Regular readers of these postings know that estate planning is a big part of what we do here at Wright Beamer. An often-asked question is: “Why do I need an estate plan?” Avoiding unintended consequences of dying without one is just one of the many reasons we can give.
Consider the case of an elderly gentleman who passed away, having never married and leaving no children. He died “intestate,” meaning that he never signed a will. He was survived by one relative: our client. Under the Michigan law of “intestate succession,” our client is entitled to the entire estate.
Sounds good, right? Not really. You see, our client is disabled and depends totally on needs-based public assistance programs. Any money our client receives in excess of a very nominal sum will disqualify our client from receiving benefits under these programs. Even if our client were to refuse to take the money, our client is still disqualified. Merely having the right to say that you don’t want the money is disqualifying.
With the inheritance, you might think that our client no longer needs public assistance. While possibly true, what happens if the inheritance runs out? If that happens, our elderly client will be forced to go through the onerous process of requalifying for assistance from whatever programs are available at that time, under whatever policies and procedures are in effect. This is not something our client wants to do and our client, at this stage in our client's life, would gladly forego the inheritance to avoid it. Unfortunately, our client has no choice in the matter.
Bottom line: your failure to plan could have unintended consequences for others, beyond anything you could have possibly imagined. Interested in talking about your estate planning
needs and options? We’re here to help. Please call us at (248) 477-6300 or visit our website