Probate Lawyers for Clawson, MI

Probate Lawyers for Clawson, MI

At Bingham Legal Group, we understand that probate matters in Clawson, Michigan, can be emotionally and legally challenging. We’re here to make them a little easier by providing you with the compassionate guidance and professional legal representation you deserve. Our estate planning attorneys are well-equipped to handle the intricacies of probate law, helping you meet your obligations while seeking to avoid any surprises during what’s likely a difficult time.

Whether you are considering estate planning, probating a loved one’s estate, or facing a legal dispute, a probate lawyer from our law firm wants to make your life easier. Call us today for a confidential legal consultation.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of settling someone’s estate after they die. It involves verifying the deceased’s will or other estate administration documents, inventorying their assets, paying off debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property as the will (or Michigan estate law, if there’s no will) directs. A probate court oversees this process to help ensure everything is done according to the law and the deceased’s wishes. The probate process can vary in complexity and duration, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, the clarity of the will, and whether anyone contests the will’s terms.

The deceased’s personal representative, also called an executor, plays a pivotal role in the probate process. This individual carries out the deceased’s wishes as outlined in their will, under the probate court’s supervision. Their duties include gathering and managing the estate’s assets, paying off debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets. If the deceased did not designate a personal representative in their will or did not leave behind a will, the probate court will appoint someone to serve in this role. The courts often chose a close family member for this role, though an attorney with probate and estate administration experience can also serve.

Do All Assets Need to Go Through Probate in Michigan?

The following assets are exempt from the probate process in Michigan:

  • Jointly Owned Property with Rights of Survivorship: Real estate and other assets owned in joint tenancy automatically pass to the surviving owner(s).
  • Life Insurance Policies and Retirement Accounts: Assets that have a named beneficiary, such as life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts (e.g., IRAs, 401(k)s), are transferred directly to the beneficiaries listed on the policy or account.
  • Payable-on-Death (POD) and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Accounts: Bank accounts and securities that are designated as POD or TOD allow the named beneficiary to claim the asset directly from the institution.
  • Living Trusts: Assets held in a living trust are managed and distributed according to the terms of the trust, bypassing the probate process. This allows for privacy and potentially quicker distribution to beneficiaries.

For small estates, particularly when the deceased left behind a minimal amount of cash and personal belongings like clothing, organizations like hospitals or law enforcement agencies can release these items to a verified family member without going through the probate court. Furthermore, if there are no other assets requiring probate, motor vehicles with a total vehicle not exceeding $60,000 can go directly to heirs.

Finally, there’s also a simplified process for distributing small estates that include personal or real property directly to heirs, avoiding the need for a formal probate process. This process can make it easier for families to settle their loved one’s affairs without the added complexity and cost of full probate proceedings.

The Probate Processes in Michigan

Administration of an estate can be either supervised – in which case every major action made by the personal administrator is reviewed by the probate court – or unsupervised. Both types of administration are eligible for informal or formal proceedings. Here’s a breakdown of each.

Informal Probate Process:

  • Start Without a Court Hearing: Informal probate starts by submitting an application, so you don’t need a court hearing immediately.
  • Notify Certain Interested Persons: You only need to inform those with the same or a higher priority than the applicant (family members, other beneficiaries, certain creditors, etc).
  • Probate Register’s Approval: If the application meets the criteria, the Probate Register will admit the will, if there is one, and appoint a personal representative.
  • Personal Representative’s Role: After accepting the appointment and posting any required bond, the personal representative can manage the estate until closure.

Formal Probate Process:

  • Initiate with a Petition: Formal probate begins by filing a formal petition with the probate court. This could be a petition to open probate proceedings or appointing a personal representative, whether there’s a will or not. The probate court will then schedule a hearing.
  • Notify and Gain Consent: Interested parties must either agree to the petition or be informed about the hearing.
  • Court’s Formal Order: Following the hearing, the court issues a formal order that determines the deceased’s eligible heirs, verifies and approves the will, and appoints a personal representative.
  • Personal Representative’s Acceptance and Bond Posting: The personal representative officially takes on their role after filing an acceptance of appointment and any necessary bond. They maintain this role until the estate is settled.

At the end of the formal or informal proceedings, the estate must be closed. Here’s how that works under each type of administration:

  • Supervised Administration: Closing must be reviewed and approved by the court. The closure process depends on whether the estate was opened formally or informally, with both processes requiring specific petitions to settle the estate fully.
  • Unsupervised Administration: The personal representative can close the estate by submitting a sworn statement served to any interested parties and filed with the court, or by filing a petition for complete estate settlement, depending on the situation.

How a Michigan Probate Attorney Can Help

As you can see, the Michigan probate process is a complex one, and it may be difficult and time-consuming to attempt to navigate alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Instead, you can hire a probate attorney to handle many of your obligations for you. They can:

  • Guide You Through the Probate Process: Your lawyer will provide step-by-step guidance through Michigan’s specific probate procedures, filing necessary documents, explaining your legal obligations, and complying with state laws.
  • Administer the Estate: An attorney can assist in inventorying the deceased’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining estate to the rightful heirs, simplifying what can be an overwhelming process for the executor.
  • Resolve Disputes: In cases of contested wills or disputes among beneficiaries, a probate attorney can resolve disagreements through litigation, advocating on your behalf in negotiations or in court to reach a fair resolution.
  • Offer Legal Advice and Strategy: Your lawyer can advise you on how to efficiently manage and protect the estate, including strategies for minimizing taxes and avoiding potential pitfalls in the probate process.

Contact Our Michigan Probate Lawyers Now

There are many rules for probate in Michigan, and it’s crucial to follow the correct procedures to close the estate efficiently and lawfully. The best way to make this process easier on your family and avoid any errors is to hire an attorney who offers a wide range of estate services. Bingham Legal Group has provided legal advice on trusts and estates for many years, and we can help you address any estate matters you face. Call us today for a confidential consultation.

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