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Where Do My Assets Go if I Die Without a Will in Michigan?

First, forget anything you have heard about the State getting any portion of your assets because you did not prepare a Will. This notion is pure nonsense (unless you have absolutely no surviving family).

So, if that State does not inherit your estate, who does? The legal term for someone dying without a Will is “intestate”. When someone dies intestate, that person essentially has a Will written by the State Legislature. There is a set of rules and priorities for determining who receives the assets of an intestate decedent, and the rules are different depending upon the marital status of the decedent and whether the decedent had children or surviving parents or siblings.

For example, MCL 700.2102 specifies what happens when the decedent leaves a surviving spouse. It is not as simple as “everything goes to the spouse”.

It is important to note a few things when looking at these rules.

  1. Note the final sentence, MCL 700.2102(2) – this is stating that the numbers mentioned in the statute are adjusted for inflation. The numbers in the statute are as of 2001. In 2017, all numbers are approximately 50% greater than what is printed above in the statute.
  1. These rules do not apply to property which passes outside of Probate. What this means is that property which is held with a survivor, as joint property with rights of survivorship, will pass outside of Probate to the surviving joint owner and will not be subject to these rules. Assets with beneficiary designations (such as you typically find with retirement plans) will pass to the named beneficiary are not subject to these rules.
  1. There are also various elections which can be made by a surviving spouse, such as exempt tangible property allowances, homestead allowances, etc. which could cause much more than the first $150,000 ($224,000 in 2017, as adjusted for inflation) to pass to the surviving spouse before any other relatives receive any portion of the intestate probate assets.
  1. There are different rules to deal with a situation in which the decedent had no surviving spouse. The rules are found in other statutory sections, and are not discussed here for the sake of brevity.

To achieve clarity regarding who will inherit your belongings, it is recommended that you consult a Michigan attorney about drafting a Will, Living Trust, or other estate planning documents.

If you are looking for a practical and knowledgeable professional that can help you through the estate planning process or if you would like additional information about our Macomb County based estate planning services give us a call at (586) 690-4400 or complete our “contact us” form.

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