Probate Lawyer Serving Harper Woods, MI

Probate Lawyer Serving Harper Woods, MI

Probate Attorney Harper Woods, MI

Probate is an important legal process used to settle a person’s estate after they pass away. Numerous legal and financial issues are dealt with during probate in Michigan, and an estate planning attorney’s assistance is vital for successfully navigating these issues. 

If you are facing probate in Harper Woods, contact the compassionate team at Bingham Legal Group for a consultation today.

Probate in Harper Woods, MI

Probate involves taking care of the remaining financial obligations of an individual after they pass away. It also involves the disbursement of a decedent’s assets. 

To accomplish these goals, however, there are various procedures the probate court must follow in Michigan, including validating a decedent’s will (when one exists) and appointing a personal representative or executor of the decedent’s estate. 

Testing the Validity of the Will

One of the first important tasks the probate court will engage in is testing the validity of the will, if there is indeed one. The court wants to make sure that the desires of the deceased are respected and fulfilled. 

During will validation, various parties may have standing to contest the validity of the will or certain provisions it contains. Common bases of will contestation include:

  • An improperly created will
  • The existence of a superseding will
  • A vague will
  • The suspicion of fraud
  • A will that does not reflect the wishes of the deceased
  • A divorce or other legal proceeding that has an effect on will clauses

If you are going through probate and have an interest in the deceased’s estate, you could see your inheritance challenged in a will contest. Conversely, you may also have standing to contest will provisions yourself. In both cases, a skilled probate lawyer experienced in Michigan probate law is crucial to your efforts. 

Appointing of a Personal Representative

Another key task the courts must complete is the appointment of an executor or personal representative who will oversee the estate administration process during probate. In some cases, the personal representative will already have been chosen by the deceased, who does so by naming the chosen person in their will. 

If there is no will or no executor has been named in the will, the court will appoint an administrator from among family members. If no qualified family member or heir can be found, the court will entertain suggestions for appointments from creditors. 

Determining Assets and Liabilities

Probate involves the settling of debts and liabilities stemming from actions and transactions the deceased made during their life. Except for debts that cease to exist upon death, such as federal student loans, all of a decedent’s outstanding debts must be addressed during probate, including:

  • Credit card and consumer debt
  • Real estate debt
  • Tax liabilities, including income and property taxes
  • Personal loans
  • Liens

Probate also oversees the distribution of an estate’s remaining assets according to the wishes of the decedent or Michigan probate law. To accomplish this successfully, a personal representative must gather and inventory all assets belonging to the estate they are administering. 

However, not all of a decedent’s assets go through probate in Michigan. The following assets are exempt from probate:

  • IRAs
  • 401(k) accounts
  • Annuities
  • Life insurance policies
  • Assets held in trust
  • Pay-on-death and transfer-on-death accounts

Additionally, small estates may also be exempt from probate. If an estate’s value is less than $15,000 and no real estate is involved, probate can be skipped. 

Navigating Beneficiary Issues

Probate also helps settle any beneficiary issues that arise. Frequently, beneficiaries contest provisions that they feel are unfair or unrepresentative of a decedent’s wishes. 

When a will is not present, the court will treat each potential beneficiary according to the law, with the following family members taking precedence in the distribution of the estate:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving dependents
  • Surviving parents

Beyond these groups of relatives, the decedent’s grandparents, grandchildren, and aunts and uncles may also figure into a probate decision when no will is present. Ultimately, the goal of probate in cases without wills is to keep the deceased’s assets in the family. 

How a Probate Attorney Can Help

If you have interests in a probate hearing or have been appointed as the executor or personal representative to an estate, you deserve to be represented by an experienced attorney who will do all the heavy lifting for you. Take a closer look at how a probate attorney can assist you.

Document and Paperwork Management

Documents and paperwork form the basis of judges’ decisions in probate. Your probate lawyer will work meticulously to ensure that you have all of the appropriate documents and forms ready for probate.

Some of these documents and paperwork include:

  • Application for probate
  • Will
  • Testimony of heirs
  • Bank and financial account statements
  • Death certificate
  • Deeds
  • Tax statements
  • Trust agreements

Generally, any type of paperwork or documents necessary for probate will be handled by your lawyer. 

Asset and Debt Inventories

Probate is all about settling a deceased person’s obligations using the assets that remain. Hence, during the probate process, the personal representative must inventory all of the deceased’s assets and their debts, which can present difficulties at times for executors. 

For example, an executor may need legal help to compel the production of assets from family members or other parties. 

Creditor Negotiations

During probate, creditors diligently pursue money owed to them by someone who has passed. In many cases, they are open to settlements and will take less money on the dollar in some cases. 

A probate attorney is a valuable ally who can effectively reduce the financial burdens owed by an estate through effective negotiation tactics and strategies.

Beneficiary Disputes

When beneficiaries dispute among themselves, they typically hire probate litigation attorneys to defend their financial interests. Doing so can make a big difference in the inheritance an heir receives. 

Estate Planning’s Role in Probate Issues

Probate is often a bulky and cumbersome process that can cost significant time and money. Fortunately, an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you sidestep various probate issues and pitfalls and save your loved ones time and money.

Trust Accounts

Probate processes most of a decedent’s assets, which means that the heirs must wait until probate concludes to receive their inheritances. However, your attorney may suggest utilizing a trust so your heirs can receive their inheritances more quickly. 

A trust contains assets provided by a grantor who no longer owns the assets. Because they do not own the assets, they are not subject to Michigan’s probate process. As such, trust beneficiaries don’t have to wait to enjoy the assets you desire them to have. 

POD and TOD Accounts

Your attorney might also suggest pay-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts as a means of avoiding probate. With a simple beneficiary designation, you can have the funds from various types of financial accounts paid or transferred directly to anyone you choose. 

Keep in mind that proper use of POD and TOD accounts requires guidance and an awareness of the potential ramifications involved with transferring money or assets to an heir. Unintended consequences can arise when using these accounts, such as in the case of income-sensitive beneficiaries. 

If a beneficiary is receiving income-sensitive public benefits, a lump sum payout or transfer may alter their income or wealth profile. 

Turn to a Trusted Probate Lawyer Serving Harper Woods, MI, Today

Probate cases frequently involve high stakes. Anyone with an interest in a probate hearing, be they executor, heir, or creditor, deserves to have their financial interests safeguarded. An experienced probate lawyer serving Harper Woods, MI, can provide you with the protection and representation you need for the peace of mind you deserve.

The team at Bingham Legal Group can thoroughly review your case and explore the best options available to you. Call for a free consultation with a seasoned probate lawyer serving Harper Woods, MI, today.

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