The death of a loved one can be a difficult matter to handle. Emotions are riding high and level heads are few and far between. If the deceased is without a will to specifically advise survivors on how to distribute the estate's assets and survivors disagree on what should happen to the estate, matters can get complicated quickly. In cases such as this, probate litigation will ensue in order to provide a resolution, as this story demonstrates. That is why it is so important for Michigan residents and others elsewhere to plan for the unexpected with a will or trust.
After filing a request with the probate judge, the family of the late Joe Paterno was able to get his will sealed and thus unavailable to the public. The family recently reversed that course and gave up their quest to keep his will private. Why did they switch course? Most likely because it is a will and therefore must be filed in probate court for the court's approval before any assets can be distributed. When a will is filed in probate court it becomes a matter of public record. Michigan residents may be interested to know that Paterno's will did not contain anything out of the ordinary.
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.