When a person dies without disposing of their assets through a Will or Trust their possessions are called an “intestate estate”. Michigan, like Prince’s home state of Minnesota, has a statute which provides guidance on how to dispose of a person’s estate when there is no Will, Trust, or estate plan in place.
If Prince died in Michigan it would be handled similar to Minnesota. Because Prince had no surviving spouse, no surviving children, and no surviving parents his estate is divided between his parents’ children. This would include his full siblings and half siblings.
So how does this really work? In Michigan, the answer to the intestate law’s have a step-by-step process depending on who survives.
If there is a surviving spouse, that spouse gets the first $150,000.00 plus one half of the balance of the remaining intestate estate if the decedent has surviving descendants. If the decedent has no descendants but a living parent, the surviving spouse gets $150,000.00 plus three fourths of any balance of the estate. If no surviving spouse, then the entire estate passes to descendants.
The descendants of a person dying with no Will or Trust receive that portion of the estate that does not go to the surviving spouse, by representation. Meaning the children will share in equal shares, and the grandchildren will share at their level in equal shares.
If there are no surviving descendants, the intestate estate goes to the decedent’s parents equally. If no descendants and/or no parents survive the decedent, then the estate would go to the descendants of the parents. This is the apparent situation for Prince’s estate.
If there are no surviving descendants, parents, or descendants of a parent, we then look to the descendants of the grandparents.
Remember, if there is a surviving spouse we are dealing with one-half or one-quarter of the intestate estate, however, if there is no surviving spouse then this descendant portion would be dealing with 100% of the intestate estate, as is the case with Prince.
State of Michigan:
If there is no surviving spouse, no surviving descendants, no surviving parents, no surviving descendants of parents, and no surviving descendants of grandparents, the intestate estate would pass to the State of Michigan.
Having been an attorney for over forty years, I can safely say that the above “estate plan” is typically not the distribution scheme that any of my clients have chosen. However, unlike some aggressive lawyers and financial planners, the state is not standing nearby ready to take the money at first instance. Really what this means is when the citizens of the State of Michigan fail to provide a Will or a Trust for their own assets and wealth, there is an estate plan that politicians have already prepared for you and it is called “intestate succession”.
Do not let the state dictate your personal disposition scheme; instead see an estate planning lawyer and make your own determinations of distribution scheme. Most estate planning lawyers will also work to avoid unnecessary probate and work to make the process much more palatable for your survivors.
See your estate planning attorney today!
Robert C. Miller is a Saginaw attorney focusing on business litigation, succession planning as well as wills and estate planning. He has been a lawyer since 1983 admitted to practice law in Michigan, California, and the United States Supreme Court. In addition he is also a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and an AEP (Accredited Estate Planner).