Probate Basics: What You Should Know

Whether you need to plan your estate or have recently lost a close friend or family member, it is important to understand the probate process. Depending on the situation, the case may need to enter the probate process before property is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.

Michigan, as well as several other states in the nation, use probate as a way to verify that a will is valid and ensure all final matters are taken care of after you or a loved one passes.

What occurs during the probate process?

According to the State Bar of Michigan, the probate process involves several steps. This includes the following:

  • Assembling all property and assets left behind by the estate
  • Gathering essential documents
  • Ensuring final debts and expenses are paid by the estate
  • Protecting property and assets from theft or damage
  • Distributing property and assets to the intended beneficiaries

The estate administrator or executor of the estate is responsible for overseeing the entire process. You can either name an executor in the will or the court will appoint one for you. Before you name an executor in your will, however, it is best to get his or her permission.

Is probate required?

Not all cases require the probate process. Property and assets that are left in a trust, may transfer directly over to the beneficiary without the need for probate. Other assets and property that have joint ownership may transfer over to the joint-owner when the other owner passes. Other accounts, such as term life insurance policies or retirement accounts, where there is a named beneficiary or that are listed as ‘payable-on-death,’ can also skip the probate process.