want to use it for themselves, or give the home to a friend or their children.
At Bahrie Law , we believe that the items you have spent your life acquiring are worth the effort to protect. Wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools do not have to involve relatives. Many people choose to remember friends, neighbors, and charities. We can help to secure any size estate in a way that works best for you. Contact us to schedule a consultation.