If someone dies without a last will and testament in Michigan, then the distribution of his or her estate is determined by Michigan’s intestate laws. The Estates and Protected Individuals Code sets out the list of individuals that would inherit if someone dies “intestate”, meaning that no valid will was left behind. “[T]he entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse, passes in the following order to the following individuals who survive the decedent:”
- “The decedent’s descendants by representation.” MCL 700.2103(a).
- “If there is no surviving descendant, the decedent’s parents equally if both survive or to the surviving parent.” MCL 700.2103(b).
- “If there is no surviving descendant or parent, the descendants of the decedent’s parents or of either of them by representation.” MCL 700.2103(c).
Siblings may be entitled to inherit if the decedent passed away without leaving any surviving spouse, descendants, or parents. While siblings are rather low on the priority list, their inheritance rights may become very relevant if the decedent never married or had children (and outlived his or her parents). This blog article will explain some specific provisions related to sibling inheritance in Michigan.
Half-siblings are those siblings that share only one common parent between them. For example, half-siblings may have the same father but different mothers.
Michigan law treats half-siblings the same as full siblings for the purposes of intestate succession. MCL 700.2107 states “[a] relative of the half-blood inherits the same share he or she would inherit if he or she were of the whole blood.” There is no discount on the intestate share received just because they are not full-blood relations.
For example, a decedent dies without a spouse, descendants or parents and has one full brother, one half-sister through his father, and two half-brothers through his mother. Since full-siblings and half-siblings are treated the same, all four surviving siblings will receive 25% of the estate each.
According to MCL 700.1103(f), a “child” includes, “but is not limited to, an individual entitled to take as a child… by intestate succession from the parent whose relationship is involved. Child does not include an individual who is only a stepchild…”.
Step-siblings are those siblings that share no common parents between them but at least one of their parents is married to the other parent. Since there can be no stepchildren that are also “the descendants of the decedent’s parents” as required by MCL 700.2103(c), then step-siblings do not inherit under Michigan’s intestate succession laws.
However, as explained next, the step-sibling will become a legal heir if he or she is legally adopted by the decedent’s parent or parents.
Generally, “[a]n adopted individual is the child of his or her adoptive parent or parents and not of his or her natural parents.” MCL 700.2114(2). “An individual is considered to be adopted… when a court of competent jurisdiction enters an interlocutory decree of adoption that is not vacated or reversed.” Id. A child that is adopted has the same legal rights to inherit through the adoptive parent as the biological children do. Adopted siblings would be entitled to inherit through MCL 700.2103(c) of Michigan’s intestate succession laws.
A foster sibling, however, does not count unless that foster sibling was legally adopted by the decedent’s parent. MCL 700.1103(f) explicitly excludes from the definition of child an “individual who is only… [a] foster child.”.
PROPER ESTATE PLANNING CAN PROVIDE FOR OR EXCLUDE YOUR SIBLINGS ACCORDING TO YOUR WISHES
If you want any of your siblings to receive a bequest from you directly, you must specifically name them as beneficiaries using at least one estate planning tool such as a will, trust, or beneficiary designation. Otherwise, they will likely be bypassed by your more immediate heirs under Michigan’s intestate laws. On the other hand, if you do not have a spouse or children and you do not want your estate going to your siblings or their descendants, then you can create the appropriate estate planning paperwork to make sure that your assets go to close friends, significant others or even charitable organizations. It is recommended that these documents are prepared with the assistance of a skilled probate lawyer to ensure all of your wishes are carried out. Otherwise, your estate may be subject to distributions that you did not intend for under Michigan law.
If you or a loved one have any further questions or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.