Can a child be disinherited now in Michigan? Recent case law suggests that may be so, with a twist. The case of In Re Estate of Shelby Jean Jajuga, a Michigan Appellate Court case published in October of 2015 dealt with disinheriting a child from a will. The Court’s opinion stated “[w]e hold that petitioner has a statutory right to exempt property under MCL 700.7404 that was not eliminated by the disinheriting language in decedent’s will, which included no expression of intent as to petitioner’s statutory right to exempt property.” By law, certain heirs have rights by statute to elect against the will. The Jajuga decision seems to stand for the proposition that children, even with an express statement of intent to disinherit, still have the right to statutory elections. However, the curious insertion by the court of “expression of intent” has led practitioners to theorize that perhaps with adequate disclosure of intent to disinherit, perhaps even the statutory rights might be affected.
Why does this matter? Well, sometimes children (or spouse) are disinherited because of the fact that the decedent gave funds or property to them during their lifetime. Or perhaps, the relationship had soured or deteriorated to the point where the parent did not find the child deserving of any inheritance.
If you are in such a situation, one of the best remedies to make certain that your intended succession is followed is to carefully craft an estate plan that uses a variety of tools, including trusts, transfers on death or other mechanisms to make certain your intent of distribution of your hard earned assets is followed. If you have particular concerns about a child or spouse, please contact an estate planning specialist immediately.