If you are like most people, you dread thinking of finalizing your last wishes should you die unexpectedly. Most people may feel more comfortable having their teeth drilled by a dentist than trying to devise a plan if they should die.
If you do not complete a plan, the Michigan Legislature has a devised a plan for you in advance. If you die without a will, your estate will be referred to as an “intestate estate” and its distribution is covered in the Michigan Estate Code. The statutes are designed to focus maximizing the distribution between the decedent’s spouse and children.
- If you do not have parents or children, your surviving spouse will inherit your entire estate.
- If you have no spouse and only have children, the children will inherit the entire probate estate equally.
- If you are survived by a spouse and at least one child of that spouse and at least one child from another relationship (a blended family), your spouse will inherit the first $150,000.00 (1) of the probate assets and half of the remaining balance and the children of the deceased person will inherit the other half of the remainder equally. So if your estate is less than $150,000, the children will inherit nothing.
- If you are survived by a spouse and have no children with your spouse and you have at least at least child from another relationship, your spouse will inherit the first $100,000.00 of the probate assets and half of the remaining balance and your children from another relationship will inherit the other half of remainder equally. If your estate is less than $100,000, your children will inherit nothing.
- If you are survived by a spouse and parent(s) but have no children, your spouse will inherit the first $150,000.00 of the probate assets and three quarters of the balance of the estate and the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person’s remaining quarter of the probate estate. If the estate is less than $150,000, your parents will not inherit anything.
- If you do not have a spouse, children, or parents, your siblings and the descendants of deceased siblings (nieces, nephews) will inherit your estate.
After many discussions with my clients, I have yet to hear that this scheme implemented by the Michigan Legislature is a desirable plan. Most people do not like the government involved in their day to day decisions, thus, why would you allow the Michigan Legislature to determine what is in the best interest of your family? Why should an estranged child inherit equally to children actively involved in your life? Why would your parent’s inherit any money when you have left a disabled wife? This distribution scheme fails to contemplate any equities or inequities that may result.
As painful as it is to contemplate your own demise, for yours and your family’s peace of mind, you need to take the time and put your affairs in order. It is always the best option for your family to make a plan and to not utilize the default plan enacted by the Michigan Legislature.
1 These numbers are adjusted annually based on cost of living adjustment tables.