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What Happens to Inherited Assets if Someone Dies Without a Will in Michigan?

— June 2, 2023

In Michigan, spouses are not automatically entitled to their deceased spouse’s estate if they die without a will.

Individuals who die without preparing a valid will and testament in Michigan will cause their estate to be subject to the state’s inheritance laws or intestate succession laws. Although there are exceptions to certain assets that are not subject to intestate succession laws including living trusts, life insurance policies, joint property, bank accounts, retirements accounts. Other assets will be subject to Michigan inheritance laws and must go through probate. A positive facet to estate planning is that it will avoid a probate action which can be an expensive and drawn out over time.  Most often an intestate estate will go to a surviving spouse first, then children or descendants, then parents, siblings, and finally more distant relatives such as nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Importance of estate planning

Estate planning is important regardless of age, wealth, or life circumstances or related variables. It allows a person’s wishes to be heard when they cannot speak for themself. Estate planning can not only prevent family conflicts, but it can prevent loved ones from having to make painful healthcare decisions as well. When an individual has worked hard to acquire assets including real estate, they want to make certain these assets are utilized in the best interests of surviving loved ones upon their death.  A Michigan estate planning lawyer will review documents when estate planning is initiated to ascertain any loopholes that individuals would be able to contest when a will goes to probate. The resolution of intestate estates can be time-consuming and dragged out, depending upon the nature of the assets left to distribute requiring the service of an estate planning lawyer.

Male lawyer talking to clients; image by Pavel Danilyuk, via
Male lawyer talking to clients; image by Pavel Danilyuk, via

Spouses and children inheritance intestate

In Michigan, spouses are not automatically entitled to their deceased spouse’s estate if they die without a will.  If there are living parents, the spouse gets the first $150,000 of the estate and three quarters of the balance and the parents would inherit the rest.  If there are children involved the spouse  gets the first $150,000 and half the balance.  When additional partners are named, the spouse gets the first $150,000 plus half the rest, but if you have children from another relationship the spouse gets the first $100,000 and half the balance. Children are entitled to part of an estate where a parent dies without a will or last testament in Michigan, but the amount they received is dependent on a surviving spouse, other children, and children from other relationships.

Tax concerns

A Detroit estate planning lawyer will do their best to effectively address all pointed concerns of clients after they lose a loved one who did not have a valid will. A tax lawyer will be able to apprise beneficiaries of the inheritance tax liabilities associated with any type of asset they receive during estate settlements. Experienced lawyers who understand the state and federal laws regarding probate will guide interested parties in accordance with Michigan law.  


  1. mcl-chapters-701-713.pdf (
  2. Michigan Legislature – Section 205.201

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