The Doak Law Firm provides services relating to wills, estates and trusts.
When someone that you love dies, it’s important to know what to do. Many times we are so overwhelmed with grief and the world seems like it is spinning. To then be able to pull together the right paperwork and take the right steps can be difficult and scary. You will likely need a probate attorney that will help you manage the Michigan will or trust properly.
What is Probate?
In Michigan, Probate Court is the court that has the ability to manage someone’s property after they die. So Probate Court is the court to go to transfer someone’s property after they have died.
However, Probate Court is not just a place, it is also something we do. When we “probate” an estate, that means we actually put the property through the court and distribute it to the heirs and provide notice to everyone. Heirs are people that have a right to inherit either through a will or because the law says they do. When this process is done properly, it is done so that people (including heirs and creditors) cannot come back later and claim ownership of the property. So there are two objects to probate. One is to get the property of the estate transferred to the heirs. The other is object is to clear title to the property and try to avoid later litigation over who may own it.
There are two kinds of probate. One is a formal procedure called “formal probate.” In formal probate the court is regularly involved. The other is “informal probate”, where the court is involved, but not often. It is left up to the personal representative (also referred to sometimes as an executor) to distribute the property and file the appropriate petitions and paperwork with the court. Most estates in Michigan are informally probated.
In both processes, a personal representative is appointed. This person controls the estate assets and is responsible to make sure it gets distributed to the heirs. In other states, this person may be called the executor. This person has a special legal relationship to the property of the decedent and to the heirs. That relationship is called a “fiduciary relationship.” A fiduciary relationship is a relationship of trust that is governed by law. A fiduciary, such as a personal representative, is responsible to properly handle the property of the estate. If they don’t they can get in trouble. This person is responsible to make sure they know the rules. The personal representative is entitled to a fee for the time and expenses of the estate, but must account for their time and show receipts and proof of their expenses. Probate provides a method of accountability and fairness to the heirs and people that will inherit under a will. The disadvantage is that it can take some time and it does cost money to probate an estate.
Most probate procedures take about a year to complete, and some take less. Some probate does take longer if it is complicated or difficult. Having an attorney to guide the personal representative through the probate court procedure and process is important. It also may be important for an heir or someone that is going to inherit to have an attorney.
The cost of probating an estate varies depending on the difficulty and the amount of property involved. A trust doesn’t always avoid probate, particularly if the trust was created or maintained incorrectly. But other situations, such as a wrongful death claim or other problems may arise that would require a probate estate.
If someone you love dies you should call an attorney and get some direction. If you have an original will or trust or have access to either one, you need to take that to the attorney and develop a plan to take care of the estate of your loved one.
***This web site and article is for informational purposes only and is intended to give you, the viewer, information about the type of services provided by the Doak Law Firm. This is not intended as nor should this web site or article be used as legal advice. Your case should be specifically reviewed by an attorney. Contacting the Doak Law Firm via this web site, Facebook, Twitter, via e-mail, or via phone does not create an attorney-client relationship. An attorney client relationship can only be created by express written agreement with the Doak Law Firm. We offer a free ½ hour consultation which is no risk to you to allow you access to the legal advice you need to know the proper direction to take your case. Start there. That is the smart choice. ***
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Doak Law Firm, PC
219 East Main Street suite 1
Boyne City, MI 49712
Phone: (231) 582-0712
Fax: (206) 888-4849