A will is an essential estate planning tool that spells out your wishes to your family and loved ones following your death. Although no one wants to dwell on death, but planning for it means protecting your loved ones. You can help them avoid the pain, resentment, and anger that can arise when they attempt to divide your assets after you pass without any instructions stating how you want them distributed.
What happens when someone dies without a will in Michigan? The answer gets complicated for loved ones left behind. At Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC, our probate lawyers want to help you understand what happens to a person’s estate in Michigan if they pass away without a will and why having a will is essential for protecting yourself and your loved ones.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document in which you can outline how you want your estate distributed after you pass away. Having a will helps expedite the probate process and doesn’t leave your family or the court guessing what you would have wanted.
Although wills can potentially be contested in court, having a will can also limit the resentment or fighting that can plague some families when a cherished family member dies without making provisions for who gets what.
What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will in Michigan?
When a person dies in Michigan without a will, the court decides how the deceased individual’s estate gets divided. Without a valid will, you no longer have a say in how your assets are distributed. Instead, according to Michigan’s intestate succession rules, the estate goes to specific family members.
The state’s intestate succession regulations impact only assets that go through probate. These assets typically include:
- Real estate
- Personal property
- Bank accounts
- Business interests
Assets that do not go through probate and, therefore, are not impacted by intestate succession laws include:
- Property in a trust
- Retirement funds in an IRA or 401(k)
- Life insurance proceeds
Instead, these assets are typically passed to the listed beneficiary or co-owner of the asset. If no beneficiary is named, these assets get distributed to other family members through intestate succession.
Michigan Intestate Succession Rules
Michigan’s intestate succession rules determine which family members get a loved one’s assets after they pass. Under intestate succession, if an individual dies without a will, these relatives inherit their loved one’s assets in the following order:
- Surviving spouse but no surviving children or parents – Spouse inherits all property
- Surviving children but no surviving spouse – Children inherit all property
- Surviving spouse and children from current marriage – The spouse gets the first $150,000 plus ½ of the rest of the intestate property, and the children get the remaining property
- Surviving spouse and children from a previous relationship – The spouse gets $100,000 plus ½ of the rest of the intestate property, and children from a previous relationship get the remaining property
- Surviving spouse and parents – The spouse gets the first $150,000 plus 3/4 of the rest of the intestate property, and the parents get the remaining property
- Surviving parents but no spouse or children- The parents inherit all property
- Surviving siblings but no spouse, children, or parents – Siblings or their descendants inherit all property
Create an Estate Plan Today with Help from an Experienced Michigan Probate Attorney
Navigating Michigan’s extensive intestate succession laws is complicated. If you need help understanding your legal rights after a family member passes away, contact an experienced Michigan probate lawyer for help. Set up a legal consultation with a compassionate attorney with Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC., today by calling (586) 776-1700.