Every state has its own laws about how inheritances are handed out after a person dies. If a person in Michigan dies without leaving behind a last will and testament, the state's laws of intestate succession dictate how the property is distributed. Intestacy laws can be difficult to apply, so talk to a Michigan attorney if you need legal advice.
Intestate succession applies automatically to any property in Michigan that isn't otherwise disposed of according to state law. Michigan Compiled Laws section 700.2101 states that any portion of a person's estate that doesn't get disposed of by a last will and testament must be handed out according to the intestate succession laws. An estate is all the property you leave behind, so the law means that if you die without a will, your property must be distributed according to the state's intestacy provisions.
When a person dies without a will, the Michigan intestacy laws apply a pre-established set of rules that determine how an estate is distributed. These laws give estate property to the heirs of the decedent based on how they are related. For example, Michigan Compiled Laws section 700.2102 states that if a person dies leaving behind a spouse and a surviving parent, the spouse receives the first $150,000 of the estate, plus three-quarters of the remaining estate, with the final one-quarter passing to the surviving parent.
To avoid the laws of intestate succession, Michigan residents need only create a valid last will and testament. A Michigan will must be made in writing. If a person, called a testator, creates a will in his own handwriting, he must write the entire document in his handwriting and sign it. If not made in his own handwriting, he must sign the will and have two competent adult witnesses sign it as well. A will can direct the estate to be distributed in any way the testator desires.
The Michigan intestate succession law makes it possible for a person's entire estate to pass to the state of Michigan. In the rare event that a person dies without leaving behind a spouse, children, family members or any other heirs, the estate property passes to the state, according to Michigan Compiled Law 700.2105. This means that if you live in Michigan and fail to create a last will and testament, and if you don't have any heirs, the state inherits your property whether you want it to or not.
Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.