What Is Intestate Succession?

Few people in Michigan will dispute the notion that estate planning is not difficult. Indeed, having to face the prospect of one’s own mortality may prove difficult for anyone to deal with. Yet perhaps even equally as daunting is the prospect of offending any of one’s potential beneficiaries with their decisions.

Some may think that an easy way to avoid this possibility would be to not create a will at all. Following this line of thinking, one might believe that the details regarding the dispersal of their estate would then fall to their beneficiaries. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Intestate succession in Michigan

When one dies without a will, they are legally classified as “intestate”. The rules regarding intestate succession fall to the decedent’s home state. Section 700.2102 of Michigan’s Compiled Laws detail the state’s guidelines in this regard. Here it states that if an intestate decedent leaves behind a spouse, the spouse inherits their entire estate if they have no surviving descendants or parents. That interest reduces to the first $150,000 of the estate’s value plus one-half its remaining balance of at least one of the decedent’s descendants are also descendants of the spouse (if not, the spouse’s initial interest reduces to the first $100,000). The spouse also receives the first $150,000 of the estate plus three-fourths of its remaining value if the decedent has no descendants but does have surviving parents.

If an intestate decedent does not leave a spouse behind, their estate descends in the following order:

  • Descendants
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Paternal and maternal kindred (in equal portion)
Allowances for non-relatives?

One notices that the state’s intestate succession guidelines make no allowances for non-relatives. Therefore, if one wishes to have such a party (such as a colleague, charitable organization or one’s alma mater), they must express that in a will.