Laws for "intestacy succession" dictate the next of kin order for who inherits an individual's property when they die without a last will and testament or another estate plan in place. These laws are set at the state level, not the federal level, and they can be found in the Michigan Estates Code. Who inherits in this state depends on their relationship to the decedent.
When the Decedent Is Married
The surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 off the top of the probate estate, as well as half the balance if the decedent leaves at least one child who is also the child of the spouse. Their descendants inherit the other half per stirpes.
Descendants include individual children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—anyone directly "descended" from that person. "Per stirpes" means that the children's children and their children will only receive a share if their parent and grandparents are also deceased. The inheritance passes down to the next living generation.
If the decedent is survived by a spouse and no descendants of that spouse and at least one descendant from another relationship, the spouse inherits only the first $100,000 of the deceased's probate assets and 1/2 of the balance. The decedent's descendants inherit the remainder per stirpes.
If they are survived by a spouse and one or more parents but no descendants, the spouse inherits the first $150,000 of the probate assets and 3/4 of the balance. Finally, if the decedent is surviving by a spouse but no descendants or parents, the spouse inherits 100% of the probate estate.
If the Deceased Wasn't Married
Parents inherit equal shares of the deceased person's entire probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent inherits 100% if only one is living, when the decedent leaves neither a surviving spouse nor descendants.
The deceased person's siblings and the descendants of deceased siblings—nieces and nephews of the deceased—inherit the entire probate estate per stirpes if they are survived by siblings or descendants of siblings but no parents or descendants of their own.
The entire probate estate "escheats" to the State of Michigan if the deceased person is not survived by any family members. In other words, the state gets everything.
What Will You Inherit From a Michigan Intestate Estate?
Even if you determine that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you might not inherit anything. Why? Because your relative might have left just non-probate property, or the debts they owed at the time of their death might have exceeded the value of the probate estate. This makes the estate "insolvent."
Intestate succession rules apply only to property that requires the probate process to pass to a living beneficiary. They don't affect property left in a living trust, or to assets that pass directly to a named beneficiary by operation of law, such as retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, or property held with someone else with rights of survivorship.
Consult with a Michigan probate attorney if you're unsure of your legal rights as an intestate heir.
A decedent might have died owning $500,000 in probate assets, but they might also have left $501,000 in debt. Their creditors would be paid first, leaving just $1 for other heirs.
Some Other Rules
Michigan's intestacy laws provide that half-siblings are treated as "whole" siblings. Children who are conceived before the date of death but who aren't actually born yet at the time of death inherit as though they had been born, as long as they survive 120 hours after birth.
Immigration status can't prohibit an heir from inheriting in Michigan. Heirs don't have to be citizens or legal residents of the United States.
Will You Owe Taxes on Your Michigan Inheritance?
Michigan doesn't collect an estate tax or an inheritance tax at the state level, but your inheritance might be subject to an estate tax at the federal level, and you might also owe state or federal income taxes on certain types of inherited assets.
The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.