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  • Disclaimer: Blake P. Lipman is licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan. Please only submit inquiries for legal assistance if you live in the state of Michigan

Answers in Probate, Trusts, Wills & Estates from Blake Lipman

Beneficiaries

QUESTION
My mom died a month ago and the only daughter who lived in the same state is the executor. It is a very small estate, but also one with no debts. My sister keeps saying there will be no money left after she pays the bills (which I happen to know will not be true). She has not let us see a copy of the will and says she will not give my brother his quarter because he wasn't involved in the last few years of her life. She says the will says, as the executor she can do what she sees fit. We doubt it. The will was written in Michigan. Do the non-executor kids have any rights???

ANSWER
The executor (or the "Personal Representative" as it is known in Michigan) does not have that kind of discretion as to the disposition of the estate. In the absence of a will, you are entitled to a share as a child of the decedent. If there is a will and you are a named heir, your sister cannot exclude you. For more information on beneficiaries from a qualified attorney, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Release myself from POAs

QUESTION
I would like to release myself from Power Of Attorney both healthcare and Durable. Please advice me how i should release myself?

ANSWER
You need to prepare a revocation of the Power of Attorney. For more information on power of attorney, please contact my Oakland County law office at (248)851-3175.

Right to see My Father's Will

QUESTION
My dad died at the age of 98 in June of 2005. Up until a couple of years ago, he handled all of his own financial affairs. Then I think he made my brother executor. My dad told me he was leaving money to me and to my 5 children. I have asked my brother twice for a copy of my father's will and he hasn't provided it to me, saying that there are so many addendum's, he has to get it all ''straightened out''. Am I not entitled to receive a copy of my dad's will. How can I go about obtaining it, since my brother has not provided it to me in 4 months?

ANSWER
First, you can check the probate court in the county in which he lived. The probate court may have his will on file. You will probably need to petition the probate court to start a decedent's estate for your father. For more info on probate law from a qualified probate attorney in Oakland County, as well as Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Genesee Counties, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Joint Accounts

QUESTION
Hello,
I would appreciate any information regarding the following issue.
There are a number of bank accounts and CD's held jointly between a parent and adult child. Parent has passed away leaving said child trustee of estate. A few items not included in trust will be probated and same child is executor.
Trust and will state that all estate assets are to be divided equally among the several children - specifically states ...''notwithstanding any accounts (currently or in the future) which are held jointly with one or more children...''

The bank feels these accounts belong to the joint owner because they passed directly to this person outside the trust and are not subject to probate.

Do the wishes stated in a trust/will supersede the joint with survivorship designation on the various bank accounts? Is it legal to close joint accounts and refuse to share with other siblings?
What proof is necessary to challenge the closing of these accounts or is the wording in the trust enough evidence?

Longstanding family drama eliminates any warm fuzzy feelings so I am interested in strictly legal rather than what might be considered *nice*
Thank you very much for any information/advice you may offer on this matter?

ANSWER
A joint account is presumed to be just that "a joint account." The joint account with rights of survivorship is outside of probate and generally not subject to the probate court, will, or trust instrument unless designated as such. For more info., please contact my law office at (248)851-3175

Is My SS# required?

QUESTION
Two years ago my identity was stolen and it cost me over $5K and I am still clearing it up. My mother insists that I provide her my SS# to be named in her will. I am more than willing to provide it at the time of her death for IRS purposes but, hesitate to have everyone at her senior facility have acccess to it, etc. She says her attorney is asking for it... as well as State Farm for annuities. Do I have to provide it and if so, how can I best protect it from fraudulent use?

ANSWER
It is unnecessary for her to use your SS# in the will. She need only adequately identify you perhaps by your address or full name including middle initial. Don't blame your Mom, her estate planning attorney probably is requesting this information. Ask him if he can identify you in the will w/o your SS#, he should accommodate you. For more information on estate planning, please contact my Oakland County law office at (248)851-3175.

Question about JWROS account titling

QUESTION
I looked up the definition of ...with rights of survivorship as it pertains to the titling on a bank account, and it indicated that the survivor inherits the deceased persons assets that were held jointly with WROS, what I am unclear about, if this is correct, is what are the rights of the two parties while both are living? Do they both have equal access to the assets, or is one considered the owner of the account and the other ''joint'' for purposes of .....WROS only? The account is titled as joe smith and jane jones - WROS. The account is in the ss number of joe smith and joe claimed all income/dividends on his income tax..... if that helps?

