Probate and Estate Administration


Probate by definition:

Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased.  It is also the administration of decedents estates who are not fortunate enough to have a will.  Probate court can include Guardianship and conservator-ships Estates, Minor Guardianship and Juvenile matters.

What does it mean to Probate the estate of a decedent?

Probating an estate of a decedent means to open up an estate in one of Michigan’s probate courts  for a person who has died, to transfer ownership or title of property in the deceased person’s name to his or her heirs or descendants.  Probate is required when a person dies and the property is titled solely in the decedents name, unlike when property is held in joint names, when there is a beneficiary designation such as life insurance, or when the property is held in trust.  Probate used to be a slow and costly process, but laws have been passed to simplify it and speed it up such that most estates must be closed within a year of being opened. 

What's Involved?

Estate administration after a persons death involves; gathering the assets of the estate, paying the debts and final expenses of the decedent and distributing any remaining assets.

The assets include solely owned as well as jointly owned assets, assets held in a trust, any business interests, life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and so on.  

A lawyer will help you avoid mistakes in the administration and make sure you are not personally being held liable for the decedent's debts.  In addition, the legal fees are paid from the estate.  Using a lawyer is especially important if there is any question  concerning who should receive the decedent's assets or if there is a conflict among the heirs or beneficiaries. 

What steps should I take after the decedents death?

As soon as conveniently possible after someone's death, it is important to locate any documents pertaining to last will and testament in addition to assets and ensure they are given to the person who's responsibility it is to complete the decedents affairs.  

Items to consider include; directives regarding funeral arrangements including any prepaid funeral and burial contracts, the original last will and testament, any trust agreement, bank statements, keys to safe-deposit boxes, vehicle titles, tax returns, stock certificates, copies of outstanding bills and so on.

When is Probate required?

Generally probate is required when a person dies owning property titles in his or her own name.  There are three kinds of property that do not need to be probated: 

  • joint owned property that goes to the surviving owner
  • specified property that goes to a named beneficiary
  • and the property owned by a trust.

For further explanation of each of these types of property, please don't hesitate to contact us.  

Powers of Attorney

Durable Power of Attorney.  Powers of Attorney allow someone to manage your property if you cannot.  These documents are used while you are competent to allow your agent to do whatever you could but cannot do for whatever reason.  The other added feature of a Durable Power of Attorney is that they survive incompetency.  In other words, if you become incompetent for whatever reason your agent would not necessarily have to go to probate court to become a Guardian or a Conservator to transact your business.

Health Care Power of Attorney/Living Wills/Medical Directive.  What are they: Appoints an agent to make medical decisions for you such as shutting off life support. These documents can not be used until you cannot make medical decisions yourself.

Michigan Health Care Powers of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you during any period of incompetency.

These agents can terminate life support or direct that it be left on depending on your wishes as explained to your agent and as directed in the Power of Attorney.


Medicaid Planning

Medicaid plannings goal is to preserve your estate for your children if you end up in a nursing home.  The goal is to have the government pay for it and not have your estate eaten up by nursing home costs.

Have other questions about probate?

Do you have additional questions such as; "can the estate pay the personal representative"? or" can my authority as the personal representative be taken away from me"? Please don't hesitate to contact our office and we will guide you through the process making sure all your questions are answered. 

The breadth of possible questions that surround Probate may be too numerous to include on this website, Probate can be made pain free with appropriate legal council.