What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will in Michigan?
When a person dies and leaves property behind, it needs to be distributed to the beneficiaries. The property includes real estate, bank accounts, personal property, stocks and bonds, and debts the person owes. The law stipulates how the property should be distributed if a person dies without a Will, also known as dying intestate.
The situation can be challenging and time-consuming for the heirs. Courts will step in to make determinations about how the property will be distributed. A lot goes on during the probate administration process that could be confusing and complex for the beneficiaries to handle independently. Kendal Law Group, skilled Bloomfield Hills business and estate planning attorneys can help you.
Michigan Intestate Statutes
Michigan’s intestacy laws provide transfer of ownership guidelines on settling an estate if the decedent dies without a will. The Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) stipulates that any part of a deceased person’s estate not effectively disposed of by a Will passes through intestate succession to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
Some aspects of Michigan’s intestacy laws include:
- If the decedent is married with no living parents, children, or grandchildren, their surviving spouse receives their estate.
- If the decedent has children or grandchildren, their spouse receives the first $150,000 of the estate and half of the rest, while the remaining balance and the other half is distributed equally among the children.
- If the decedent has children and grandchildren not related to their spouse, the spouse receives the first $100,000 of the estate and half of the rest.
- If there is no spouse or descendants, the estate goes either to the parents or is split equally among siblings.
If the person is not listed above they will not inherit anything. So, if you want someone such as a fiancee, roommate, favorite charity, or friend, to inherit anything, you must have a will or trust.
Estate That Doesn’t Pass to Any Beneficiary
Any part of the intestate estate that doesn’t pass to the decedent’s living spouse, or if there is no surviving spouse, passes to the following individuals in the following order:
- Descendants by representation, such as children or grandchildren
- Surviving parents
- Descendants of the decedent’s parents by representation, such as siblings, nieces, or nephews
- Paternal or maternal grandparents and their descendants
If none of the above beneficiaries are available, the intestate estate passes to the state. After years of hard work to acquire everything you have, you want to ensure it passes to your preferred beneficiaries to secure their future. So, contact experienced probate lawyers in Bloomfield Hills and let them help you plan your estate.
Property Exempted from Probate
Some property is not part of the estate and isn’t distributed through the probate court. This includes:
- Insurance property with a designated beneficiary
- Retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary
- Assets with a designated “pay on death” or “transfer on death” beneficiary
- Trusts not established by a Will
Probate lawyers in Bloomfield Hills can help you plan your estate to avoid the lengthy and complex probate process. They can also provide legal counsel on the various estate planning tools for multiple types of assets to protect your family and future.
What Happens to Jointly Owned Property?
Jointly owned property is not included in an estate. Such a property encompasses assets the decedent and another party owned together and are both listed on the title of the assets, such as joint bank accounts or cars. When the decedent dies, the other named person automatically gets full ownership of the property, so it is not part of the estate.
Sometimes, all the other party has to do is take a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to the relevant authority to remove the decedent’s name from the joint ownership. In other cases, joint ownership can be more complex, and you may need the assistance of experienced probate lawyers in Bloomfield Hills.
What is the Michigan Probate Process?
The probate court process involves four crucial steps:
- Appointing a personal representative: They are responsible for gathering the decedent’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing what remains to the beneficiaries. The representative is named in the will or by the probate court.
- Assembling the assets: The representative gathers, establishes ownership, and safeguards the decedent’s assets. They may also have the assets appraised when necessary.
- Paying outstanding debt and taxes: The representative oversees the payment of debt, taxes, funeral expenses, and general administration costs.
- Distributing the remaining assets and closing the estate: State law kicks in to help distribute the remaining assets if the decedent left no Will.
Simplified Probate Process
Estate administration can happen in different ways depending on the value. Estates with little property may qualify for a simplified process that doesn’t involve the probate court or only a little bit.
The simplified processes are:
- Assignment of property
- Transfer by Affidavit
- Collecting money due from an employer
- Transfer of vehicles
- Collection of personal property
An estate qualifies for a simplified process if it has a value of $27,000 or below as of 2023. The figure increases every few years, and skilled business and estate planning lawyers in Bloomfield Hills can provide more insights to help you weigh your options.
Seek Legal Guidance to Plan for Your Future
Many people consider estate planning a thorny issue, as no one wants to think or talk about death. However, having a well-documented plan on how you would like your assets to be distributed after your death can save your loved ones from a lengthy and complex probate process. When you have a Will or estate plan, your wishes are clear, and your assets will end up with the person you prefer.
Experienced business and estate planning lawyers at the Kendal Law Group PC can help you determine the most suitable estate planning tool depending on your needs, estate size, and preferences. We dedicate ourselves to assisting clients to plan for their future, and we can walk this path with you. Call us at 248-609-1718 to schedule a FREE in-depth case evaluation.