When an individual dies without a will in Michigan, assets go to the closest family member(s) under the state’s intestacy laws. The laws spell out:
- If there is no will, who inherits assets.
- The order of inheritance rights.
- The probate process with no will.
- Who is in charge of the process.
The rules outlined in Michigan law direct the distribution of property in the event that a deceased person did not leave a will, and they apply to any property that was not under joint ownership or did not have a designated beneficiary.
Spouses Come First
If you are married at the time of your death and do not have living parents, children or grandchildren, your spouse receives your whole estate under Michigan law. If you have children or grandchildren, your spouse still receives the first $150,000 of your assets. In addition, your spouse receives half of the rest of your estate, and your spouse receives three-quarters of the remaining estate if you have a parent who is living. If you have children for whom your spouse is not a parent, your spouse receives the first $100,000 plus half of your estate.
If you have a surviving spouse, your children receive half of your estate after the first $150,000. If you don’t have a surviving spouse, your entire estate is divided equally among your children.
In some cases, some or all of your estate may pass to your grandchildren, siblings or parents. If you do not have a surviving spouse or children but do have grandchildren, the grandchildren would split the share of your estate that your children would have received. If you are not married and don’t have children at the time of your death, your estate goes to your parents or is equally split among your siblings.
How Michigan Law Defines Your Descendants
Under Michigan intestate law, your children receive part of your assets upon your death. The share that each child receives depends on the number of children you have, and the law also defines the individuals that are legally considered to be your children. State law includes the following stipulations regarding children:
- If you’re married, children born to your wife during the course of the marriage are considered to be your children.
- If you had children with someone to whom you were not married, and paternity is established under Michigan state law, your children receive their share of your estate.
- Any legally adopted children are your children under the law.
- Foster children and stepchildren that you have not legally adopted, along with children you have placed for adoption and who were adopted by another family, do not receive a share of your estate.
- Any biological child of yours who was born after your death receives a share of your estate.
- Your grandchildren receive a portion of your estate if their parents pass away before you.
Not all Assets Pass Through Intestacy
If you leave no will after death, your assets that would have been disbursed by a will instead go through the state’s intestacy process. Typically, only assets that you alone own are included.
However, a number of assets are not included in a will and are not subject to succession under intestate laws. Instead, the assets pass to your named beneficiary or to the assets’ joint holder, regardless of whether a will exists.
Assets that typically are not affected by intestacy include:
- Proceeds from life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary.
- Proceeds from retirement accounts, including IRAs and 401(k)s with a designated beneficiary.
- Bank accounts that are payable upon your death.
- Property you own jointly.
- Property that has been transferred into a living trust.
- Securities in an account that is transferrable upon your death.
The Role of Probate
When an individual dies with or without a will, the state probate courts in Michigan administer the estate. Any assets held without a beneficiary, joint owner or in trust will pass through probate. A will directs who will get the assets and who is in charge of the administration. Without a will, the laws of the State of Michigan control.
If you do not have any living family members and die without a will, it’s possible that the state will get your property. Such scenarios are rare, because the intestate succession process attempts to locate any relatives and get assets to them. If you have living grandparents, cousins, nieces or nephews, it is unlikely that your assets will end up in state coffers.
Do you have a legally valid will? If not, you’re potentially leaving the distribution of your assets to the state upon your death. To ensure that your wishes are honored, work with a qualified estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive will. Contact Gold & Associates, P.C., to schedule a free consultation.