Dying without a Will.

FAQ: What happens if I die without a will?

1. What happens if I die without a Will?
With certain exceptions, your possessions are distributed according to state law.

2. What can I accomplish by making out a Will?
You can choose who is to receive your property; select someone to serve as personal representative (formerly known as executor); and appoint a guardian and conservator for your children under age 18. With the assistance of an attorney you can plan your finances should you end up on government health care assistance.

3. Does having a Will avoid probate procedures after my death?
No. The issue of whether probate procedures must be followed is not solely dependent on whether or not you have a Will.

4. What property is not subject to Court procedures?
Property such as money held in a joint bank account; real estate, if your spouse’s name or a joint tenant’s name is on the deed; life insurance benefits, if a person living at the time of your death was named as a beneficiary in the policy; and some other assets that are jointly held or have beneficiary designations.

5. If property is specified in my Will, am I prevented from giving it away or selling it during my life?
No. Your Will has absolutely no effect until you die. If you sell or give away property mentioned in the Will, that provision of the Will is simply ignored.

6. Are there different types of Wills?
Yes. Each type is equally valid if done precisely in accordance with the law. It is recommended that you see an Elder Law attorney if you do not want to use the Statutory Will form provided in this booklet.

7. What are some of the things I can accomplish through a statutory Will?

  • (a) You can leave up to two cash gifts of any amount to people or charities.
  • (b) You can write a list of personal and household items and name the person or entity to receive each item.
  • (c) You can ensure that the rest of your property goes to your spouse. If he or she dies before you, An attorney can also plan your finances for medicaid and other government programs the property is to be distributed equally among your children.
  • (d) You can select a personal representative to administer your property.
  • (e) You can appoint a guardian and conservator in case you and your spouse both die before your children reach age 18.

8. Should I draft a will myself?
If you are up in years you should have a qualified Elder Law lawyer. If you have substantial wealth and need tax planning for your estate, you should consult an elder law attorney who handles estate planning to discuss your specific needs. Consultation with an attorney is strongly recommended if you want to establish a trust fund for your children’s education, if you have assets outside the State of Michigan, if you have children from a prior relationship, or if you have a significant interest in a business or partnership.