If you’ve recently been named the personal representative of a loved one’s estate, you’ve been given a tremendous responsibility. You’ll need to initiate the probate process to ensure that your loved one’s assets are correctly inventoried and distributed before their estate is formally settled.

While there are multiple steps in the probate process and many potential complications to avoid, you don’t have to handle things on your own. Our experienced probate attorneys can answer any questions you have, guide you through each step, and ensure you avoid issues that could lead to estate litigation.

About Probate

Probate is a court-managed proceeding to retitle and distribute an individual’s assets after they pass away. These assets are distributed according to the decedent’s will, or if the person passed away without a will, according to what is known as the law of intestacy.

Although probate does apply to most assets, some types of property within a person’s estate are specifically excluded. Assets that don’t go through probate include:

  • Bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, and other assets with a named beneficiary designation
  • Property owned in joint tenancy or with a spouse as tenancy by the entirety
  • Assets held in a revocable living trust

If a person’s estate is very small, the full probate process may not be necessary regardless of the type of assets owned. Michigan offers a simpler procedure for small estates with a value of less than $27,000 after funeral and burial costs are paid or estates that are only large enough to cover certain final expenses related to the decedent’s last illness, the family allowance, the homestead allowance, and certain additional qualified expenses. An estate planning attorney can help you determine if your loved one’s estate requires the full probate process.

Steps Involved in Probate

While no two estates are the same, a “typical” estate often requires the person handling the settlement to perform the following duties:

  • Locate and file the deceased person's will with the probate court
  • File necessary documents with the court
  • Locate, inventory, close, and transfer personal assets and accounts
  • Appraise the value of all assets
  • Notify all known creditors of the estate
  • Make payments to creditors and obtain creditor releases
  • Process and obtain any life insurance death benefits
  • Secure the deceased person's home and tangible personal property
  • File tax returns (federal and Michigan)
  • Pay estate taxes (if any) and the deceased person's final personal income taxes
  • Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts, and state taxing authorities
  • Make specific bequests, together with distributions, to beneficiaries
  • Provide detailed accounting to the local court and beneficiaries

Associated Costs

The probate process can involve a number of different expenses. In Michigan, probate costs commonly include:

  • Court costs that are based on the value of the estate
  • Appraisal fees to determine the value of different types of assets
  • A fee for the personal representative to compensate them for the time and effort involved in the process
  • Attorney fees for legal assistance with the various probate steps

Fees for probate are paid out of the estate. If expenses arise before the personal representative has been able to create a bank account for funds from the estate, they may need to pay expenses out of pocket and seek reimbursement at a later date.

Timeframe to Complete the Probate Process

The time that is necessary to complete the probate process will vary depending upon the number of creditors and heirs as well as the type of assets contained in the estate. However, most Michigan estates are able to complete probate within six months to one year after the personal representative has been appointed.

There are a few reasons why probate may take more than one year:

  • The estate is large enough to owe federal estate tax.
  • The will is being contested in court.
  • There are assets, such as real estate, that need to be cleared out and prepared for sale. 

Get Help Now

We can handle the probate process for you from beginning to end so that you and your family can focus on what is most important—coming to terms with your grief. 

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you settle your loved one’s estate in the most efficient manner possible. Consultations are available at our Howell or Clinton Township offices or anywhere in Michigan virtually.