How a Traffic Ticket Can Impact Your Estate
Getting a traffic ticket is never fun, but usually the irritation of it is relatively short-lived if it is taken care of promptly. If you have recently received a ticket, you may have the following questions about it.
What does it mean?
In Michigan a traffic offense that is not criminal is considered a civil infraction. Your ticket will give you the option of pleading responsible, responsible with an explanation, or not responsible. If you simply pay the ticket, you are pleading responsible and you will receive points on your driving record. The traffic ticket may also raise your automobile insurance rates. Pleading responsible with an explanation is the same as pleading responsible - only you get to tell the court why. This is really a bad option, as the court really doesn't care why you plead responsible and you will be treated the same regardless of your explanation. If you plead not responsible, you or your attorney will have the opportunity to appear in court and you may very likely have the ticket dismissed or reduced. A traffic ticket can be expensive, but it is important to understand that ignoring a traffic ticket does not make it go away and could actually result in additional fines, suspension of your license, or even a warrant for your arrest. In addition, the ticket may be sent to collections and placed on your credit report. If needed, you may be able to pay the ticket fine over several months. Most courts offer monthly payment agreements that allow the fine to be paid in installments.
Do I have to go to court?
It is not normally necessary to appear in court for a failure to produce proof of insurance ticket, other than going to the court clerk to show that you have insurance. Any other ticket, even one that will result in "no points" could be worth contesting because even if you don't have points on your record, the ticket still goes on your record and you could face increased insurance costs and other adverse action. If the ticket was for a more serious violation such as reckless driving, or if it involved a traffic accident, then you would be well advised to obtain representation and appear in court by pleading not responsible.
What if I die before I pay the ticket?
If you pass away prior to paying a traffic ticket, your estate is probably responsible for paying the outstanding ticket, just as your estate is responsible for all other debts left by you at the time of your death. One exception may be if you passed away prior to your appointed court date. In that case, because you were not given due process, it is possible, depending on the state, that the ticket will be discharged.*
If you have recently received a traffic ticket, the best course of action is to take care of it promptly, whether by paying the fine or appearing in court. Resolving the ticket quickly will ensure that it does not lead to additional aggravation, financial or otherwise. If you do not know what you should do, please contact your attorney to assist you in determining the best course of action.
* Death and Traffic Tickets, FindLaw (Mar. 31, 2020), https://www.findlaw.com/traffic/traffic-tickets/death-and-traffic-tickets.html#:~:text=Generally%2C%20when %20a%20traffic%20ticket,due%20process%20cannot%20take%20place.