Intestate Succession Michigan

What Happens If You Die Without An Estate Plan?

What Is Michigan Intestate Succession?

When you die without a Will, your estate passes to your next of kin by “intestate succession”.

Michigan intestate succession is a set of laws that instruct how your money and property will be distributed to your family if you did not make proper arrangements prior to your death.

intestate succession michigan

If you did not have a Will when you passed away, you can think of Michigan intestate succession rules as a default Will.

Dying without a Will may become a less than ideal situation. For example, the court could find that a distant relative that you never intended to give your money or property to could be entitled to your Estate, leaving the people you love with nothing.

To avoid this scenario, at a minimum, you should have a Last Will and Testament drafted that outlines who should receive your money and property.

What Problems Can Be Caused By
Michigan Intestate Succession?

Accidental Disinheritance

If you would like to make sure your money and property avoid Michigan intestate succession and are passed to your loved ones after you die in the manner you intended, you need to create an Estate Plan.

If you die intestate, loved ones who are not related to you will receive nothing. If you do not have any relatives according to Michigan intestate succession laws, the state will receive your money and property.

The best way to protect your family’s financial future is to have a properly drafted and executed Last Will and Testament or Living Trust.

Estate Administration

When you pass away without a Will, your assets must go through Probate Court.

To begin Probate, someone must petition the court to become the Personal Representative. If you did not have a Will, or your Will does not name a Personal Representative, the court will appoint one based on Michigan intestate succession laws.

The Personal Representative is responsible for administering the estate. Administering the estate includes locating the deceased’s assets, paying estate taxes and expenses, paying creditors, preparing and inventory, and closing the estate. 

This means that without a Will, someone you may not approve of could become responsible for managing and distributing your money and property. 

Blended Families

Based on Michigan intestate succession, circumstances with blended families can become very complex if you have children from multiple marriages. Some children may be left out or not treated the way you wanted.

Guardians for Minor Children

Naming a Guardian for minor children is one of the many important reasons to have a Will. If you die intestate and have minor children, the court will name a Guardian, and they may end up being raised by someone that you may not have wanted.

Children With Special Needs

If there are children with special needs in your family, it is best that you have a Will or more comprehensive Estate Plan like a Special Needs Trust to make sure they are taken care of after death. If you do not have anything in place, their finances and government benefits may be at risk. 

Business Succession

If you have a business and don’t make prior arrangements, it may be put at risk. Without any business succession planning, your family may lose the business as well as any control over it.

Funeral Plans

Planning for a loved one’s burial is difficult. It can be even more difficult when there is no Will or other legal document appointing a funeral representative to make decisions on your behalf. If you did not appoint anyone, Michigan intestate succession rules will appoint one based on an order of priority. Whoever is appointed will be able to make decisions, including those relating to your final burial wishes and any other details of your funeral. When you create an Estate Plan, your final instructions are written in detail for your funeral representative. This eliminates any confusion for your family and ensures your wishes will be carried out.

What Assets Pass By Michigan Intestate Succession?

Assets that pass by Michigan intestate succession laws are those named in your Will that were not owned jointly. If the asset was owned jointly or has a beneficiary designation, it may avoid Probate.

Some examples of assets that don’t pass through Intestate laws are:

  • Property in a Living Trust
  • Life insurance with a designated beneficiary
  • IRA’s, 401(k), or other retirement accounts
  • Bank accounts with a pay-on-death or transfer-on-death clause
  • Property owned jointly

The above listed assets will pass to the named beneficiaries or co-owners, even if you do not have a Will.

Will The State Get Your Money And Property
If You Die Intestate?

If you die without a Will, and you do not have any family according to Michigan intestate succession, your money and property will escheat to the state. This scenario is rare because Michigan intestate succession laws were designed to allow your property to be passed down to anyone related to you, even if they are a distant relative. Your property will be passed down to spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, or cousins.

Who Inherits What Based On Intestate Succession In Michigan?

Under Michigan intestate succession laws, who inherits your property depends on what relatives are alive at your time of death. The law is based on the following order of priority:

  • If you are married with no children and no living parents, your spouse will receive everything.
  • If you are married with children, your spouse will receive the first $150,000, and half of the rest, the remaining half will be distributed in equal shares to your children.
  • If you have children who are not related to your spouse, the spouse will receive the first $100,000, and half of the remainder of the estate.
  • If you have no spouse, and no descendants, your estate will go to your parents
  • If you have no spouse, no descendants, and no parents, your estate will go to your siblings.

What Does The Spouse Get Based On Michigan Intestate Succession?

If you die without a Will, what your spouse receives depends on what relatives are alive. If you are married with no other descendants, then your spouse receives everything. If there are living relatives, your estate is distributed as follows:

If you die with parents but no descendants. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance.

If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

If you die with at least one descendant from you and the surviving spouse, and at least one descendant from another relationship. Your spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

If you die with at least one descendant from a previous relationship and no descendants from you and the surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

Who Is Legally Considered A Child Based On Intestate Succession In Michigan?

For your children to receive your estate, they must legally be your children. This can become confusing, but here are some clarifications according to Mich. Comp. Laws:

  • Children who are legally adopted by you will receive a share just as biological children do
  • Stepchildren or foster children will not receive a share if they are not legally adopted
  • Children placed for adoption who were legally adopted by another person
  • Children conceived by you, but not born before your death will receive a share
  • Children born outside of marriage will receive a share if:
    • You married the child’s mother after birth
    • You and the mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity
    • You and the child’s mother correct the birth certificate
    • The court determines paternity based on Michigan law
    • You and the child acknowledge the relationship before the child reaches 18 years old
    • Paternity is established after death
  • Any child your wife gave birth to during your marriage will receive a share as they are assumed to be your child
  • A grandchild will only receive a share if their parent (your son or daughter) is dead.
How Do You Avoid Intestate Succession in Michigan?

A Living Trust is one of the best Estate Planning methods for avoiding Michigan intestate succession and passing your money and property to your loved ones after you pass away.

A Trust avoids the long, stressful, and expensive Michigan Probate Court process. It is one of the most popular Estate Planning documents because of the combination of flexibility and protection it provides.

Probate is a public court process, and this increases the likelihood that someone can contest your Will. If someone does contest your Will, it can be long, stressful, expensive, and can delay your loved ones from receiving their share of your estate. 

A Living Trust avoids this unwanted scenario. A Trust allows your assets to transfer privately and can happen within days, or weeks after your passing. Only those named in the Trust have the right to know what is held in Trust. This makes it a lot less likely that a family member may contest the Trust. 

What Should You Do If A Family Member’s Estate Is Subject To Michigan Intestate Succession Laws?

If you have had a family member die without an Estate Plan and their estate is now subject to Michigan intestate succession laws, you should contact a Michigan Probate Lawyer immediately.

The Michigan Probate process is long, stressful, and complicated.


A Probate Lawyer can help you easily navigate the process so that your loved one’s money and property can be properly distributed to their heirs.

At Rochester Law Center, our compassionate Michigan Probate Lawyers are experienced in all matters of Probate Administration and serve every county in the state of Michigan. 

We make Probate fast, easy, and stress free by acting as your guide through the complicated paperwork and legal proceedings you’ll undoubtedly be facing throughout the Michigan probate process.

We understand the intricacies and nuances involved with Probating an Estate and can help you navigate every step of the way while keeping costs as low as possible.  

Call us today at (248) 613-0007 for a free case evaluation. 

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