Michigan Probate Laws
4 Steps in the Probate Process Explained
If you or a family member passes away in Michigan without the proper legal estate planning documents in place, Michigan Probate Laws will dictate how your estate will be distributed after your death.
When we say estate, we mean all of the money, property, and debt you owned at the time of your passing.
The Probate process can be confusing, time consuming, and stressful. The purpose of this article is to clarify Michigan Probate Laws to help you navigate the process. While this article can serve as a very useful guide, it should not be considered a substitute for legal advice from a professional attorney.
After you read this article, if you need help with probate in Michigan, please contact our experienced Michigan Probate Lawyers here at Rochester Law Center for a free case evaluation.
Before we take a deep dive into Michigan Probate Laws, we should go over some useful definitions that we will use throughout the article to help give you some context.
Michigan Probate Law Definitions
All of the money, property, and debt you own when you die.
The person who has passed away whose estate needs to go through Probate Court.
Your beneficiaries are the people you specify in your written estate plan to inherit your money and property after you pass away. Typically, this is a spouse, children, grandchildren, but can be anyone you choose. Sometimes people refer to beneficiaries as “heirs”.
This is the court supervised process of distributing someone’s estate after they pass away. This is sometimes referred to as estate administration or “settling an estate”.
Sometimes after a death, the loved ones of a decedent may get into a fight regarding what they believe they are entitled to from the decedent’s estate. For example, if a relative disagrees with what they were left in the decedent’s Will, they can contest the Will in court. This sometimes results in a formal legal dispute that needs to be settled in court. This is called Probate Litigation.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament in Michigan the Estate Planning document people are most commonly aware of. In general, it dictates who should receive your money and property after you die. It’s important to note that a Will does not avoid Probate Court. After you die, your Will needs to go through the Probate Court in the county in which you live. The Will tells the Probate Court who should inherit your money and property after you die and who should distribute these assets.
The person who is legally appointed through a Will or by the Probate Court to administer a decedent’s estate.
A Living Trust is an Estate Planning document that is similar to a Will. However, unlike a Will, a Living Trust avoids Probate Court. Instead of having to go through public court proceedings in order to distribute assets, the assets are distributed privately. In general, passing assets through a Trust is much faster and more private since the Living Trust avoids Probate.
Now that you have an understanding of some important terms, let’s discuss when Probate is required.
Michigan Probate Laws and Rules - When is Probate Required?
It may be necessary to open a Probate in Michigan when:
1. Someone passes away without a Will.
2. The decedent had a Will, but not a Living Trust.
3. The decedent had a Living Trust, but there are family members or creditors contesting it.
When is Probate NOT Required in Michigan?
There are 3 instances when Michigan Probate Laws do not require certain assets to go through probate court. They are as follows:
- Assets that are jointly owned. For example, a house is jointly owned by a husband and wife. If the husband dies, the house will go directly to the wife without the need for probate because she jointly owned the home with her late husband.
- Assets with beneficiary designations. For example, a retirement account with a designated beneficiary listed.
- Assets held in a Michigan Living Trust.
Do Michigan Probate Laws Require That Small Estates Go Through Probate?
Michigan Probate Laws allow for a simplified process for smaller estates that are less than $24,000 after funeral and burial costs have been paid. In these cases, Probate can be bypassed as long as the estate doesn’t contain any real estate.
The 4 Major Steps in the Michigan Probate Process
In general, there are the 4 major steps in the Michigan Probate process:
Appointing the Personal Representative to settle the estate
The Personal Representative is named in the Will or appointed by the Probate Court with Letters of Authority.
Inventorying the assets
The Personal Representative is responsible for taking an accurate inventory of all of the decedent’s assets like real estate and bank accounts so they can be distributed to the decedent’s heirs.
All of the decedent’s outstanding debts, taxes, and creditors need to be paid after their death.
The remaining assets that are left over after the decedent dies are distributed according to the Will. If the decedent didn’t make a Last Will before they died, the assets will be distributed according to Michigan law.
Do Michigan Probate Laws Apply If You Die Without A Will?
Your estate is considered “intestate” If you die without a Last Will and Testament in Michigan. This means that the estate becomes subject to Michigan’s intestacy laws. As a result, the court decides who will receive your assets. In this situation, the Probate Court will appoint a Personal Representative to settle the estate according to Michigan law.
The Different Types of Probate in Michigan
There are a variety of different probate processes that can occur in Michigan. The process is usually determined by whether or not the decedent had an Estate Plan, the types of documents that make up the estate plan, and the size of the estate.
Formal Probate usually occurs if an estate is large or if a Will is contested. Formal Probate can be supervised or unsupervised. In cases where the Probate is supervised, a judge must review and approve any activities that impact the estate. In general, this makes Formal Probate more complicated and time consuming.
Informal Probate in Michigan takes place in front of a probate register instead of a judge. It can be equally as hard and time consuming as Formal Probate, so it is recommended that you use a Probate Lawyer to help you through the process.
Probate for Small Estates
If an estate is worth less than $24,000, there is a simplified process called Probate for Small Estate that almost entirely bypasses Probate.
If a person dies without a Will, the Probate Court will distribute their money and property to Michigan’s intestacy laws.
This type of Probate usually occurs if the decedent owned real estate outside of their state of residence. For example, if someone owned a home in Michigan, died in Michigan, but also owned a home in Florida, an ancillary probate would need to be opened in Florida.
Frequently Asked Questions About Michigan Probate Laws
How do you start the Probate process in Michigan?
Probate must go through the county Probate Court in which the decedent resided at the time of their death.
Once you determine whether you need a formal or informal probate proceeding, you need to file a petition with the county Probate Court to get the process started.
How long does Probate take?
In Michigan, the minimum amount of time Probate takes is 5 months. However, most Probates take between 6 months to a year, but can take much longer in contested cases.
How much does Probate cost?
How much Probate costs in Michigan varies based on the value of the estate, the type of Probate required, if the decedent owned property outside of Michigan, if the Probate is contested, and the length of the Probate.
Do I need a Michigan Probate Lawyer?
If you need to go through Probate, it is highly recommended to hire an experienced Probate Lawyer in the state in which the decedent resided and owned real estate.
Probate is a notoriously long, stressful, and confusing process.
An attorney can help you speed up the process so that you can distribute your loved one’s money and property in the manner they would have wanted.
At Rochester Law Center, our compassionate and dedicated Michigan Probate Lawyers are experienced in all matters of Probate Administration and serve every county in the state of Michigan.
We make Probate fast, easy, and stress free by acting as your guide through the complicated paperwork and legal proceedings you’ll undoubtedly be facing throughout the Michigan probate process.
We understand the intricacies and nuances involved with Probating an Estate and can help you navigate every step of the way while keeping costs as low as possible.
Call us today at (248) 613-0007 for a free consultation.
Summary of Michigan Probate Laws
Michigan Probate Laws require a decedent’s assets go through Probate if the assets were held solely in their name. Assets usually don’t need to go through Probate if the assets that are jointly owned, the assets have a beneficiary designation, or the assets are held in a Living Trust. In general, Probate is a long and stressful process. If you find yourself in a position where you need to go through Probate, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney.