After a loved one passes away, the probate administration allows for effective management and distribution of the deceased individual’s assets. The probate process refers to the process of filing a will in court and administering the estate. Though most people associate probate proceedings with a "last will and testament," intestate estates (when a person dies without a will) can also go through the probate process and be administered under the laws of the State of Michigan. We can help you understand the probate administration process and can offer assistance and legal advice to another individual who is administering a probate estate.
THE PROBATE ADMINISTRATION PROCESS
WITH A WILL. The probate process begins by filing the will in probate court. If there are no objections to the will, the named executor or personal representative will pay debts of the estate and distribute any remaining assets to beneficiaries. If the deceased individual created a last will and testament, this document determines the distribution of assets during the probate proceeding.
WITHOUT A WILL. The probate process is also used if there is no will, or if the will only covers part of the estate, Michigan law will determine the beneficiaries and distribution. Contrary to popular belief, the estate does NOT go to the government if you have no will.
With or without a will, the probate court oversees the administration process. Typically, the process includes the following steps:
- Appoint an executor or personal representative if there is not one already named in the testamentary will. If an individual does not specify an executor or that person cannot or does not wish to do the job, the court will determine who will be the personal representative or executor of the estate. This person is entitled to collect fees from the estate for work performed.
- Identify and notify heirs, beneficiaries, creditors and the public about the deceased individual and the creation of the probate estate.
- Appraise property. The executor or personal representative must inventory all property to determine the value of the estate. If the estate lacks sufficient assets to pay off creditors, beneficiaries may not receive some or all of their inheritance.
- Pay taxes, creditors and distribute assets to beneficiaries. Creditors, including the IRS, receive payment according to a priority order and any leftover funds are distributed amongst the heirs according to the will or the requirements of the law.
COMPLICATIONS TO THE PROBATE PROCESS
The probate administration process is not always simple. Some complications can arise with assets that are not subject to probate. Properties such as life insurance policies, properties owned through a living trust, and titles considered “joint tenants with right of survivorship” do not pass through probate.
Individuals receiving disproportionate amounts of the estate may contest the will. These issues require an estate planning attorney to reach a resolution.