ANSWER
The account is considered joint and both have access to the account technically. In practice, people often wrongfully use this method of titling the bank account to avoid probate of the bank account and for the convenience of an infirm cotenant. Litigation often occurs as it is disputed that the account was meant to be a current transfer of ownership or a "trust" as a form of estate planning. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175

Non updated will

QUESTION
A Michigan man, 74, marries a Michigan woman 60, in 2001, both go in 2001 and make out wills. Woman leaves her condo to nephew, figuring husband would die before her, but stating that if she died first husband could live there till he died. In 2003 she sold condo and bought a home, in 2005 she sold home and bought condo. She died 3 weeks later. The will stipulates that the nephew gets first condo which no longer exists. Husband was told will is null and void and he inherits condo because he is husband, is this true? Nephew is executor of the will, suddenly he calls man and tell him that they have to go to probate and says nothing more, in meantime the womans last bills are not being paid and man is getting very aggitated as bills were to be paid with money she had in bank, which is in nephews name as well as life insurance. The condo is in the womans name only.Do you have any input on this situation? Thank you for your time?

ANSWER
Sounds like you may need a probate attorney. Absent the will stating otherwise, the husband is the primary heir at law. The husband in certain circumstances will have to share with the issue (children) of the decedent. For more info on probate law, or to consult a Oakland County probate attorney, please contact my office at 248)851-3175. We also represent clients in probate cases in Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Genesee counties.

Paying back estate

QUESTION
My dad helped with a down payment on our home, and lived with us on and off for 14 years.I reside in Il, and his home is in Mi.I signed a promissory note which he requested for tax purposes,which is what he told me. He told me no one would see the note. He lived with me during all of his chemo treatments, and was with me for the last 6 months of his life. He passed away here in my home. He had a trust set up for his estate in Mi.He listed me as 1/7th of an owner.We each got one share worth 1000 units. The trust was turned into an llc.The appraisal was around 325k for home only, not other assets.I just got a letter from the atty along with a copy of promissory note. The note reads,This money will be due with no interest,paid on demand,if any remaining balance it will be taken from my share of the estate. The atty gave me 3 options.1.pay it now. 2.sign new note with 3% interst due if house is sold. 3.Give up 999 of my 1000 shares.I wrote atty asking if I could sign a new note with no interest since no interest was my Dad's wishes,and how I didn't think giving up 999 shares would be equal to $15,000 per $325k home + all other assets.I got a call from bro/executor threatening to sue me. How can I pay from my share of estate? TIA

ANSWER
Let me get this straight, you signed a note for $15,000.00 and now the estate wants to cancel your 1/7th share of a $325,000.00+ estate? Unfortunately, you will have a hard time proving your assertion that the note was not meant to be paid back. I don't believe that your $50,000.00 share should be set off by the $15,000.00 note. You need an estate planning attorney to protect your interest. For more information, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Living Trust

QUESTION
Scenerio: Unmarried man makes living trust, leaving his estate to his children. Man then marries, but does not change his trust beneficiaries to include wife. If the man dies without changing the beneficiaries, will the wife be excluded from all assets?

ANSWER
Yes, if the man's assets are put in trust prior to marriage or if assets held solely by man (not jointly owned) are put in trust. Assets jointly owned by man and wife and assets not explicitly put in trust will pass to probate where wife may assert her interest. For more information on trusts, contact a trust attorney at (248)851-3175.

Help

QUESTION
okay this is situtation mother is deceased but before death daughter was power of attorney over mother's affairs including property.. in the mother's will daughter is deeded property but she receives SSI and wants to give property to her caregiver..what is the procedure? she doesn't want it to affect her government assistance. how does she go about doing this? thanks

ANSWER
I am not sure how the receipt of the house by inheritence will matter as to your SSI which I believe daughter is getting because she is disabled or over the retirement age. Social Security is not a need based program, that is, it is not means tested. So, ownership of the house should not matter. After the house is transfered to the daughter via the probate of Mom's estate, she can deed the property to anyone she pleases. For more information on estate planning, wills, and trusts, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Executor of will deceased

QUESTION
Grandpa recently passed away. He wrote a will requesting my sister to execute his will. Sister is deseased 3 months ago. Now mother (the only child) states she spoke with a lawyer in Illinois and lawyer says that will is null and void because of deceased sister. We know that grandpa willed his grandchildren (myself and 5 siblings) monies from CD's and for houses to be sold and split, and his vehicle to to sold and split. But mom says all goes to her cause will is null and void and she controls all. Is this correct or is my greedy mom trying to pull the wool over our eyes?

