How Does Probate Work in Michigan?

When someone passes away, their estate is left under the care of others for management and distribution. The legal process of handling a deceased person’s estate is known as probate and is a court-supervised legal process. It gives the surviving family members authority to collect the person’s assets, settle outstanding debts, and distribute what remains to the rightful heirs.

Probate can be lengthy, complex, and confusing. It would help to consult business and estate planning attorneys in Michigan for legal counsel on when probate is required and whether it’s possible to avoid it. Not all estates have to go through probate, depending on their value.

When is Probate Required in Michigan?

Probate court proceedings are necessary if the deceased person owned assets only in their name. Assets owned jointly can be transferred to the surviving owners without court involvement.

Probate is required when:

  • Someone passes away without a Will
  • The decedent had a Will, but not a Living Trust
  • Family members and creditors are contesting the decedent’s Living Trust

It can be challenging to follow through with the probate proceedings while mourning the loss of a loved one. That’s why you should engage the services of Kendal Law Group, skilled probate lawyers in Bloomfield Hills to provide legal representation during the process. They can fight to ensure your loved one’s assets end up in the right hands and your inheritance rights are upheld.

Which Assets Don’t Have to Go Through Probate in Michigan?

Assets that meet the following conditions don’t have to go through the probate process in Michigan:

  • Assets that the deceased owned in joint tenancy form as they automatically pass to the surviving owner
  • Property with a beneficiary designation, such as retirement accounts for which the decedent named a beneficiary
  • Assets owned as tenancy by the entirety by the deceased person and their spouse, which automatically pass to the surviving spouse
  • Life insurance proceeds payable to a named beneficiary.
  • Assets held in a Living Trust

Small Estates Undergo Simplified Probate

If an estate has little property, it may be eligible for a simplified or summary probate process where the court is not involved or only a bit. Generally, property exceeding $15,000 has to go through probate, but the limit could change depending on the year the property owner died, as the dollar limit tends to fluctuate yearly.

In 2023, property valued at $27,000 or less is considered a small estate. If the owner died in 2022, the value must be valued at $25,000 or less. For 2020 and 2021, the value is $24,000 or less.

The simplified probate process also applies to estates large enough to only to cover the expenses of the last illness and funeral, homestead allowance, family allowance, and some expenses. The simplified process entails the following:

  • Assignment of property
  • Transfer by Affidavit, with a 28-day wait period
  • Collection of money due from an employer
  • Transfer of vehicles worth not more than $60,000
  • Collection of personal property

Probate attorneys in Bloomfield Hills can help determine if your loved one’s estate qualifies for the simplified probate process.

Claiming a Small Estate Through an Affidavit

If an estate is worth less than $15,000 and contains no real estate, court probate isn’t necessary. Inheritors can use a simplified affidavit or a sworn statement to claim the decedent’s assets held by a bank or another institution.

For example, if you inherited a bank account from your loved one, you could fill out a small estate affidavit to claim the funds. You’d also need to present a copy of your loved one’s death certificate to the bank to support your claim.

How is the Value of an Estate Determined in Michigan?

Figuring out the value of an estate is complex because while some assets count toward the estate’s value, others don’t. Skilled Bloomfield Hills probate lawyers can help you arrive at the value of an estate in the following steps:

  • Figuring out how much the real estate, vehicles, personal items, insurance policies, and everything the deceased owned are worth
  • Subtracting the value of the assets that don’t have to go through probate, such as life insurance policies and jointly-owned investments.

Subtracting debt and non-probate assets from an estate’s value can be complicated, but skilled probate attorneys in Michigan can oversee the process to ensure you get it right.

How Do I Start Probate in Michigan?

The probate process’s first step is determining whether the deceased’s estate requires a formal or informal probate proceeding. Formal probate happens when there is a large estate or if someone contests the decedent’s Will. Some formal probate processes require a judge’s approval to protect the estate from adverse legal consequences.

Informal probates happen at the probate register instead of before a judge. Consult Kendal Law Group, experienced Bloomfield Hills business and estate planning lawyers for legal counsel if you need clarification on which probate process suits your loved one’s estate. They can also help you file a petition with the Probate Court in the decedent’s county to navigate the process efficiently.

How Soon After a Loved One’s Death Can I File a Probate Petition?

There’s no stipulated legal timeframe for filing a petition for probate in Michigan. However, filing as soon as possible will be in everyone’s best interests. The process can take between five months and a few years, depending on the following:

  • Whether the Will is contested
  • The size and complexity of the estate
  • Whether you have a probate attorney representing you
  • Whether there are other valid Estate Plans available

Seek Litigation and Legal Counsel That Delivers Results

Going through the probate process can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what it entails. Kendal Law Group are skilled probate lawyers in Michigan and know the steps to help you proceed with the process without many hitches. Their skills and experience give them an understanding of the legal nuances involved, and they know how to navigate the complex system in your favor.

Our business and estate planning lawyers in Bloomfield Hills are passionate about protecting clients’ rights after losing a loved one. We know the challenges of organizing and administering a loved one’s estate according to their Will. We can step in to ensure everything goes according to plan. Call the Kendal Law Group PC at 248-572-1050 for a FREE case evaluation.