Tell Me Again Why I’ve Been Disinherited?

It’s long been the law in Michigan that someone who “feloniously and intentionally” kills another cannot inherit from the person he or she killed. On October 1, 2012, this law will be expanded to also prevent people convicted of abuse, neglect or exploitation from inheriting from those they have harmed. The expanded law will also prevent killers and felons from serving as personal representative, trustee or agent for their victims, or from receiving their victim’s ownership interest in assets that the two hold as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

The driving force behind the changes in the law is the principle that a felon should not be able to benefit from his or her wrongdoing. The changes have received broad support from the community, and I suspect most people would judge them to be a good idea.

I likewise support the changes, but I also think they may cause an unhappy surprise in families who have weathered the storm of abuse, neglect or exploitation and have managed to reconcile
following the conviction of the wrongdoer. If the victims in those families want their former abusers to act for them or to inherit from them, then the victims must execute new powers of attorney, wills, trusts, and relevant ownership documents AFTER the date of the conviction. If they fail to do so, then the abusers will be prevented from acting or inheriting no matter how full the reconciliation or how vocal the support from the rest of the family. For those families, a careful estate planning review will be essential following the conviction their loved one.

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