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Do intangible assets, described in the details section below, held jointly/with beneficiaries require distribution per will?

Macomb, MI |

These assets include checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, annuities. and life insurance policies. which are not specifically mentioned in the will. Property distribution under the will is 5 equal shares per stirpes. One beneficiary predeceased the Testatrix. The heirs of this beneficiary are expecting a portion of the proceeds from each joint account holder/beneficiary. The decedent resided in MI at death.

Attorney Answers 5


  1. The short answer is that GENERALLY accounts/policies with beneficiary designations get distributed according to those designations, regardless of what the will says. But there are exceptions to every rule. For instance, if the beneficiary named on the account is deceased, that can change things.


  2. The other attorney is correct about the general rule. Exceptions may include provisions in the will that joint accounts are for convenience only or outside evidence that the intent of the decedent was to have joint accounts distributed according to the will.


  3. Joint accounts with the right of survivorship, generally go to the remaining owners living. That means the survivors of the deceased pervious will not recieve their ancestors share. It the accounts were joint, without a survivorship contingency, the heirs of the previously deceased party will take. I would suggest engaging an attorney and receiving an opinion it is rational to rely upon.

    To the PROSPECTIVE client, please call myself or another attorney for you choice with more detaiils and an appointment. My PRELIMINARY answer to your question(s) is for general purposes and based upon what little information you have conveyed. It is based on such limited information that the general answer should never be relied as a reason for your action or inaction. My response does NOT establish an attorney-client relationship and such may only be established by mutual agreement, and the signing of a written retainer agreement, which will generally require payment for our services, as this is what we do for a living and, just like you, we must get paid for our work.. .


  4. I would generally agree with the prior answers. Michigan law presumes that joint accounts pass to the survivor. The contesting party would need to prove that that was not the intent, and even then, she might not win. I would also point out that the items you mentioned are all "tangible personal property." Items like this are not mentioned in the Will because the Will does not control them or affect the distribution of them upon death. Unless there is a statement in the Will that provides that the "jointly held assets are held that way merely for convenience," then I think the survivors have nothing to worry about. As for the accounts with beneficiaries, I have only seen something like that set aside is the beneficiary is an ex-spouse that specifically waived that asset in the divorce. I think that the heirs are out of luck, when it comes to these assets.

    James Frederick

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.


  5. Generally joint accounts go to the survivor outside probate. The will applies to assets in probate, generally speaking. See exceptions as noted by other attorneys. A full reading of the will by an attorney is advised.

    This answer is not specific legal advise. No attorney client relationship has been established. It is general commentary on the question presented, without the benefit of a full disclosure of all relevant facts. Seek an in-person consultation with a licensed professional.

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