ANSWER
Based on what you have stated I am unclear why the will, if properly executed by your late grandfather, would be "null and void." Do you have a copy of the will? You should seek out a lawyer. For more info, please contact an Oakland County will attorney at (248)851-3175. We also provide litigation to clients in Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Genessee Counties.

Executor

QUESTION
My father-in-law died in January of this year and my sister-in-law is the executor. We received a small portion of the trust fund left to us and they sold their father's home and we received our share from that but we have at least 25,000 yet coming from the trust that was left. This is not in probate, anayway the executor is having a dispute with her sister and told her sister she'll get her money when she is good and ready. Isn't there a time limit? Also both sisters are on the trust and the executor was afraid the other sister would go in and take her share so she has moved the funds out of the trust. Can she do that?

ANSWER
If the money is in trust (a living trust) then it is not subject to the probate and sis as executor has no say in the matter. Who is the trustee of the trust? If it is sis, you should insist she adhere to the language of the trust and disburse the money if that is what the trust requires. If she refuses to act as the trust instructs, you can sue her to compel distribution of the trust proceeds. For more info on rights of the executor, please contact a qualified probate attorney at (248)851-3175.

Canceling of a will

QUESTION
When I remarried on 5-1-04 I put my new wife as my benificer on everything.Do I need to cancel out the will with my ex or is it voided because of the divorce and changing of the benificers?

ANSWER
You should redo your estate planning to avoid any confusion. If you've made your new wife the benficiary on all your assets, and you may have omitted some assets, all assets will pass outside probate anyway. To be thorough, I would redo your estate planning. For more info, please contact my Farmington Hills, MI law office at (248)851-3175.

Power of attorney after death

QUESTION
hello...im writting on behalf of some friends of mine who do not computer access...the situation is my friends mom died...she was power of attorney she has been receiving her mom's pension checks and cashing them since april...is she a fraud? if so what should she do? or what it the legalities of this situation? please let me know thanks?

ANSWER
Cashing the pension or social security checks of a deceased person is a big NO NO. I certainly hope your friend has not done that. If he/she has, they should immediately seek legal counsel, they may be civilly and/ or criminally liable. For more information on powers of attorney, please contact my law office at(248)851-3175.

Can I Find Out If My Dad Left A Will?

QUESTION
I was wondering if there's a way to find out about my dad's last will? He passed away a few days ago and some people are being secretive and trying to scam his kids... Please write back with advice.

ANSWER
If a will exists, you should first check with the probate court in the county in which he resided. They are sometimes given wills for safekeeping by the testator(the person making the will). If they don't have a copy of a will, I would next check to see if a probate proceeding has been started for your father. If not, you may want to consider petitioning for probate yourself. If there is a will that turns up, and you have been disinherited, you will need to contest the will. This is more difficult than it seems, the court will give the presumption that the will reflects the testator's intent. For more information on wills, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Can I have my name added to my father's deed of sale for his house

QUESTION
My father is 84 years old and his health is failing rather quickly. We've recently discovered that my step-brother's name is on his house as a co-owner. He wasn't aware of the difficulties that would eventually cause for his 5 biological children. At this time, is there any way that he can add one or all of his biological children's names to the house in order to ensure that it is split equally amongst all of us?

ANSWER
Your father can convey his half of the house to you and your siblings. To get an equal distribution, your brother would have to join in the deed. For more info, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Am I the heir?

QUESTION
My great aunt recently passed away and on Friday I received probate court papers listing me as my deceased dad's heir. My father passed away when I was 2 and my mom remarried when I was 9. My stepfather adopted me when I was 15. My aunt and uncles say that because I was adopted I am no longer my biological dad's heir. Is this correct? Thank you for your help.

ANSWER
This is untrue. You are still an heir. As long as you are the issue of your late father, and he never renounced his parental rights during his lifetime, you are still his heir at law. You should definitely file a claim as an heir. For more information on heirs, please contact my law office at (248)-851-3175.

