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What If I Die Without a Will?

Grand Rapids Die Without Will Attorney

If you die without creating a will (a legal circumstance called intestate), your assets will be divided according to Michigan’s inheritance law. Your estate can also be held up in probate as the court system records assets, pays debts, identifies heirs, and distributes what’s left of your estate. Keep in mind that fees for the probate process can be as high as 10% of the gross estate. Thankfully, an elder law attorney can help you with writing a will so you can distribute money and property as you see fit. Keep reading to learn how succession in Michigan works if you don’t make a will.

Surviving Spouse

Your surviving spouse will receive preference over all surviving relatives, no matter the intestacy situation. In fact, if you have no parents or descendents, your surviving spouse will be the sole heir of your estate. However, intestate law becomes more nuanced if you are leaving behind parents and descendents.

Surviving Spouse and Parent

 If you have a surviving spouse and parent, your spouse will take the first share of the estate, along with three-quarters of the remaining balance after debts and probate fees are paid. One quarter of the estate’s final value will go to your surviving parent.

Surviving Spouse and Descendents

If you have a surviving spouse and descendants, your spouse will still receive the first share. However, the value of this share will depend on whether your surviving children were shared by your spouse. Once the first share is distributed, the remaining balance of your estate will be equally divided between your surviving spouse and children. The amount of the first share is indexed annually under Michigan law for cost-of-living increases.

No Surviving Spouse

If you don’t have a surviving spouse, your estate will be distributed in the following order:

  • No surviving spouse: assets go to descendants
  • No surviving descendants: assets go to parents
  • No surviving descendants or parents: assets go to siblings, nieces or nephews, and great-nieces or great-nephews

If you don’t have any of the surviving relatives listed above, your assets will be split in half between your maternal and paternal grandparents and their descendents. In other words, your assets will be divided amongst your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. If there are no grandparents or descendants available to take the assets on one side of the family, the value of the entire estate would pass to the other side of the family.

There is also a complex system under Michigan law for determining how assets are divided among surviving relatives. Plus, there are exclusionary rules designed to prevent distant relatives from inheriting the value of your estate.

Who can help if a family member dies without a will?

If a family member dies without a last will and testament, you’ll want to hire a probate lawyer as soon as possible. Probate court proceedings can be complicated, which is why you’ll want a probate attorney experienced in elder law.

Who can help me make a will?

Even if you wish to write a simple will, it’s still a good idea to hire an estate planning attorney. Our attorney can recognize inconsistencies and loopholes that could lead to family members contesting a will. We recommend making a will with your attorney present so they can advise you on how to legally express your final wishes.

Our attorneys at the Law Offices of Sean Patrick Cox are dedicated to helping you create a will and testament that will stand up in court. To schedule your free consultation, call our offices in Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo.