Probate Lawyers Serving St. Clair Shores, Michigan

Probate Lawyers Serving St. Clair Shores, Michigan

The probate process can be a challenging one, especially if you’ve never gone through it before. You want to carry out your deceased loved one’s wishes and distribute their assets to their intended beneficiaries, but how can you do this efficiently, effectively, and correctly?

Bingham Legal Group PC is here to guide you through this important process, whether you’re administering an estate or considering estate litigation. We want to help make an often stressful and emotionally charged time easier for you and your family. Our probate lawyer serving St. Clair Shores, Michigan, can fight to protect your rights and the estate in question. Contact us online or call (248) 594-1919 for a consultation.

What Is Probate? 

Probate is the legal process courts use to validate a deceased party’s will, distribute their assets, and resolve any debts and expenses owed by their estate. While most estates go through probate, the process can become particularly fraught if the deceased died without a will or someone contests the validity of their will.

Assets That May be in Probate

If the deceased is the sole owner of the following assets, they will pass through probate:

  • Real estate
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Bank accounts
  • Personal property, including jewelry, vehicles, and other valuables

An asset will not need to go into probate if a named beneficiary exists. Assets that commonly have named beneficiaries include:

  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • IRAs
  • 401Ks
  • Annuities

In addition, if a property, investment, or bank account is jointly owned by the deceased and another party, it can transfer directly to the living joint owner. Jointly owned property includes homes owned with a living spouse.

Our probate attorney can help you identify assets the estate holds and determine named beneficiaries, if any. If there are taxes, debts, and expenses the estate must pay, we can seek to avoid financial liability.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

Disagreements about the validity or terms of a will can lead to the contesting of the will, a form of probate litigation. While will contests can cause stress and family strife, they may be necessary when interested parties have misgivings or concerns about the handling of assets. Reasons for contesting a will may include:

  • The will was not signed or witnessed – A will is not valid under Michigan law unless the deceased (legally referred to as the testator) signed it before death. Two witnesses must view the signing and also sign the document.
  • The will may have been manipulated – Missing pages, strange last-minute additions, multiple unsigned drafts, and date or signature discrepancies can all point to the manipulation of a will by an outside party.
  • The testator lacked mental capacity – Certain circumstances may make the testator unable to understand the will, therefore making the document and their signature invalid due to a lack of mental capacity. A testator’s intoxication, insanity, physical incapacitation, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease could provide grounds for contesting their will based on lack of capacity.
  • Fraud, forgery, or undue influence occurred – Fraud occurs when a party misrepresents information to a testator. Forgery includes falsifying a signature or creating fake documents. Undue influence is the act of pressuring or persuading a vulnerable testator into changing or signing a will.
  • Breach of duty – You may be able to contest the resolution of an estate if the party named in the will as the personal representative (executor) breaches their fiduciary duty during estate administration.

Our probate attorney can review your case if you believe you have grounds for contesting a will. We know this is a difficult time, and we are here to help protect you and your loved one’s legacy.

Can You Avoid Probate?

You may be able to avoid probate if your loved one did not solely own any real estate and their assets are under a specific value. Probate can also be avoided in some cases through the implementation of living trusts. An experienced estate planning attorney can advise you on whether this option fits your particular goals and concerns.

Our estate planning lawyer serving St. Clair Shores can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your needs. We assist with all types of estate planning and elder law, including:

Who Handles Probate? 

The deceased’s personal representative must represent the estate during probate proceedings. If there is no will or named executor, the court will appoint someone. According to Michigan law, priority for appointment goes to the deceased’s surviving spouse, if one exists.

What to Expect During Probate

In general, probate involves the following steps:

  • Filing with the court – The personal representative must file a petition in probate court in St. Clair Shores (Macomb County). The executor should file a death certificate with the petition, as well as the will, if available, and other supporting documents. Our lawyers can help you complete and file the necessary forms and paperwork.
  • Notifying involved parties – The executor must notify all those with a vested interest in the estate of the probate proceedings. In addition, according to Michigan law, the deceased’s creditors have four months to make claims on the estate.
  • Inventorying assets – The executor must inventory the estate’s assets. They may need to obtain appraisals, access investment and banking accounts, and take note of items not included in the will.
  • Distributing assets and closing the estate – Once any issues or disputes are resolved, the personal representative must pay any remaining expenses the estate owes and distribute the remaining assets to the appropriate beneficiaries. Once done, the executor will petition the court to dissolve the estate.

How long probate takes will depend on factors unique to the case. Complex legal issues, disputes among beneficiaries, and large estates will take longer to settle. Some estates may close within months, while others may take a year or longer.

What Can Estate Planning & Probate Attorneys Do to Help You? 

Our probate attorney serving St. Clair Shores can help you navigate every stage of estate planning, trust administration, and probate administration. Our legal team can:

  • Gather, prepare, and file documents
  • Inventory the estate
  • Resolve legal issues connected with the estate
  • Negotiate with creditors and protect you from financial liability
  • Pay the estate’s taxes, debts, and expenses
  • Contest a will
  • Resolve disputes among beneficiaries
  • Represent you during mediation, probate hearings, probate litigation, and other proceedings

Our firm has the experience to serve as a strong legal advocate. Attorney Linda M. Underwood is a former Chair of the Probate and Estate Planning Council of the State Bar of Michigan and a past editor of the Probate Journal. She and the rest of our compassionate lawyers and staff can help you make informed choices about your family’s assets and future.

Contact a Probate Litigation and Administration Lawyer Near You

Bingham Legal Group PC has over 60 years of legal experience in Michigan. For some, the courtroom is a scary and intimidating place. For us, it’s home.

We know you are grieving your loved one, and settling their estate may not be your first priority right now, but it must be done. Let us relieve your stress during this difficult time by handling these matters on your behalf. Call (248) 594-1919 or contact us online for a consultation with a probate attorney near you. We serve clients in St. Clair Shores, the Detroit metropolitan area, and across Southeast Michigan.