Probate Lawyer Serving Plymouth, Michigan

Probate Lawyer Serving Plymouth, Michigan

After the death of a loved one, surviving family members must go through the emotional and difficult process of settling the deceased’s estate. There may be significant legal and financial matters to resolve, which can be more challenging if the estate must be probated.

Bingham Legal Group PC can provide you with experienced and compassionate guidance. A probate lawyer serving Plymouth, Michigan, can assist with probate litigation and help with all of your family’s estate planning needs. Call today or contact us online for a consultation.

When Is Probate Required?

Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing assets and settling debts with creditors. Your loved one’s estate will typically go into probate if they were the sole owner of assets or died without naming beneficiaries or creating a will. Probate may also be necessary if the deceased’s will is contested. Jointly owned assets go directly to the other owner without the need to be probated.

Assets that may be settled in probate include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Business interests
  • Open contracts
  • Real estate and real property

If your loved one did not have a plan to distribute their money, property, and holdings, or they owed money or assets to creditors, you may need help from a probate attorney to settle their affairs. A legal representative can help you avoid probate and estate planning errors or personal liability for debts.

When Can You Avoid Probate?

The absence of a will does not necessarily mean an estate must go into probate. For example, assets a deceased owned with their spouse, such as their home, automatically pass to the surviving spouse. In addition, assets with a named beneficiary automatically pass to that party. These named assets may include:

  • IRAs
  • 401(k) plans
  • Annuities
  • Life insurance policies

If the deceased did not own real estate and had limited financial holdings, the estate’s value may be low enough to avoid probate. An attorney can tell you more about whether or not you must go through this process.

Individuals may proactively avoid probate by making a living trust and transferring assets into it. While the trustor who created the trust is alive, they will also serve as the trustee – the person managing the trust. When they die, the trust will transfer automatically to the control of a named trustee without the need for probate.

Reasons Someone May Contest a Will

Probate litigation may be necessary for an estate with a will if the will is contested. Any party with a vested interest in the will and trust can contest it. Reasons to contest a will may include:

  • Lack of Mental Capacity – An interested party may argue that the will’s creator (testator) lacked the mental capacity to make or sign a will. A party may lack mental capacity if they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, are intoxicated, incapacitated, or clinically insane. It is up to the party contesting the will to prove the testator was not of sound mind.
  • Undue Influence, Fraud, or Forgery – Undue influence occurs when an individual persuades or pressures a vulnerable party into naming beneficiaries, allocating assets, or changing a will. Fraud happens when an individual misrepresents information to the will’s creator. Forgery is the creation of fake documents or faking a signature.
  • The Will Was Not Signed, or the Signing Was Not Witnessed – Michigan law states that a will is not valid unless signed by the testator (or in their name by a representative with the testator present) and by two witnesses who viewed the signing.
  • There Is a New Will That Replaces the Old Will – New wills generally replace old wills, but there can be problems if there are missing pages, date discrepancies, the new will was not signed and dated, or the document appears to have been manipulated.

Steps in the Probate Process

Probate proceedings can be complex. First, it’s important to understand who oversees the process.

If a will exists, the party named as the testator’s personal representative (executor) is responsible for settling the deceased’s affairs, including conducting probate proceedings. The court will appoint a personal representative if there is no named executor. Michigan law gives priority of appointment to the deceased’s surviving spouse, if any.

Once there is an executor, settling the estate and entering into probate can begin. The process may include:

  • Notifying heirs and creditors
  • Inventorying the estate
  • Paying the estate’s taxes, debts, or expenses
  • Distributing named assets to the appropriate beneficiaries
  • Filing a probate case in court
  • Attending a probate hearing

To begin court proceedings for probate, the executor must supply a death certificate and a copy of the will, if available. They will then need to complete and file multiple documents with the court and pay the applicable filing fees.

Our firm can guide you and help you avoid legal mistakes that could delay the resolution of the estate or lead to an unfavorable outcome. We can also represent you during hearings and court appearances.

How Long Does Probate Take?

In general, larger estates with more assets will take longer to resolve in probate. Probate can also take longer if the case involves a contested will or complex legal issues.

Several deadlines will also influence the amount of time needed. For example, Michigan law gives creditors four months to make a claim on an estate, so you will need to wait at least this long before you can conclude probate proceedings.

How a Probate Lawyer Can Help

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, legal issues are likely the last thing on your mind. However, you cannot avoid settling your family member’s estate. Our firm can help relieve your burden by ensuring you comply with probate laws. We can also fight to protect your interests. An estate planning attorney can:

  • Prepare and file court documents
  • Inventory assets
  • Negotiate with creditors and other vested parties
  • Represent you during hearings or mediation
  • Resolve disputes with creditors or among beneficiaries
  • Resolve legal issues connected with the estate
  • Pay expenses the estate owes
  • Distribute the remaining assets

We can also represent you if you have a reason for contesting a will or must fight a contestation. In addition, our team assists estate clients with:

  • Wills and trusts
  • Conservatorship and guardianship
  • Power of attorney/designation of patient advocate
  • Medicare and nursing home planning
  • Arbitration
  • Mediation services

Why Work with Us?

The courtroom can be an intimidating and unfamiliar place, but for us, it’s home. We know what it takes to provide compassionate and effective legal representation. Our previous clients have this to say about working with our legal team:

“Bingham Legal Group does outstanding probate work. I highly recommend Lauren Underwood.” – Chris M.

“Every meeting or interaction I have with this firm is positive, and I feel like the attorneys and staff are genuinely on my side and made my probate and estate experience exceptionally smooth.” – Tiffany C.

Contact a Probate Lawyer Today

Bingham Legal Group PC has over 60 years of experience helping clients with all facets of estate planning, including the probate process. We know how stressful probate can be, especially if you have concerns about the handling of involved assets.

When emotions are high and family relations may be strained, a trusted legal advocate can protect your rights and help you make tough decisions. Don’t let your loved one’s legacy fall into jeopardy. Contact our experienced probate lawyers today for a free consultation. We serve clients in Plymouth, the Detroit metropolitan area, and across Southeast Michigan.

Areas Served