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Understanding the probate process

It is quite understandable if Michigan residents have a lot of questions about the probate process. After all, anyone familiar with previous posts here knows that topics can range from the details of trusts to powers of attorney to long-term planning. With so many factors to consider during the planning stage, there is every reason for an estate planner to think about what will occur when the actual estate administration process begins.

As mentioned in a recent article, one of the primary goals of an estate plan is to make sure that family members and friends are taken care of after the planner's death by designating a distribution of assets. The process of distributing assets usually occurs through probate court. Unless there is some objection to the terms of a person's estate plan - something every estate planner seeks to avoid - then the estate is marshaled and distributed in accordance with the estate plan. The executor appointed in the will, who is often a trusted friend or close family member, is in charge of overseeing this process.

There are several ways that a Michigan resident who is drafting an estate plan can ensure that the probate process goes as smoothly as possible. Probate litigation can tie up the assets in an estate for months, if not years, so it is always best to discuss the terms of an estate plan with those individuals who will be named as beneficiaries. And, perhaps even more importantly, anyone who will not be a beneficiary - but may think that they should be - should also be apprised of the terms of the estate plan so that they are not surprised by being left out.

Source:, "Money Monday: The basics of estate planning," Shirley Kaigler, Dec. 16, 2013

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