What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Michigan?

Whether you have a will or pass without having one, any asset that is in your name alone (no joint owner) and that does not have a beneficiary listed will likely need to be probated to clear the way for someone else to own that asset.

If you pass with a will, you are said to have died “testate”.  If you pass away without a will, the state defines it as “dying intestate.” The state will then follow its laws that say who has priority to serve as personal representative and who has standing to receive assets after paying any remaining taxes or debts owed at the time of your passing. These are the “laws of intestate succession”, and they favor your next of kin.

Proper planning with a will allows your family to move through the probate process more quickly and with less paperwork.  It also allows you to decide who you want as a personal representative, who you want to get your assets, who will be the guardian of your minor children, and who is in charge of your funeral or memorial and what happens to your body.  Contact us at Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC, for help with your estate planning in Ann Arbor, MI.

How Does Michigan State Law Handle an Intestate Estate?

Some assets may not require probate, including:

  • Jointly owned real estate or other property
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Living trusts

A surviving family member must file the appropriate probate documents to notify the court that their loved one passed away without a will and ask that someone, usually a family member, be appointed as personal representative.  If there are several people who are considered next of kin, for instance no spouse but several children, then the court may have to choose which of those people will be personal representative.  This may require several hearings and multiple lawyers if the family is not in agreement.

Likewise, if there is no will then there is no guardianship nomination for minor children, and a contest could ensue if there is more than one person requesting guardianship of the children.  This adds an additional strain on any child who is aware of the conflict and causes uncertainty about how their needs will be met.

Intestate Succession in Michigan

Once the decedent’s assets pass through intestate probate without a will, the court-appointed personal representative for the estate will distribute assets according to Michigan’s intestate succession order.  Who receives those assets and in what amounts will be determined by which of the decedent’s family members are still living.  By way of example:

If there is a surviving spouse and children only with that spouse, the spouse receives the first distribution of the estate.  This value is adjusted each year for the cost of living, and in 2023 it is $273,000. The spouse then receives half of the remaining inheritance, while the final amount divides equally between the decedent’s children.

If the decedent had no children with their current spouse but had children from a previous relationship, the spouse would receive $182,000, if the decedent died in 2023, and half of the remainder, while the child or children would receive the remaining estate after the spouse’s share.

If the decedent had a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse receives the first $273,000 plus three-quarters of the rest, with the balance going to the decedent’s living parents.

If the decedent had no immediate family members who were then living, distribution goes to more distant relatives such as aunts, uncles and cousins.  If the decedent had no surviving spouse, parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, siblings, or cousins, the state would assume the intestate estate for its coffers.

Exemptions From Intestate Probate

You might be able to file for a small estate probate process if your loved one passed away without a will and with very few assets. If a loved one’s estate value is $27,000 or less in 2023, you may be able to use a simplified probate process, including:

  • Transfer of a bank account by affidavit
  • Transferring a vehicle title by affidavit
  • Collecting personal property
  • Collecting paychecks due from an employer
  • Petition and Order for Assignment
  • Summary Estate

Contact Us Today for Help with Estate Planning in Ann Arbor, MI

Whether you know someone who passed away with or without a will or you want to begin estate planning to prevent your family from going through the intestate estate process, contact us at Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC. Call us today at 734-930-9200 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney in Ann Arbor, MI.


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Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942

Petoskey Office
By Appointment only
3319 Lakeside Dr S
Petoskey, MI 49770
Phone: 231-427-2292

Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942