Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the hardest things anyone must go through. The process is that much harder if there is contention in the family about the distribution of their loved one’s assets.
The court considers the documented wishes of the deceased, but if the deceased died without a will, the court would review next of kin relationships to help determine family members’ inheritance rights.
Under Michigan law, the term next of kin is synonymous with “descendants,” “heirs of the body,” “heirs,” “relatives,” or “family.” Next of kin relationships will inform how the deceased’s property and assets are divided among family members.
If you have recently lost a loved one and have questions about your rights as a next of kin, contact the Michigan family law lawyers at Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC at (586) 776-1700 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Who Are Next of Kin Under MI Law?
Michigan law defines next of kin as persons who have a relationship to the deceased, including:
- Legal spouse
- Child over the age of 18
- Parent of the deceased over the age of 18
- Custodial or noncustodial parent of a deceased person age 18 or older
- Siblings over age 18
- Maternal and paternal grandparents
- Maternal and paternal siblings over 18 years
- Other relatives in descending order of blood relationship
Do Next of Kin Inherit From a Decedent’s Estate?
Next of kin first inherit from the deceased estate under the terms of any legal will or trust. However, if the person died without a will, the estate passes through probate court. The assets are then split depending on the next of kin who survived the deceased, in a process called intestate succession. Intestate means dying without a proper will in place.
There are specific rules the court follows. Several family situations can complicate these rules, such as children from another marriage or if a spouse and parent are survivors. Some of the more straightforward situations include:
- If the sole survivor is the spouse, then 100% of the estate goes to the spouse.
- If the parents survive and there is no spouse or children, 100% of the estate passes equally to both parents, or the total goes to the surviving parent.
- If there are children and no surviving spouse, then 100% of the estate passes to the children.
- If there is a surviving spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $150,000 of the intestate property, plus one-half of the balance, while the spouse and decedent’s children inherit the remainder.
What Assets Pass by Intestate Succession?
The term intestate succession refers to laws that regulate what happens to a person’s assets who died without a will. Under intestate succession, the only assets affected by the law are those that are in the will.
If there were valuable assets that would not have gone through a will, they are not affected by the laws that regulate intestate succession. Some examples of valuable assets that typically list beneficiaries and do not go through a will include:
- Jointly held property
- Property in a living trust
- Life insurance
- Retirement account funds
- Accounts with payable-on-death beneficiaries, such as bank accounts or securities
To inherit from a deceased, the next of kin must survive the deceased person by 120 hours. If someone dies without a will, and they do not have any family, the property passes into the state’s coffers. This rarely happens because the law allows for an inheritance to pass to even remote family relations.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Estate and probate laws are complicated. Michigan’s intestate succession rules include factors that affect survivorship, half relatives, posthumous relatives, immigration status, and advancements on property during your lifetime.
You don’t have to navigate the confusing probate process on your own. If your loved one died without a will, contact the trusted and respected Michigan probate and estate planning attorneys of Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC for a free consultation.