Probate Lawyers for Beverly Hills, Michigan

Probate Lawyers for Beverly Hills, Michigan

Did you recently lose someone close to you? Handling legal matters is the last thing you want to worry about during such a difficult time. At Bingham Legal Group, our team understands what you’re going through and is ready to support you. Our probate and estate lawyers are proud to serve residents of Beverly Hills, Michigan, and we can help you with all aspects of the probate process, from filing court documents to dealing with creditors to distributing assets. 

Reach out to us today for an initial consultation and reliable legal advice, and let’s discuss how we can assist you through this period with compassion and efficiency.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. If the person left behind a will, probate involves validating the will and overseeing the distribution of their assets according to the will’s instructions. If there is no valid will, state laws determine how assets get distributed during probate.

During probate, the probate court appoints someone called a personal representative to manage the deceased’s estate and assets. The personal representative is usually someone mentioned in the deceased’s will or a close relative of the deceased. The court can appoint someone else if no one is specified in the will, and no close relatives can serve as the personal representative.

The personal representative has several important responsibilities during probate. They must identify and take inventory of the deceased’s person’s assets. They must also appraise all the assets, pay off final debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to rightful heirs named in the will. 

Which Assets Must Go Through Probate?

Certain assets are subject to the probate process and must go through the court to be properly distributed according to the deceased’s will or state intestacy laws if there is no will. This includes any property or belongings solely owned by the deceased person at the time of their death. 
Common examples of probate assets include:

  • Real estate such as houses, land, or vacation properties titled only in the deceased’s name
  • Bank accounts, investment accounts, and other financial accounts only in the deceased’s name
  • Personal belongings such as cars, jewelry, artwork, and furniture
  • Life insurance policies payable to the deceased’s estate rather than a named beneficiary

Assets that typically bypass the probate process are those that were jointly owned with rights of survivorship, assets with designated beneficiaries, and assets held in revocable living trusts.
Sometimes, a streamlined option is available for estates with assets below a certain value threshold. If an estate qualifies, heirs can use a small estate affidavit or a simplified court procedure to transfer assets. This method significantly reduces the time and paperwork involved in settling an estate. 

The personal representative appointed by the probate court is responsible for locating, valuing, and managing the deceased’s probate assets throughout the probate process. Sometimes, these assets must be liquidated or sold to pay off debts and taxes before the remaining value can be legally transferred to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.

What Happens to Probate Assets If No Will Exists?

If someone dies without a will in Michigan, the state’s intestate succession laws determine who inherits the probate assets. The order of inheritance priority is specific. First in line is the deceased’s spouse, who stands to inherit the majority of the estate under most circumstances. If the deceased also has children, the estate is divided between the spouse and the children.

If there is no spouse or children, the deceased’s parents are next in line. They inherit everything if the deceased did not leave a spouse or children behind. Should the parents have passed away, the deceased’s siblings are next in line to inherit the estate.

These intestate succession laws ensure that the deceased’s closest family members receive the estate’s assets. The goal is to provide for surviving loved ones in a manner that reflects typical family structures. If the deceased did not leave behind any surviving family members, the deceased’s assets could get transferred to the state.

Understanding the Probate Process

The probate process in Michigan involves a series of steps that must be followed under the probate court’s supervision. Here is an overview of those steps:

  • An interested party, usually the executor named in the will or a close family member, files a petition with the probate court to open the estate and initiate probate proceedings. This involves submitting the deceased’s will if one exists.
  • Next, the court appoints a personal representative (also called an executor) to administer the estate. This is the person named in the will unless they are unable or unwilling to serve, in which case the court appoints another appropriate party.
  • The personal representative then gives legal notice to creditors and potential heirs that probate has been opened. This allows creditors to make claims against the estate.
  • The personal representative locates, inventories, and obtains appraisals for all of the deceased’s probate assets, like real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property.
  • The personal representative pays any valid creditor claims, taxes owed, and estate administration expenses from the estate’s assets.
  • If there is a will, the remaining assets get distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will according to its instructions, pending court approval.
  • If there is no will, the remaining assets are distributed to the deceased’s heirs according to Michigan’s intestate succession laws that dictate the order of inheritance priority.
  • Finally, the court reviews accountings and closes the estate once the personal representative has properly inventoried assets, settled debts, and made distributions.

Common Probate Issues

Personal representatives and heirs often encounter certain challenges during the probate process. Here are some of the most common issues that can arise:

  • Difficulty Locating or Valuing Assets: It can be difficult to track down all of the deceased’s assets, especially non-cash items like investments, cars, or artwork. Getting proper professional appraisals for these assets is also often time-consuming and expensive.
  • Feuding Beneficiaries: Disputes among heirs or beneficiaries over the deceased’s wishes or their share of assets can lead to costly legal battles that prolong probate.
  • Unexpected Creditor Claims: Sometimes, creditors the family was unaware of come forward seeking payment from the estate during probate. The personal representative must settle valid creditor claims from estate funds before they can make distributions.
  • Tax Issues: Properly filing final income taxes and paying estate taxes can be complicated, and errors can result in penalties.
  • Status Challenges: Issues can arise if anyone contests the validity of the will, such as by claiming incapacity, undue influence, or superseding wills.

How a Michigan Probate Attorney Can Help

An experienced probate lawyer can simplify the often complex probate process by providing dependable legal guidance and representation. They can assist heirs and personal representatives by:

  • Initiating probate and satisfying filing requirements
  • Drafting and filing the necessary petitions and legal documents with the probate court
  • Locating and inventorying all of the deceased’s probate assets
  • Obtaining professional appraisals of the estate’s valuable property and assets
  • Giving notice to creditors and handling any claims against the estate
  • Preparing and filing final tax returns on behalf of the deceased
  • Representing the estate’s interests in any litigation or contested matters
  • Resolving any disputes among heirs or family beneficiaries
  • Ensuring proper asset management according to the will or state laws
  • Dealing with issues surrounding the deceased’s business interests
  • Providing guidance on minimizing estate taxes through allowable deductions

Contact a Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer Serving Beverly Hills, Michigan

Are you looking for help with a probate case in Beverly Hills, Michigan? The team at Bingham Legal Group is ready to assist you. Based in nearby Bingham Farms, our probate law attorneys offer guidance through every step of the probate process, from filing paperwork to asset distribution. Let us make this process simpler for you during this tough time. Contact us today for an initial legal consultation to get started.

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