What If You Die Without A Will in Michigan?

If you die without a will or estate plan — referred to as dying intestate — your family may face a myriad of problems, some of which may not easily be resolved.

Dying without a will in Michigan can cause serious family disagreements and even tear a family apart. Your wishes about who should benefit from your estate may not be honored. Family members and loved ones could be left without the financial security you want them to have.

Inheritance Without a Will in Michigan

If you die without a will in Michigan, also known as intestate, state law and the probate court will control the distribution of your estate. Your assets will be distributed to legally recognized beneficiaries according to intestacy succession law.

Some aspects of intestacy law in Michigan include:

  • If you are married with no living parents, children, or grandchildren, your living spouse receives your entire estate
  • If you have children or grandchildren with your spouse, your spouse receives the first $150,000 of the estate and half of the rest, the other half distributed to your children equally
  • If you have children or grandchildren who are not related to your spouse, the spouse will instead receive the first $100,000 of the estate and half of the rest
  • If you have no spouse or descendants, your estate would either go to your parents or be split equally among siblings

Jointly-owned property will pass automatically to the co-owner and accounts with designated beneficiaries. Such assets will avoid the probate process. However, everything you own in your name alone will go through probate.

In addition to ending with results you may not want, going through the probate process can take a considerable amount of time and cost substantial legal fees. If you have a will or estate plan developed by an experienced estate planning attorney, it may be possible for your estate to avoid the probate process altogether.

Dying Without a Will in Michigan: Who Will Plan Your Funeral?

The problems begin immediately after your death, with the question of who can make your funeral arrangements. If you don’t have a will or a valid legal document designating a funeral representative, a Michigan statute will determine who can make the arrangements. The law specifies the priority of the designation. Whoever is entitled by law to be the funeral representative will make all the decisions — including whether you are cremated and what happens to your cremated remains or whether you are interred and where you are interred — and determine all other details of your funeral arrangements.

When you create a will or estate plan, your wishes about funeral arrangements are spelled out in detail. You may name a funeral representative if you wish to do so. By specifying your wishes about funeral arrangements in a will, you ensure those wishes will be carried out after your death.

Not Having a Will in Michigan: Who Administers Your Estate?

A will designates a personal representative or executor to make sure all your wishes are carried out after your death, including distribution of your property. Without a will, there is no designated personal representative. The probate court will appoint someone to administer the estate.

Michigan law establishes which specific people can apply to be appointed as personal representative if you do not have a will. A similar process applies if a designated personal representative or executor and alternate(s) cannot serve or do not apply to be appointed. Any individual listed in the statute can apply. That means the person who administers your estate and distributes your property could easily end up being someone you would not choose to handle your estate.

Michigan Estate Planning: Who Inherits Your Property?

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If you die without a will, some assets may go directly to co-owners or beneficiaries, including:

  • Life insurance policy proceeds with a designated beneficiary
  • Retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary
  • Joint bank accounts or bank accounts payable on your death
  • Jointly-owned property
  • Securities designated as transferable on your death

Aside from these types of assets, the property in your estate is distributed according to your will (or estate plan) or — if you do not have a will — according to a Michigan law that specifies how your assets will be distributed. The provisions of the law are complex.

If you have a surviving spouse and have no surviving children, parents, or grandchildren, your spouse gets the entire estate. If there are surviving children, parents, or grandchildren — even if they are not related to the surviving spouse — the spouse will not receive the entire estate. The share your spouse receives will depend on whether the living relatives are children, grandchildren, or parents and the size of the estate.

If you do not have a surviving spouse, your children inherit your estate in equal portions. If there are no surviving children, your surviving grandchildren, siblings, or parents will be entitled to the estate, according to specific provisions in the Michigan statute.

Situations involving blended families are particularly complicated. If you have multiple marriages and die without a will, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would want them to be. In addition, if you have a child with special needs, that child’s financial well-being could be placed in jeopardy if you do not have a will or estate plan to ensure the child’s care.

When you die without a will, loved ones who are not related to you receive nothing. If you have non-profit organizations you care about — such as a church, educational institution, or charity — they also will receive nothing. If you have no relatives identified by the intestacy law, the state will end up with your estate.

The only way to make sure that your property ends up benefiting those you wish to benefit is to have a will or estate plan drawn up by an experienced estate planning lawyer. For all your loved ones — including your spouse and children — the only way to protect their future financial security is to have a properly drafted and executed will or estate plan in place.

Having a will drawn up will ensure your assets are divided the way you wish, and give you peace of mind. Contact a Downriver estate planning attorney at The Mitten Law Firm today.