Suing stepfather's estate

QUESTION
When I was 9 years old, my stepfather sexualy abused me for years. He has since died. After he died, I told my mother about it. She refused to believe it. She is now dying and has left me out of her will completely, calling me a liar. Do I have any recourse. I also wonder if I can sue the estate, since I am still angry about being sexually abused. I feel I deserve some type of compensation for all my suffering?

ANSWER
Sadly, parents can always disinherit children. In order to contest her will after her death, you would have to argue that she forgot you. This does not appear to be the case. For more information on estate planning and how our estate planning attorneys can assist you, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Rules and laws for a living trust

QUESTION
My dad made a living trust and passed away. He made a 7th amendment that no one knew about. It states in black and white that my dad wanted my mortgage to be paid off in full in the amount of $20,000.00 annually. My half brothers and sister are saying no that isn't what he wanted, you owed him other money, etc. Words that are heresay and never mentioned to me. Wouldn't the trustee have to go by what is in black and white and not on there heresay? Wouldn't any notes of owing money, if there are any, be not legal but what is in the living trust that is legal? Also in a 5th andmentment there was mention of a promissory note that I owed. In the 7th andmenment he totally deletes that section in its entirety. That was his words. Wouldn't that mean that it does not apply anymore? I would not owe the money? Sicerely

ANSWER
Generally, the trust administartion is governed by the verbage in the document itself. Only if there is an ambiguity in the trust language should other evidence be looked at to determine the intent of the grantor. With that in mind, there is nothing stopping your siblings from litigating the matter if they feel strongly enough and want to expend their money. They will probably lose. Now, I have not reviewed the trust documents, so my answer is subject to reviewing these documents. For more info, please contact our trust attorneys at (248)851-3175.

Living trusts/ multiple

QUESTION
Deceased Father established a living trust which passed to Mother upon his death. Mother established a living trust only for the real estate that she owned, she may not have included the Deceased father's living trust in her living trust. Mother passed away and trust holder of Father's living trust is indicating since she did not include Father's living trust in her living trust then the trust holder cannot release any funds. Since all parties involved and named in the trust are in agreement to split Trust proceeds Should the trust holder be adamant about not releasing funds??

ANSWER
If Mom did not put the trust proceeds from Dad into her own inter vivos trust prior to her death, then Dad's trust proceeds are probate assets that are part of a probate estate of your late mother's. Now keep in mind, I am relying on the description that you have given me of the facts. Also, I have not seen any of the trust documents. For more info, please contact our trust attorneys at (248)851-3175.

Probate Process for one financial asset

QUESTION
My husband died recently without a will. All financial assets except for one had designated beneficiaries or transfer-on-death orders. The one in question is a non-qualified (after-tax) mutual fund investment. He wanted the funds to go to his two adult sons, and as his wife, I fully agree with this designation. What forms do I need to file with probate court? (ie: PC558 Application for appointment of personal representative) Do I have to have an attorney files these for me? I'd rather do it myself if possible. Thank you.

ANSWER
You may be able to do a small estate probate if the assets are under $15,000.00. If the assets of the estate are over that amount a full probate is required. You will need to file an application/petition to start the probate plus a testimony and give notice to all interested parties. Publication probably is also necessary. For more information, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Parent with no will

QUESTION
father passed with no will. devorced, two adult daughters. assets 11000in bank, car 6000,insurance to kids total 27150 no property. youngest took car and 1600 cash and all personal belongings to michigan. debts medical rehab center wants 11500. furneral costs 11745. We paid 6000 of our own money for the cemetary. sister with the car say too bad and wants half with out any expenses and wants to keep car etc. Would probate be required in california or in our state of michigan. what would the costs run. are the medical debts due out of his bank account or should that money be used 4 furneral costs. insurance sent a paper to authorize them to pay furneral costs before despersing payments. is that the best way to pay, unshure if more debts are outstanding. the cost and procedure are important we dont want to be taken advantage of but the family is verbaly abusive to eldest about not giving in to youngest by just paying for all the bills out of her share ?

ANSWER
The main probate should be done in the State/County where the decedent lived. If that was California, then the probate should be in the county in California where your father lived. Any ancillary probates would be necessary only for real estate that was outside California. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Requesting a will

QUESTION
I live in Michigan and my birth mother just passed in Florida,
I am her only son by birth. I requested a copy of her will and her newphew, who was living with her, said he would send me a copy. Its been over two weeks and two calls to him requesting this. Do I have any legal actions to obtain a copy.Sincerely..

