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What happens if you pass away without a will?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Estate Planning, Wills

Think about all the assets you’ve accumulated over the years, such as your savings, home and most cherished possessions. If you don’t have a will in Michigan, the state’s intestacy laws will determine who inherits your assets, which might not reflect your personal wishes. This impersonal process could leave your possessions to someone you didn’t intend or lead to disputes among your loved ones.

Although it can be uncomfortable to think about death, planning ahead through a will may prevent unnecessary stress for your loved ones when dividing your estate.

How inheritance works without a will

A will is a valuable estate planning tool that lets you clearly express your intentions for your property after death. If you die without one, the court will apply intestate succession, which distributes assets following a set hierarchy:

  • With children but no spouse: Children inherit everything
  • With a spouse but no children or parents: Spouse inherits everything.
  • With a spouse and children from that marriage: Spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property plus half of the balance while the rest goes to your children
  • With a spouse and at least one child from another relationship: Spouse inherits the first $100,000 plus half of the balance, and your children get the rest
  • With spouse and living parents: Spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property plus three-quarters of the balance, with your parents inheriting the rest
  • With parents but no spouse or children: Parents inherit everything
  • With siblings but no spouse, children or parents: Siblings inherit everything

Although intestate succession may work fine for some families, those in second marriages or blended families may face unintended consequences. Moreover, it can sow conflict amongst your loved ones. For instance, an estranged sibling may suddenly come up to claim a piece of your estate.

Creating a will does not have to be complex, but it’s wise to talk to an attorney, especially if you have unique circumstances or high-value assets. Legal guidance can help you understand your options or tailor a plan to your needs.