Estate planning attorneys will always encourage you to plan your estate, and there is a reason beyond that they like to be employed. Strange things can happen when you fail to plan. There may be tax consequences that are unfortunate, and that could have been avoided. Some of your estate may go to people whom you do not know and that you would not have wanted to receive a share.
A story of a Irish widow who died without a will in 2008, the consequences of her intestate distribution, that while happy for the recipients of the inheritance, where most certainly unintended. The advantage of a will or an estate plan is that it places you in control of your distribution. If you have an estate, it will be distributed, you can make the decision, or let the Michigan legislature do it for you.
The widow died in Ireland in 2008 intestate, or without a will. An Irish television program called "Dead Money," used genealogist to locate heirs of unclaimed Irish estates. They began searching for heirs of the $1.5 million estate.
They eventually located 17 beneficiaries who would each share a distribution of $36,000 from the estate. The happy ending part of the story, aside from people receiving an unexpected inheritance, was that some of the heirs in Boston, MA, found they lived within miles of each other and had never known of their relatives.
While this was a happy ending, there are many unhappy endings, where estates remain unclaimed and eventually "escheat" back to the state. If you are fortunate to have wealth to pass on, a thoughtful estate plan can ensure that you can do the most good, and that you control who benefits from the inheritance.
Source: The Irish Times, "Genealogists discover Massachusetts strangers are rightful heirs to $1.5 million estate in Ireland," March 15, 2013