Estates

Estates

WHEN IS PROBATE REQUIRED?
 
Generally speaking, probate is only necessary when a person dies leaving property in his or her own name (such as a house titled only in the name of the decedent) or having rights to receive property (such as wrongful death claim or a debt owed to the decedent).  However, not all property in which the decedent has an interest will be subject to probate.  There are 4 kinds of property which pass to a new owner on death without going through probate.  Note that personal representatives must file a letter of authority annually and remit the inventory fee in the first year.  If the letter is not updated annually the case will be administratively closed.  A $100 fee will be required to reopen the case.
 
READ BELOW TO DETERMINE WHICH TYPE OF ESTATE WOULD BEST SUIT YOUR NEEDS: 
 
a.    Unsupervised - Informal probate - permits the Personal Representative (PR) to act in a manner independent of court intervention unless supervision is requested by the PR or an interested person (such as an unpaid creditor or an estate beneficiary).  This form of administration is generally preferred unless there is a specific reason to request the court’s supervision of the estate.  In addition, because there is less court involvement, unsupervised administration offers some privacy for the decedent's family, as fewer details concerning the estate's administration will be in the court file and available for inspection by the public and the media.
 
b.    Supervised - Formal probate  - requires the probate court's review and approval of much of the estate activities.  For example, in supervised administration the court would be required to (i) approve the sale of the decedent's real estate (unless the decedent's will authorizes the PR to do so), (ii) authorize the payment of PR and attorney fees, (iii) review the PR's accounting of all receipts and disbursements, and (iv) approve all distributions to heirs (people receiving property from the estate if there is no will) and devisees (people receiving property under a will).  While the court's involvement frequently adds to the time and expense of administering an estate, the court's supervision will likely afford greater protection to the PR and the other interested persons against losses and claims.
 
c.     Estate under $22,000 * -   all of the real and personal property owned by the decedent has a total value equal to or less than the sum of the following: (1) the funeral and burial expenses; plus (2) $22,000.  Upon presentation of a petition and payment of the filing and inventory fee, the probate court may order that the funeral and burial expenses be paid, if they have not been paid, or that the person who paid them be reimbursed.  The balance of the property will be assigned to the surviving spouse, or if none, to the decedent's heirs under Michigan's law of intestate succession.  No court hearing is held, no will is probated, and no personal representative is appointed.
 
d.     Affidavit of Decedent's successor for delivery of certain assets owned by decedent -   if an estate is under $22,000 in value, there is no real property, and it has been more than 28 days after a decedent's date of death, you may be able to use this form to present to an institution to obtain the funds (i.e., bank, stock company).
 
* 2014 value is $22,000, check Estate under $22,000 page for prior year values.