How Does Probate Court Work in Michigan | Probate Laws
When a loved one dies, the property they leave behind, from real estate to bank accounts, needs to be dispersed to those who are supposed to inherit it.
The role of Probate Court in Michigan is to make sure that property is legally distributed according to the wishes of the deceased.
Unfortunately, probate disputes happen far too often, often turning into a he-said, she-said argument over something that was not clear in the Will—or wasn’t included at all.
When that happens, it’s critically important to have a seasoned team of attorneys on your side who will work hard to not only fight for what’s rightfully yours but also to preserve familial relationships. The law team at Dingeman & Dancer, PLC, has vast experience with probate disputes and can help you make the best decisions for you and your family.
There are four main ways to probate an estate in Michigan, depending on a variety of factors:
- Filing an Affidavit is the simplest way to administer an estate in Michigan, but it has a couple of qualifications. The deceased person’s total assets must be less than $15,000 (this number is adjusted annually for inflation and was mostly recently set at $24,000 for 2020) and not include any real estate. If it is clear which heir is inheriting the assets, that person can present an Affidavit, along with a Death Certificate, to the decedent’s bank and have their money transferred into their possession. No Court involvement is typically needed for simpler estates.
- Small Estate Informal Probate is for those estates that fall below the $15,000 threshold (as adjusted annually for inflation; $24,000 for 2020) after payment of the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses and may also include real estate. While court involvement is necessary, it merely involves submitting a Petition and Order for Assignment listing the deceased person’s assets and heirs for entry by the Judge. No Court hearings are necessary.
- Unsupervised Informal Probate requires minimal Court supervision. The representative of the Estate reviews a Will to determine how assets will be divided up amongst heirs. This is the typical route taken if the decedent has created a very thorough Will that explains their exact intentions. The Court still needs to sign off on all documents related to that Estate, but barring any disputes over the assets, there are minimal Court hearings.
- Supervised Formal Probate is for more-complicated estates that require Court supervision from start to finish. It is typically used when the decedent had a long list of assets, including multiple real estate properties. But can also be used if a Will is not clearly written and there are multiple disputes over who gets what.
First, work with your attorney to determine if formal or informal probate is required for your decedent’s Estate. Then, you need to file a petition with the probate court in the Michigan county where the decedent lived to get the process started.
It can take anywhere from a few days to probate an estate under the $15,000 threshold to several months for Unsupervised and Supervised Probates. The size of the estate, the number of disputes, and several other factors play into how long it will take to probate an estate. The most complicated estates can take years to settle.
That’s why it’s important to hire experienced legal representation to keep the probate process moving along while keeping your interests at top of mind.
Each state has its own Probate laws, including Michigan. Here are a couple of Michigan probate laws that are important to understand:
- No estate taxes. Some states have an estate tax, which is a tax imposed on transfer the assets from the decedent to the heir. Michigan is not one of those states, but Federal estate taxes do apply. In addition to a lawyer, you should talk with a tax expert regarding any assets you inherit.
- Living Trusts avoid Probate altogether in Michigan. Also known as a Revocable Trust, a Living Trust is a preferred way to pass down assets to loved ones because it avoids the Probate process, unlike a Will. When the owner of the Living Trust dies, a person designated by the decedent manages the Trust and executes the decedent’s wishes as outlined by the Trust. Because Living Trusts avoid Probate, they can also avoid the court system and attorney fees. You will need an estate planning attorney, however, to transfer assets into a Living Trust.
Whether you want to start your estate planning or expect a contentious Probate of a loved one’s estate, you need an experienced attorney by your side.
Michigan estate lawyers Dingeman & Dancer bring decades of experience fighting for their clients while preserving their important relationships with family members. Call 231-929-0500 or submit an inquiry online to help protect your future.