North Bergen, NJ asked in Estate Planning for Michigan

Q: Can my sister-in-law contest my rights as a wife to get everything? Do we still need a will? Can she go to probate?

Does a wife automatically get everything if husband dies? House, property, money, etc?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Nothing is automatic except beneficiary designations and joint accounts. But yes, most people's estates do not exceed the spousal elective share and so substantially everything goes to the spouse. That is by design because the public policy behind that is that 1) we can safely presume that people would want their spouse to have everything, otherwise they could divorce that person, and 2) people have an actual legal obligation to support their spouse.

Your sister-in-law can challenge to her heart's content. I'm unsure why she would think she's entitled to anything; She would hopefully learn to understand or be told that as a sibling, she's far down the list of priority. But people argue about all sort of things in probate court, including the ever-present "s/he told me on the death bed this is what they want to happen".

By the way you are asking this question, I assume your husband is alive. Absolutely get a will to eliminate all doubt.

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