People are often advised to write wills as part of their estate planning. Wills are important because they allow a person writing the will the opportunity to decide who gets property from his or her estate. Using a will in conjunction with other estate planning tools can help avoid probate and ensure that family and friends are well taken care of after your death. When a person fails to plan by using a will or another estate planning tool, the distribution of assets defaults to state law.
When a person dies without a will, he or she dies intestate and any property that would have passed by will is divided per the state’s intestate succession laws. Any property that is not in the deceased’s name at the time of death is not subject to intestate succession. Therefore, if the deceased was able to create a trust and transfer property to the trust before his or her death, the trust property would not be subject to intestate transfer. Property such as insurance proceeds and retirement accounts are transferred to designated beneficiaries.
Under Michigan law, when a person dies intestate, his or her property is first required to be distributed to a spouse if the deceased did not have any children. If the deceased did not have any children but was married, the entire estate is inherited by the spouse. If the deceased is survived by both the spouse and children, the estate is divided between the spouse and the children. However, in this case, the spouse first gets a set dollar amount from the estate; the amount is calculated based on the increases in cost of living.
Children who are born to the deceased and a person who is not his or her spouse are also able to inherit from the deceased. The marriage status of the parents does not affect the children’s ability to inherit.
If the deceased has a spouse and no descendants, the spouse gets a large share of the estate and the rest of the estate is transferred to the decedent’s parents. If the deceased did not have a spouse or children, his or her property is distributed to the parents and siblings. Half siblings are also eligible to inherit from their half siblings.
If these close relatives are not alive, the property is passed on to the next available group of relatives, for example, grandchildren and cousins. While the state may eventually get the deceased’s property, it is only if there is no relative, even a remote one, who can inherit it. A qualifying relative can inherit from the deceased even if the relative does not live in Michigan or even in the United States, and whether or not the relative is a United States citizen.
Let Us Help You Plan
A will is an important part of an estate plan and can be used with other documents to ensure that a person’s wishes for the distribution of his or her estate are carried out. If you want to make changes to a prior will, write a new will, or discuss other estate planning options, contact Resnick Law, P.C., to consult the experienced estate planning attorneys in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan.
(image courtesy of Annie Spratt)