If there is no will Michigan’s intestate succession law (MCLA 700.2101 et seq) determines who the estate is distributed to. I should add, this is not how most people chose to have their estate distributed when given a choice. Essentially, intestate succession is like a default will for anyone who did not prepare one for themselves. If you do not have your own will, here are some basics of “your plan” as set forth in the statutes:
A SPOUSE is provided for as follows:
1. The entire estate if no descendant or parent of the decedent.
2. The first $150,000 plus ½ of any balance if there are any surviving descendants that are also descendants of surviving spouse.
3. The first $150,000 plus 3/4 of any balance if no descendant of the decedent survives but a parent does.
4. The first $100,000 plus ½ of any balance if none of the decedent’s surviving descendants are descendants of surviving spouse.
HEIRS OTHER THAN A SPOUSE are provided for as follows, with the estate that does not pass to the surviving spouse:
1. To the decedent’s descendants by representation.
2. If no surviving descendants, then to the surviving parents of decedent.
3. If no surviving descendants or parents, then to the descendants of decedent’s parents (i.e. brothers and sisters).
4. If no surviving descendants, parents or descendants of parents, but at least one grandparent, then ½ to paternal grandparents and ½ to maternal grandparents.
5. If there are no takers? Then it goes to the State of Michigan.
COMMENT: A majority of couples decide to pass all of their assets to the surviving spouse and then to the children. This is not what happens under intestate laws. The surviving spouse receives a portion and then splits the rest with the kids. Think about it? If your children are minors this means they will receive a portion of their inheritance when they turn 18 and while the surviving spouse is still alive. For those who are still raising their children at 18+, this may be an undesirable result.