Michigan Probate Law And No Will

What is Intestacy?

People who die without a will are said to have died intestate. Surprisingly enough, lots of people never bother to draft a will in contemplation of their death. Those who are unmarried or without children, and have no preference as to what will happen to their property after they die can probably afford to get away with never drafting a will. However, everybody else—even if they feel that their estate will be too small to justify drafting one—should draft a will. In Michigan, a statutory order of priority has been established to fit family members into their respective spot in the inheritance line where a person dies intestate.


A. Spouse: The spouse of a person who dies intestate is automatically entitled to the entire estate where the person who died did not have any descendants or living parents. If there is a living descendant, the spouse is entitled to the first $150,000 of the estate and one half of the remaining balance of the entire estate with the descendant (s) taking the other portion. If there are no descendants, but there is a living parent, the spouse takes the first $150,000 of the estate and three quarters of the remaining balance of the entire estate with the surviving parent (s) taking the other portion.

B. Descendants (children, grand-children, great grand-children): If there is no spouse, the decedent’s descendants take the entire estate in equal portions. If there is a spouse, the descendants take the remaining portion of the estate in accordance with what has been outlined in subsection (A).

C. Parents: If there is no spouse or descendants, the parents of the decedent take the estate in equal portions, or, if only one parent is still living, that parent takes the entire estate. If there is a spouse, parents take the remaining portion of the estate in accordance with what has been outlined in subsection (A).

D. Descendants of Parents (brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces): They are entitled to a piece of the estate only if there is no spouse, descendants or parents.

E. Grandparents and Descendants of Grandparents (uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins): Entitled to the estate only where there is no spouse, no descendants, no parents or descendants of the parents of the decedent.

Other Considerations

As you can see, the order of priority makes sense. And many people may feel like that priority list satisfies their final wishes, but many people will not. For example, it would seem that most people would want their spouse to take everything in the event that they died. Based on the laws of intestacy, a surviving spouse would have to share with children or parents. And that’s not the only issue, either. There are others which should be addressed apart from how a decedent’s property will be divided. For example, what will happen to children or other incapacitated family members that may be in their care at the time of death? Or, who will act as the personal representative of the estate?

Contact An Experienced Probate Attorney

Drafting a will for your loved ones to follow is responsible and considerate. If you have decided that it is in your best interests to get a will, it’s important that you contact our office (586-268-2400) to see to it that your final wishes are adhered to.