Probate Lawyer Serving Ferndale, MI

Probate Lawyer Serving Ferndale, MI

Probate Lawyer Ferndale, MI

Do you have estate administration or probate matters to deal with? Bingham Legal Group, PC has the skill, experience, and compassion to help you protect your assets and wishes during this complex legal process. 

Our elder law attorneys have worked with numerous clients dealing with probate and are eager to discuss your case with you. Contact our office to learn more about how we can help.

Understanding Probate

Probate is a process that seeks to settle the estate of a recently deceased individual. It entails various important procedures meant to accomplish various important tasks, including paying off a decedent’s debts, disbursing money and assets to beneficiaries, and validating a decedent’s will. 

Executor or Personal Representative

During probate, the decedent’s executor or personal representative will be acting for the deceased. This individual is responsible for the administration of the estate and is often named by the decedent in their will before they pass away. 

When the decedent has not named an executor or personal representative, the court will appoint (in order) one of the following parties to be the executor:

  • Surviving spouse who is a named beneficiary in the will
  • Other named beneficiaries of the will
  • Surviving spouse not named in the will
  • Other heirs of the person who has died

If no qualified person can be found among the parties listed above, a creditor may choose an executor, who must eventually be approved by the probate judge. Whoever is chosen to serve as executor is strongly advised to seek the services of a skilled estate attorney. 

The complexities involved in Michigan probate law are notoriously difficult to grasp. Executors with attorneys guiding them save time and money.

Testing the Will

Whether there is a will or not, most estates of a certain value are required to go through probate. If there is a will, the judge will go through the process of validating the document. It is during this process that disputes often arise.

Will contests involve one or more parties contesting the validity or provisions of a will. Common challenges include:

  • The will not truly reflecting the desires of the deceased
  • The will being changed without the decedent’s knowledge
  • The existence of a superseding will
  • The will being unclear

Whatever the challenge, the judge will settle the issues according to probate law. If there is no will, the court will use the principles of Michigan probate law to settle the estate. 

Estate Liabilities

One of the most important aspects of probate involves paying off the estate’s debts. In fact, creditors typically get paid before beneficiaries. Depending on the circumstances, an estate’s liabilities may eclipse the value of the estate, in which case, creditors will likely be lining up to get a portion of the estate. 

When liabilities outweigh an estate’s worth, beneficiaries of the will may not receive much of an inheritance based on the assets that have gone through probate. However, there are strategies that attorneys use (such as the use of trusts and pay-on-death accounts) to keep valuable assets out of probate court and free from financial liabilities. 

Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries to an estate are typically named in the will of the decedent. But not all decedents have wills or wills that are valid. As mentioned, when no valid will is in place, the courts will use the principles of probate law to settle the estate. 

According to Michigan probate law, the following parties — listed in order of legal preference — will be in line to inherit a decedent’s estate when no valid will is present:

  • The surviving spouse
  • Surviving parents
  • Surviving descendants
  • Children or grandchildren of descendants of the deceased 
  • Siblings of the deceased
  • Grandparents

As you might imagine, probate can get quite complex when a will is not involved. Even with a will, any party facing probate issues is strongly advised to seek legal counsel to look after their best interests. 

Why You Should Hire an Attorney

Probate is a high-stakes, notoriously complex process used to resolve various legal and financial issues. An attorney will work diligently to safeguard your financial and legal interests throughout the process, whether you’re a personal representative, interested heir, or creditor. 

Whatever your needs and interests are with probate, your attorney will be capable of handling various essential tasks and important issues that may affect your interests.

Document Prep and Filing

Strict document and filing requirements govern probate court actions. Failure to properly create and complete the right forms can result in significant delays and problems. With an experienced probate lawyer representing you, you won’t have to worry about running afoul of complex probate rules and laws. 

Negotiations with Creditors

Creditors seek to recoup as much as possible from estates that owe them money. A skilled attorney can be instrumental to both creditors and beneficiaries during probate by utilizing effective negotiation practices.

Dispute Resolution Among Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries often battle through disputes during probate. Whether a will was present or not, a probate case could see beneficiaries each having lawyers engaged in probate litigation for their interests in the decedent’s estate. 

Probate Issues in Estate Planning

Although probate does not occur until death, you can make plans beforehand to help control how probate occurs and how your estate is administered. 

Without any will or other plans or documents, the court will use probate law to settle your estate. However, various documents and actions can put you in the driver’s seat when your estate goes through probate.

Trusts

Trusts are an efficient and effective way to control your assets and money after you have died. With a trust in place, the assets held in the trust bypass probate, making them immediately available for the trust’s beneficiary. 

This skipping of probate can be very helpful in cases where a surviving party needs immediate access to funds after the death of a loved one. With probate, the time it takes to get funds released could be extensive. With trust, however, there is no probate delay. 

POD Accounts

Pay-on-death accounts are another way to effectively avoid probate for certain assets. Take a savings account at your local bank. If you pass away, this account will be considered one of your assets and, in most cases, must go through probate like most other assets.

However, you have the authority to designate various types of financial accounts as POD accounts and assign them beneficiaries. Upon your passing, the account will automatically be payable to the POD beneficiary without the need for lengthy probate. 

Common account types that may be designated as POD accounts include:

  • Savings accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Certificate of deposit accounts
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • Investment accounts

Before designating a beneficiary to a POD account, it is important to receive proper guidance and counsel regarding this and other important probate issues. The ramifications of your decisions can be long-lasting and not necessarily desirable without the assistance of an attorney.

Get the Help You Need from an Experienced Ferndale, MI, Probate Lawyer

A lot is on the line in probate cases. Your hard-earned money and assets can end up where you don’t want them without proper guidance and planning. 

An experienced Ferndale, MI, probate and wills and trusts lawyer can make sure your estate is prepared for probate and your assets go where you wish without significant, unnecessary tax burdens.

For an initial consultation with an experienced attorney, contact Bingham Legal Group today. Learn how we can protect your assets and honor your estate planning wishes.

Areas Served