Changes in Omitting Beneficiaries from a Will

By Jadranko Tomic Bobas, J.D., Managing Hotline Attorney, and Kathryn Petersen, Legal Hotline Intern
Effective August 8, 2018, Michigan Legislature amended a portion of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) to clarify a child’s right to the exempt property allowance.
The exempt property allowance is an additional benefit of a decedent’s estate that is available to the surviving spouse or to the decedent’s children and can include any household items, cars, or personal effects valued up to $15,000 in 2018.
In 2015, a Michigan court case, Chelenyak v. Veith (In re Estate of Jajuga), it was decided in favor of an adult child who had been disinherited in her mother’s will. The court looked at the wording of the statute MCL 700.2404 to conclude that the use of the word “entitled” created a legal right to exempt property. The court reasoned that the provision, “inherit nothing from [her] estate” did not preclude the child from her legal right to the exempt property, and therefore was able to collect from the estate. This was a case that the Michigan courts had not ruled on before and the decision called for clarification about disinheritance.
Michigan Legislature responded, and the change made to the code includes a new subsection, MCL 700.2404(4), which permits will makers to eliminate a child’s right to the exempt property allowance.
The decision to disinherit (or omit someone from your will) is a personal choice made by clients for various reasons. But no matter the reason, the proper wording must be present to ensure that the intent of the will maker is accomplished. Clients who wish to disinherit should always speak with an estate planning attorney.
You can also contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800-347-5297 and we would be happy to discuss your estate plans.