ANSWER
When you say "birth mother" do you mean that you were adopted by someone else? If so, you probably don't have standing to intercede in the probate of your late "birth mother's" estate. If you were not adopted, and your "birth mother" never renounced her parental rights, you can petition the court as an interested person in the estate in order to begin a probate. If a probate has already been started, you are entitled to notice of all proceedings. You should appear at the next hearing and demand that any existing will be submitted to probate. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Husband dying without a will

QUESTION
My husband is near death and does not have a will. All of his financial assets are joint or TOD. Our home is joint. One used vehicle is in my husband's name. His two adult sons are provided for as beneficiaries of some financial assets. They are in agreement of their dad's wishes, but there is no will. What will go to probate upon his death? Household and personal items are all that are left. Thank you.

ANSWER
Only assets that are owned solely by the decedent require probate. Jointly owned assets or assets that provide for specific disposition upon death move outside of probate. As a practical matter, assets that have no written proof of title, furniture and other such personal property don't usually get probated as the family will usually be in agreement on its disposal. When disagreements arise regarding these type of assets and the value of these assets is substantial, a probate becomes necessary. For more information on probate law, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Durable Power Attorney

QUESTION
Will Durable POA in Tennessee be effective in Michigan, or is separate POA required in each state?

ANSWER
Assuming it is executed properly it should be valid in Michigan or anywhere for that matter. For more info on powers of attorney, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Widow responsibility

QUESTION
Is the widow of a deceased husband responsible for medical bills not covered by priviate Ins. and Medicare? Also bills created by husband and wife name is not on such bills.

ANSWER
The surviving spouse is not necessarily responsible for the medical bills, unless he/she has signed an agreement to be financially responsible for these bills. The hospital/doctors would have a claim against the estate of the decedent as creditors. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Will written but not registered, obtaining

QUESTION
how can I obtain a copy of an unregistered will? My grandmother wrote a will before her death, It was written by a lawyer in the family. This will was never registered. My grandmother wrote a will with a family member who is a lawyer. The will is not registered at the county. My mother lives in the house and has taken out a mortgage. The house was supposed to for the grandchildren. All we want to know is how can this happen. How can a person take a mortgage out on something that supposedly is not theirs. Hard to explain in a letter.
But at least the question is there.Sincerely,

ANSWER
I would need more information regarding the actions taken by your late grandmother. Have you checked to see if the property was transferred to your mother by deed from your grandmother? I need more information. Please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

What makes a will legal and binding?

QUESTION
If the deceased leaves a handwritten will that is signed by two witnesses (one being a notary) and is notarized is it binding? If their spouse passes away a few years later and does not leave a will, does the first will take precedence?

ANSWER
A handwritten will is known as a holographic will. It is valid. I'm unclear why this will would have a bearing on another decedent(dead spouse). I would need to see the will and hear the other facts. For more info, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Should estate stay open?

QUESTION
I am Personal Rep of my mothers estate & as of next week everything will be taken care of except for one thing. My mother was involved in a class action lawsuit that is currently reviewing & paying claims. I just spoke to a claims administrator who has informed me that part of my mothers claim could take up to 10 years before a check is issued. Do I have to keep the estate open that long or can I close it and re-open once the monies are paid?

ANSWER
It should be kept open. For more information, consult our Farmington Hills, MI law office at (248)851-3175.

Locating a will of a deceased family member

QUESTION
Recently my grandmother past away. My step grand father mentioned that she had left an inheritance for each of her grandchildren. Since then he refused to produce a copy of the will due to a family conflict. We have tried to contact her attorney but have been unsucessful in determining who it might be. Is there a way to locate a will in this kind of situation? We do have a copy of her death certificate. What would your suggestion be on how we could go about finding out more information on this matter? Thanks for your time. It is greatly appreciated
David Silcox

ANSWER
The only way to effectively force the issue is to probate your grandmother's estate. If her husband at the time of her death was not your biological grandfather, you may have a claim to part of her estate through intestacy (no will). At least if the estate is probated and you are appointed Personal Representative (executor) of the estate you would have the legal power to compel production of a will if one exists. Short of probating her estate, you have very little recourse. For more information on probate law, please contact a qualified probate lawyer at (248)851-3175.