Probate Lawyer Serving Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

Probate Lawyer Serving Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

Probate Attorney Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

Probate deals with important legal matters relating to a decedent’s estate. Life-changing decisions are made during probate that often affect numerous parties. 

Bingham Legal Group, PC protects the interests of their clients during probate. If you are facing probate issues, our team is ready to represent your best interests. Contact our office to learn how we can help.

The Probate & Estate Administration in Michigan

Probate exists to handle outstanding matters associated with a decedent’s estate and to distribute liability-free assets to heirs. Generally, any resident of Michigan who passes away with assets must have their estate go through probate. 

During probate, the court will seek to settle the estate, which involves various stages and tasks. First and foremost, the presiding judge will appoint an executor or a personal representative to administer the decedent’s estate. 

Personal Representative (Executor)

The personal representative or executor is tasked with various estate administration duties during probate. In some cases, the decedent’s will and testament will already have a person named as executor. In these cases, the court will defer to the decedent’s choice as long as the named executor is qualified to serve in such a role. 

If no executor is named in the will, the probate judge will appoint one. Potential appointees might include (in order of legal preference)

  • Surviving spouse named in the will
  • Other beneficiaries in the will
  • Spouses not in the will
  • Other heirs

In some cases, a creditor may be a potential executor when no suitable relative or heir can be found. 

Regardless of who becomes executor, all interested parties, including creditors, heirs, and the executor, should strongly consider seeking legal counsel to represent their interests. Michigan probate law is complex. Parties deserve to be represented by a professional with a keen legal eye. 

Testing the Will’s Validity 

One of the first orders of business in probate proceedings is testing the validity of the will. During this process, the presiding judge will ensure the will is proper and has been created under acceptable circumstances. At this stage, parties with standing may contest the will for various causes, including:

  • The will is not representative of the desires of the deceased
  • The will has been altered under unlawful circumstances
  • Another will exists
  • The will is vague

It is during will contestations that having a probate lawyer proves to be valuable. An experienced probate lawyer can protect your interests during disputes that commonly arise over wills. 

Liabilities of the Estate

Probate proceedings also deal with an estate’s liabilities. Before heirs can receive their allotted portions of the estate, the probate judge and the executor will work to settle all outstanding debts and financial obligations owed by the decedent. Common debts that typically must be settled include:

  • Tax liabilities
  • Credit card debt
  • Personal loans
  • Mortgages
  • Judgments

The debt settlement stage is an opportune time to negotiate settlements with creditors. A skilled probate attorney understands the strong and weak negotiating points and seeks the most advantageous course of action for their client. 

Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries in a valid will receive the disbursements of the estate according to the wishes of the decedent. Any person can be named as a beneficiary of a will. But what happens when no beneficiary is named?

In these cases, Michigan probate law sets a hierarchy of inheritance for relatives of the deceased that includes the spouse and children, parents, siblings, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Nieces and nephews are also included.

Why You Need a Grosse Pointe Woods, MI, Probate Lawyer

All interested parties to probate should strongly consider hiring probate attorneys to represent their interests. Whether you are a creditor, executor, or heir, an attorney will ensure you are justly represented during all relevant stages of the proceedings.  

Important Documents

With an attorney handling your probate affairs, you will not have to preoccupy yourself with document and filing requirements. Your lawyer will manage all related legal paperwork, including:

  • Wills
  • Legal forms to be filed
  • Litigation documents, including motions
  • Trust documents
  • Death certificates
  • Financial account statements
  • Property deeds

Your attorney will also work diligently to meet any deadlines or filing requirements. Without these burdens, you will have more peace of mind as probate progresses. 

Creditor Negotiations

Creditors have a valid interest in a decedent’s estate and must be satisfied before the beneficiaries receive their portion of the estate. An experienced attorney can be an effective negotiator with these companies and thereby reduce an estate’s financial liabilities. Reduced liability can significantly raise the value of an inheritance. 

Beneficiary Disputes

Beneficiary disputes are not uncommon during probate. When they arise, all parties involved should seek counsel to protect themselves. An attorney experienced in probate litigation can effectively preserve their client’s interests from potential threats. 

The executor of the estate will also benefit from an experienced probate lawyer during beneficiary disputes. If you have been appointed an executor, an attorney will guide you through the dispute and give you the legal understanding and tools to help settle the issue. 

Estate Planning & Probate: Dealing With Probate Issues Before They Arise

Estate planning is an effective means to handle probate issues before they arise. Decisions made before probate begins can save a decedent’s loved ones significant time and money after they pass away. 

In other words, you have the power to dictate much of how your assets and affairs will be handled when you die and save your loved ones time and resources in the process. 

Trusts

Trusts provide a way to give loved ones assets without having to submit to probate proceedings. When you form a trust, you fund the trust with assets and establish a beneficiary of those assets. 

Because you no longer own the assets, the trust does not pass through probate. Probate only deals with assets in your name. 

POD or TOD Accounts

Pay-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts transfer ownership of account funds to a pre-designated beneficiary when the account holder dies. Because the funds no longer belong to the account holder, they do not pass through probate. 

Keep in mind that POD and TOD accounts typically come with no restrictions. Once the account holder passes, the funds become the beneficiary’s property. Careful attention should be paid when naming beneficiaries in some cases, such as in the case of beneficiaries who may be receiving income-sensitive public benefits. 

Types of financial accounts that can be paid or transferred upon death include:

  • Savings and checking accounts
  • CD accounts
  • Certain retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts

Another concern to keep in mind with POD and TOD accounts is that before the money transfers to the beneficiary, it is within your control and safe from their creditors. Once it transfers, their creditors can pursue it. Finding other means of giving may be appropriate and something your attorney can help with. 

Get the Representation You Need From an Experienced Grosse Pointe Woods, MI, Probate Lawyer

If you have an interest in probate proceedings, you deserve effective legal guidance and representation. The decisions and rulings made in probate court are too important and life-changing for anything less. 

Contact Bingham Legal Group to take advantage of our free consultation options and receive a legal consultation from an experienced Grosse Pointe Woods probate lawyer who cares about your case.

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