American statesman Benjamin Franklin once mused, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Although these enduring words can apply to many situations in life, they are particularly relevant to the estate administration and probate process. Personal representatives, or executors, may have the best intentions at heart, but an honest mistake can have unintended and damaging consequences.
Keeping in mind the fiduciary duty that executors have to the interests of an estate, a topic we've discussed in a previous blog post, it may be helpful to take a brief look at the options that exist when an estate is brought through the probate process in Michigan.
On a very basic level, there are two routes to go in terms of probate administration: supervised administration and unsupervised administration. According to a document from the Oakland County Probate Court system, supervised administration directly involves the court in moving the activities of the estate forward. As such, it makes sense that the probate court doesn't have a hands-on role in unsupervised administration, unless the court is requested to review a particular issue.
At this point, the estate is open and the actual administering of debt and assets can take place. In this setting, there is also an option to pursue formal or informal proceedings. As with supervised or unsupervised administration, the situation can dictate the most suitable course of action.
It's worth noting that the personal representative has his or her hands is responsible for estate-related duties from the time a person passes away until the estate is formally closed. This duty shouldn't discourage a person from accepting the role of executor for a loved one, but it can serve as a reminder that it's okay to seek assistance.
Estate planning attorneys can obviously offer guidance in creating wills, but it may be worth pointing out that they can also provide critical support during probate administration. After all, a personal representative may want to make sure that the process moves smoothly from the start in order to avoid untangling preventable issues down the road.
Source: Oakland County Probate Court, "Planning to Administer a Decedent's Estate," Hons. Linda S. Hallmark, Daniel A. O'Brien, Elizabeth Pezzetti and Kathleen A. Ryan, accessed April 29, 2014