How can people in Michigan plan for the unfortunate but real possibility that their heirs and beneficiaries will encounter debt problems or some other financially draining event such as divorce? This question too often goes unaddressed in estate planning, and the money that well-meaning estate planners intend for their loved ones sometimes ends up being divided in a divorce settlement or siphoned away to pay off debt.
As we discussed a few weeks back, online or digital assets can be problematic for some Michigan residents as people increase their online presence, the amount of information they access and store online grows. The growing use of email and paperless bill paying has created a situation where vital records are stored in online accounts only. Those involved in estate administration are having some difficulties in obtaining access to those records, as the laws regarding ownership of online accounts after death have failed to keep up with the popularity of those accounts.
As discussed in last week's post, what happens to your debt when you die depends on a number of factors, including the type of debt it is, whether it is secured debt, such s a home or vehicle, and the name on the title of the property securing the debt. If you live in a community property state you may be held liable for the debt of deceased spouse whether or not you actually co-signed for the loan.
Being named as the sole beneficiary of a relative's estate may not be what it once was with so many properties upside down and the nation's credit card debt at record levels. What do you do if you are willed a house in which the mortgage owed is more than the value of the house? Generally speaking, personal debt dies with the person, however as in all things in life, exceptions exist and estate and probate litigation laws vary state by state.