Michigan Small Estate Probate Process
The 4 Processes Explained


When someone passes away, their debts need to be paid, and their money and property must be distributed to their survivors. If your loved one did not have a proper estate plan in place, like a Living Trust, their estate might need to go through Probate.

michigan small estate probate

Probate is the public court process of administering a person’s estate after death. Probate may be formal or informal. However, if an estate is small, there is a special process called Michigan small estate probate that may be less costly and time consuming.

What Is Michigan Small Estate Probate?

There are various ways an estate may be administered. The type of administration depends on what the decedent owned at their death. If the estate doesn’t have a large amount of property, you may be able to use a more straightforward process known as Michigan small estate probate administration.

An estate is considered a small estate when the property is valued at $24,000 or less. In most Michigan small estate probate cases, no court oversight is required.

If the decedent only left wages from a job, a vehicle, or personal property, they may be transferred individually without the need for Probate.

What Is In An Estate?

When someone passes away, everything they owned at their time of death becomes part of their estate. The estate must be distributed to the decedent’s loved one according to their Will. If there was no Will, the estate should be distributed according to Michigan probate law.

Things the decedent may have owned include:

  • Real property: Homes, buildings, land, and everything that is attached to it
  • Personal property: Furniture, vehicles, jewelry, and all other items that are not attached to land
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks or bonds
  • Debt

What Is Not Included In An Estate?

Although a decedent’s estate includes a lot of property, some items that do not go through Probate. These items typically include:

  • Insurance policies
  • Any property or bank accounts owned jointly
  • Retirement accounts
  • Items held in a Living Trust

Michigan Small Estate Probate Process #1 - Assignment of Property

Assignment of property is a process you may use if the decedent owned real property solely in their name when they passed away. You may also use this process even if the decedent did not have real property. This is the only process that requires court oversight from a Probate judge. They review and approve the division of property.

The person using this Michigan small estate probate process must be an heir of the decedent or the person who paid for the funeral expenses. They must also know all of the decedent’s property and know all of the information regarding the funeral and burial expenses.

Assignment of Property Process

To begin this process, you must file a Petition and Order for Assignment with the county probate court where the decedent lived. If the decedent did not live in Michigan and only owned property in Michigan, file the document in the county where the decedent’s property is located.

When filing the document, you must provide a certified copy of the Certificate of Death and proof that the funeral expenses have been paid. If the funeral expenses have not been paid, you may provide a bill with the amount owed.

The court will order you to pay the funeral expenses if they were not already paid or reimbursed to whoever paid them. The funeral expenses will then be deducted from the estate’s value when determining if the estate is small. If the decedent had no cash, their property might need to be sold to pay funeral expenses.

Probate Process #2 - Transfer by Affidavit

According to the Michigan small estate probate process, if the estate does not have any real property, you may transfer the property through an affidavit. The affidavit does not require any court involvement. The person completing the affidavit may receive the property by providing the Certificate of Death and the affidavit to the individual or institution who owns the property.

To begin the Affidavit process, you must be an heir entitled to property and know the following:

  • What property the decedent owned
  • Who the decedent’s heirs are
  • Names and addresses of the heirs who will receive the property

To use the affidavit process, the estate must not include real property, and must have a value less than or equal to $24,000. If the probate court has appointed a Personal Representative, you may not use the affidavit process.

Transfer by Affidavit Process

To start the affidavit process, you must complete the form and sign it in front of a notary. You must then show the Affidavit and a copy of the Certificate of Death to the person or institution who holds the property. The person should turn it over to you, and they may keep a copy of the Affidavit for their records.

For example, if your mother had a bank account, you may take the affidavit and Certificate of Death to the bank, and they should transfer the money to you. If multiple heirs are listed on the affidavit, the bank may write checks to each Heir for their share of the account.

Michigan Small Estate Probate Process #3 - Money Due from an Employer

The third Michigan small estate probate process deals with receiving money due from a deceased person’s employer. If you are using either the Assignment of Property or Affidavit process and the decedent’s employer owed the decedent money or benefits, show the employer a certified copy of the Certificate of Death and the Order for Assignment or Affidavit, and the employer should give you the money or benefit owed.

If the only property the decedent left was wages or benefits from their employer, then you do not need a court order. The employer may have a contract or plan that states how and to whom their wages should be distributed upon death, and the employer should pay them to that person or persons.

If there is no contract, the employer should distribute the wages in the following order:

  • To the surviving spouse
  • If no surviving spouse, then to their children
  • If no children, then to their parents
  • If no parents, then to their siblings

Probate Process #4 - Transferring a Vehicle

The fourth Michigan small estate probate process deals with transferring a deceased person’s vehicle. If the decedent owned a vehicle, it can be transferred with the Secretary of State using a form. You may use this process if:

  • The estate is not being distributed through the probate court
  • The vehicle or vehicles are worth less than $60,000
  • There is no lien on the vehicle, or you can pay the lien in full at the time of transfer.

To transfer the vehicle, the surviving spouse must complete a Certification from the Heir to a Vehicle form. You will also need a certified copy of the Certificate of Death and the vehicle’s title.

If there is no surviving spouse, then it may be possible for more than one heir to have equal rights to the vehicle. Those who have no interest in the vehicle must sign a form stating that they give up their interest.

If the vehicle is given to someone who is not a spouse or heir, they will have to pay use tax.

Summary

When someone passes away, their debts need to be paid, and their money and property must be distributed to their survivors.

There are various ways an estate may be administered. If the estate doesn’t have a large amount of property, you may be able to use a more straightforward process known as the Michigan small estate probate process.

An estate is considered a small estate when the property is valued at $24,000 or less.

You may use the petition and Order for Assignment process if the decedent had real or personal property. This process involves court oversight.

You may also transfer property with an affidavit if the estate has no real property.

If the decedent left wages from their employer, you may show them the Petition and Order for Assignment or Affidavit, and the employer should release the wages.

If the decedent had a vehicle, you may transfer the vehicle through the Secretary of State without court involvement.

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