Is probate always necessary?

The personal representative of your deceased spouse is responsible for administering the Michigan estate. However, there are many assets that may pass on to you that do not require the PR’s involvement. 

According to the State Bar of Michigan, if you are named as beneficiary on a life insurance policy, IRA or pension, for example, those assets would go directly to you and bypass probate. If you and the decedent jointly owned properties and your name is on the deed, title or account, those would still be your assets, so probate would be unnecessary in this case, too. Any properties that are included in a trust would be administered by a trustee, rather than becoming the responsibility of the PR. 

If there are no probate proceedings, other assets may pass to you as the spouse. These include the following:

  • Income tax refunds
  • Boats and other watercraft, if the value combined is less than $100,000
  • Cars, trucks and other vehicles, when the total value of all vehicles owned is less than $60,000
  • Clothing and cash under $500 held by a long-term care facility, hospital, morgue or law enforcement agency
  • Unpaid wages
  • Personal property under $15,000 in value

You may also be able to redeem any travelers checks your spouse owned. 

Typically, to have titles transferred or to claim property, you will need an affidavit indicating your relationship to the deceased as well as a death certificate. Other forms or processes may be necessary, depending on the circumstances. This information about probate is for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.