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The Michigan Court of Appeals recently addressed a parent's attempt to disinherit her child.In her Last Will and Testament, the deceased person specifically disinherited all of her children and explained that she had made other provisions for them.

The Case

After the case was opened in probate court, the one surviving child filed for her "exempt property allowance," an amount set by law for surviving spouses (or for children if there is not a surviving spouse). This allowance gives the spouse/child a minimum amount of the deceased person's personal property (i.e. jewelry, cars, household items, or cash). The amount is currently $15,000, but it is periodically adjusted for inflation.

The Result

The representative of the estate refused to pay the child the $15,000, based on the language in the Will. But the Clare County Probate Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed that the parent's Will cannot overrule Michigan law, which gives the allowance.

The Takeaway

The lesson to be learned from this case is that once your estate goes through probate court, it is subject to all the Michigan laws that apply to probate proceedings. The way to avoid that result is to not use probate court. Probate can be avoided by creating a revocable trust or adding beneficiaries to your assets so that they do not pass through probate court after your death.

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