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My stepdad on Medicaid left an IRA with no beneficiary. Does Mom need to probate his will? Will the state take the money?

Plymouth, MI |

My stepdad in Michigan recently died, leaving everything to my mother in his will. Everything they owned was held jointly between them except his IRA, which only has about $6K in it. Turns out he didn't name her as a beneificary for the IRA. The bank is telling my mom she needs to have his will probated to get the IRA. But the lawyer who helped my stepdad receive Medicaid funds during his nursing home stay says that as soon as the will is probated, the State of Michigan will come take the money in the IRA. So I have two questions: 1) Is there any way my mother can get this money, which she desperately needs? 2) If not, does she legally have to have to will probated, or can she just walk away? Seems awful if she would have to pay to probate the will, only to watch the state take the money.

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Attorney answers 3


If this is the only asset, I would try to use a small estate proceeding to obtain the funds. There are some procedures which do not require probate court involvement, and thus, would not be subject to estate recovery. I would attempt this first. If the IRA custodian will not accept it, then you would need to use the court procedures. I believe that the size of this account is such that it would be exempt from estate recovery. There is an exempt property allowance in Michigan that allows you to shelter $14,000 of assets from creditors.

James Frederick

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** 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. I hope you our answer helpful!


Follow Mr. Frederick 's advice. This is the best way to go.


Mr. Frederick's advice is spot-on.

This posting is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. For more information, please visit

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


Thank you, Mr. Elder! Much appreciated!

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