Surviving spouses receive protection under intestate succession

Michigan law, like other states, provides for how a deceased person’s estate will pass if the deceased did not have a valid will in place. Many people die without a will. When they do, they have given up the power to direct who gets any part of their property.

Instead, the state of Michigan will dictate. This state-determined fate is what the law refers to as intestate succession. The Michigan Legislature, in section 700.2101, indicates that even if a decedent has a will, if any part of his estate is not addressed by the will, then it will be distributed as per Michigan’s laws of intestate succession.

Surviving spouse’s share

Without a directing will, the spouse of a decedent may receive more or less than the decedent would have wanted. Michigan section 700.2102 provides for what a surviving spouse will succeed to of his or her deceased spouse’s property.

A surviving spouse will take the entire estate if the deceased spouse has no surviving descendants or surviving parents. Descendants refers to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren or beyond.

When decedent has children with surviving spouse

However, if family details change, so may the amount of succession. For instance, the surviving spouse will get the first cost-of-living-adjusted $150,000 of the estate plus one half of the balance of the estate, if family details include the following:

  • The deceased spouse and the surviving spouse have surviving descendants in common
  • The deceased has no other surviving descendants that are not also descendants of the surviving spouse; his children are all her children
  • The surviving spouse has some or no surviving descendants that are unrelated to the deceased spouse

Thus, if an estate is worth $1 million, the surviving spouse will take an adjusted $150,000 and half of $850,000 for a total of $575,000. The numbers are all effected by the cost of living adjustment over the years. The remaining $425,000 passes either as expressed in a will or by intestate succession.

There are other provisions that cover differing family circumstances, including as follows:

  • If there are no surviving descendants but there is a surviving parent
  • If the decedent has surviving descendants, and at least one is not a descendent of the surviving spouse
  • If the decedent has surviving descendants but none are descendants of the surviving spouse

There are additional provisions for how to disperse the part of the estate not shared to the surviving spouse.

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