Can You Disinherit Your Spouse or Child in Michigan?

A recent article that appeared on raises a very interesting question under Michigan probate law. Can a person disinherit a spouse or child in a will? Let’s look at the specifics of the story about Burt Reynolds and then review the laws that apply in Michigan.

Burt Reynolds Disinherits Child

It appears from documents filed with the court that Burt Reynolds disinherited his son and chose his niece as the Personal Representative of the estate. While this might seem harsh without any other details, it also appears that Mr. Reynolds may have had a valid reason for leaving his son out of his will.

According to the terms contained in the will signed by Mr. Reynolds, he purposefully omitted his son from the will because he had taken steps to provide for his son during his lifetime through a trust agreement. Further review of the will by the article’s author indicate that most, if not all, of the actor’s assets may be held in a trust.

The author made a particularly good point about trust agreements. He could not provide much information about the arrangements referred to in the will because a trust is private.

Probate estates are public matters (i.e.we can see Burt Reynolds’ will). However, trusts are not considered public information. Therefore, if you want to protect your privacy, you might want to consider placing your property within one or more Michigan trust agreements to avoid probate altogether.

However, the question we need to answer is, “Can you disinherit your spouse or child in Michigan?” Let’s review the relevant Michigan law pertaining to spousal and dependent inheritance rights.

Disinheriting a Spouse in Michigan

It is nearly impossible to disinherit your spouse if you live in Michigan. Michigan law allows your spouse to claim an elective share of your estate, even if you attempt to disinherit your spouse in your will. Your spouse may receive up to one-half of the amount that your spouse would receive if you did not have a will, depending on other factors relevant in your situation.

Disinheriting a Child in Michigan

You cannot disinherit a child that you owe a support obligation to under Michigan law. However, it may be possible to disinherit an adult child under Michigan law. You should note that the laws related to this matter have been challenged in the past couple of years and may be challenged further.

An adult child may file a claim for an “exempt property allowance” if there is not a surviving spouse. The allowance permits an adult child to claim a minimum amount of the deceased’s parent’s personal property. The current amount is $15,000, but the amount is periodically adjusted for inflation.

While the allowance has been upheld in court when the will specifically disinherits a child, some legislators are attempting to change this law. As experienced Michigan estate planning attorneys, we keep a close watch on these laws for any changes that might impact our clients’ estate planning goals.

The Takeaway — Consult a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney

As discussed in the above-referenced article about Burt Reynolds, you might want to consider using one or more trust agreements in your estate plan. If you want to ensure your spouse, child, or other heir does not receive any property from your estate or receives only a minimum amount of property that you determine, a trust agreement may be the only way to guarantee your wishes will be followed after your death unless the legislature changes the laws.

For more information about estate planning in Michigan, contact the attorneys of The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA. You may contact our office by calling 888-390-4360 or using the contact formon our website.

Source: Burt Reynolds Omitted His Son from  His Will.” David H. Lenok. 18 September 2018.

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