Sumner PC & Associates
Zealous Michigan Probate Attorneys Advocating for You
It is essential that you have competent legal representation from the onset of your case through litigation. A skilled Michigan probate lawyer can serve you through the process in a manner that carefully uses your time and resources. To learn more about how Sumner & Associates, PC can help you, contact us today.
Do You Need A Probate Attorney?
When a person dies, I like to think that their soul goes to heaven, but their property and debt stay here on earth. For this reason, we have the probate court. There is a probate court in every county in every state in the country. This is because when we pass, we leave assets and debt in our name. The probate court is part of the circuit court of each county. The court operates under a set of standard legal rules known as EPIC, which we discuss below.
What Is Probate?
The goal of probate is to dispose of the deceased person’s estate. Those steps may include:
- Proving that the will is valid
- Identifying property and assets owned by the deceased person
- Appraising property
- Paying taxes and debts incurred by the deceased person
- Distributing any remaining property owned by the deceased person
The probate process is usually guided by state laws and a will. If there is no will, all property will be handled according to state law. The probate process often involves a significant amount of legal documents that you must complete and file with the court, which is where a probate attorney can help.
Probate Can Be Time-Consuming and Expensive
The probate process is time-consuming and expensive. A typical estate takes 6-14 months and involves probate fees, filing fees, inventory fees, publication fees and Attorney fees, which can cost 4-8% of your estate. After you pass, your will is filed with the probate court (if you have one, otherwise, the state has one for you) along with certain documents to start the probate process. Your estate planning attorney runs the case in court and your personal representative does the “leg work” outside of court.
There are two types of full administration of a decedent’s estate.
- Supervised Administration requires the review and approval of the activities of the estate by the probate court.
- Independent Administration does not have the intervention of the probate court unless requested by an interested person or the personal representative is bound to carry out the administration of the estate from its inception through the distribution of the assets to your heirs and closing the estate.
Prompt action and experience are necessary to preserve the assets of the estate and protect the right of the beneficiaries. It is also necessary to obtain the original will.
Understanding the Probate Process
After a person dies, an executor is generally selected either by a will or by the court to handle the probate process and manage all property. One of the first tasks for the executor is to validate the will. This requires the executor to show signatures or provide witnesses proving that the will is valid and should be followed. The executor then must make a list of all property, assets, debts, etc. that are part of the estate. Also, relatives, creditors, and any potential beneficiaries must be notified of the death.
If there is any real property or assets that need maintenance, the executor must take care of those items throughout the probate process. That would include paying any bills and taxes associated with the property. Real estate must be maintained until it is passed on to the proper beneficiary. This can take as little as a few months, or it may be a year-long process.
If the estate includes any property like artwork or jewelry, the executor may have to have the property appraised. This is necessary for reporting purposes as well as taxation. In disposing of property, the executor may have to sell some assets to be distributed among beneficiaries.
If the probate process takes a long time, the immediate family of the deceased may ask for the court to release short-term support funds from the estate. This may be necessary to handle immediate needs such as funeral and burial expenses. If the deceased person has children or pets, they may need financial support sooner than the probate process concludes. A Michigan probate lawyer can help navigate the process in these difficult times.
Simplified Probate Process for Small Estates
The complex probate process is not necessary for all estates. If your loved one left certain kinds of property or a small estate, then you may be able to avoid some of the probate process. Michigan allows for simpler procedures if:
- The gross estate value is less than $15,000 (after funeral and burial costs); or
- The estate is only large enough to cover costs of the last illness and funeral, homestead allowance, family allowance, and minimal expenses.
If there was no real estate included in the estate and the estate was valued at less than $15,000, probate may be avoided altogether. In order to take advantage of this and avoid probate, the person to inherit the estate must simply sign an affidavit form and submit it to the court. The form must be signed under oath and under penalty of perjury, meaning it would be a crime to lie.
What Assets Don’t Have to Go Through Probate?
Additionally, there are some types of property that do not have to go through probate in Michigan, including:
- Assets held in joint tenancy (those which immediately pass possession upon death)
- Assets held with a spouse as tenancy by the entirety (those which pass to the surviving spouse immediately)
- Life insurance payable to a named beneficiary
- Assets that have a beneficiary designation (such as retirement accounts)
- Assets in a trust (often in a revocable living trust set up to avoid probate)
It’s beneficial to avoid probate because it can be extremely costly and time-consuming to go through the process. A Rochester Hills MI probate attorney can help you understand if your loved one’s estate may be able to avoid the probate process.
How Can Having a Will in Place Help?
A will is a document that provides guidance about what you want to do with your property when you pass away. When you die, the court will decide how to distribute your property unless you have a will in place. A will can convey your specific wishes regarding some of your property or in the handling of your assets.
If you have children or pets, it’s especially important to have a will. The probate process is not geared to handle who will receive responsibility for your children or pets. If there is a question, a family court may have to step in. You will want to have influence over who raises your dependents and who is responsible for their financial security.
Contesting a Will
When there is a will, it is generally followed. However, sometimes beneficiaries may want to contest the will. This may be because the family is unhappy with the way the estate is being distributed or they have questions about the validity of the will. This is why validating the will is an important part of the probate process.
Contact a Rochester Hills MI Probate Attorney Today
The probate process offers guidance for families and beneficiaries who have had loved ones who passed away. Although some estates are able to avoid probate, others can take months or years to go through the process. A Rochester Hills MI probate attorney can help. Contact Sumner & Associates, PC today.