Informal Probate vs Formal Probate
Which Probate Process Is Right For You?

Deciding between informal probate vs formal probate can be confusing. When opening a Michigan probate, the Personal Representative may choose an informal probate or formal probate proceeding to administer the decedent’s estate. You should carefully consider each option to determine which is best for your family’s situation.

informal probate vs formal probate

Formal proceedings generally take longer to complete, but they add extra security and court oversight. Formal probate is best used when an estate is large and complex or when there are disagreements about the Will. Informal proceedings are simpler and less expensive and don’t require oversight from a probate court judge, but rather a probate register. To decide between informal probate vs formal probate, you should consult with an experienced probate attorney.

Formal Probate in Michigan

Formal probate is best used when there is disagreement regarding the estate. This could be a disagreement about the Will, Trust, or the appointment of a Personal Representative. If an estate is large and complex, you may choose a formal proceeding. Formal proceedings are completed in front of a probate court judge. This may be beneficial because it offers more oversight when administering and closing the decedent’s estate.

Within formal probate, there is supervised and unsupervised administration.

Supervised requires court review and approval throughout the entire process. This means that the Personal Representative will have to gain approval in most aspects of the estate administration.

Unsupervised allows the Personal Representative to act independently from the court unless there is a request for intervention from an interested party in the estate.

In many cases, formal unsupervised administration is preferred because it is more private, less time-consuming, and costly.

Informal Probate in Michigan

When analyzing informal probate vs formal probate, it’s important to note that informal probate is typically more straightforward because it involves fewer steps and is less costly and time-consuming. Informal probate is completed before a probate register instead of a judge, so there are fewer precautions than formal administration. There are various forms required to open a probate and appoint a Personal Representative.

When Can an Estate Go Through Informal Probate vs Formal Probate?

Depending on the circumstances, an estate may go through informal probate vs formal probate. An estate may go through informal probate if no one is contesting the validity of the decedent’s Will. If there is no Will, the estate can still go through informal administration if there is no disagreement about who the legal heirs of the estate are.

There is no specific estate value required for an estate to go through formal probate rather than informal probate. However, those with larger, more complex estates may be better off going through formal administration. If you’re unsure which type of administration is best for you, it is best to speak with an experienced Michigan Probate Lawyer.

Estates worth less than $24,000 may qualify for a shorter, more streamlined proceeding. This is known as a “small estate” proceeding. This may be beneficial if a spouse or children are the only heirs.

How Does Informal Probate Get Started?

One of the differences between informal probate vs formal probate is how the probate process gets started. An interested party may begin informal probate proceedings by filing an application with the probate register of the county probate court where the decedent resided. If the decedent didn’t live in Michigan and only owned property in Michigan, the probate must be filed in the county where the property was located. The interested party is typically a family member, but it may also be someone named in the decedent’s Will or a creditor. If your loved one has passed away, you must open their estate within 42 days of their death, or someone else may do so.

A Personal Representative will be named to represent and administer the estate. If someone was appointed as Personal Representative in the Will, they have priority to open the estate. If the individual filing the application was not named in the Will, they may still be appointed as Personal Representative so long as no one contests their appointment. However, even if someone is named in the Will, they cannot act until the probate register has appointed them as Personal Representative.

If you would like to apply for Personal Representative and there are others with a higher priority than you according to Michigan law, you must serve them with the probate application showing your intent to open the estate. In addition, you must supply the court with proof that you served the individuals with the application when it becomes time to file the paperwork. Once you serve the notice, you have to wait 7 to 14 days to file the probate application depending on how you served the individuals.

What Does a Personal Representative Do?

The Personal Representative is in charge of administering the estate, which includes identifying and locating the decedent’s property. The Personal Representative’s duties include:

  • Serving interested parties
  • Preparing an inventory of the assets
  • Paying taxes and creditors
  • Distribute the estate’s assets according to the Will or Michigan law
  • File all closing documents
Do I Need a Michigan Probate Lawyer?

The difference between informal probate vs formal probate can be confusing and complicated to navigate. An experienced Michigan Probate Attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure everything goes smoothly. Having an attorney is a significant benefit to the estate, and for this reason, attorney fees may be able to be paid out of the estate’s funds rather than out of your pocket.

If you have any questions about informal probate vs formal probate, we invite you to contact our law office to schedule a free consultation. Just call (248) 613-0007 and tell our friendly receptionist that you would like to schedule a free case evaluation. 

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