People choose to plan their estates for their own unique reasons. Some people have significant assets and strong desires to see them allocated in specific ways. Other people may want to help their family members avoid estate taxes due to the size of their estate. For others, the primary goal may be avoiding probate court.
Probate court in Michigan will handle any estate where someone dies intestate or without a will. However, there are other circumstances that can result in your estate going to probate court. Familiarizing yourself with common issues can help you avoid those pitfalls in your own estate planning process.
Work with an attorney to ensure the terms of your plan comply with state law
Some people choose to draft their own will and may even have it notarized by a professional. Although these wills can sometimes hold up in court, they may include clauses or provisions that aren’t legally enforceable. That can result in a judge throwing out part of or all of the last will in question.
Self-created wills and estate plans can also be difficult for the courts to authenticate, which can lead to invalidation and the estate going through probate. The advice of an estate planning or probate attorney when creating your last will or estate plan can prove invaluable. It can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls and plan in the most reasonable manner for your family circumstances.
Do not hide your wishes from your family members and loved ones
Do you believe that children should only inherit items of emotional significance and not money because they need to make it on their own? Do you feel like your family members are self-sufficient and wish to make a difference by funding a charity instead?
If you’re worried that your family will be upset about the terms of your will, choosing not to tell them is a big mistake. Dissatisfaction with or surprise with the terms of a will are common reasons people consider challenging them.
You should call a family meeting or discuss your will with each person individually. If everyone knows what to expect, they will be less likely to contest your will after you die. If your family members do challenge your will or estate plan, your estate will likely wind up in probate.
Add a no-contest clause to avoid unnecessary challenges
When creating your will, you can add an interim or no-contest clause that financially penalizes any heir or beneficiary who challenges your estate plan or last will. Michigan courts can and do uphold these clauses, especially when someone brings an obviously unnecessary challenge.
With open communication, ensuring that you have an accurate and legal last will and including a clause that penalizes heirs for challenging your will, you can greatly reduce the chance of your estate winding up in probate.