When an individual dies in Michigan, the person's assets need to be distributed according to their estate plan. If an individual does not have an estate plan, then Michigan laws will dictate how the property is divided. In either case, the estate is handled in the probate court. The probate court will allow for the appointment of a personal representative who will distribute the assets and pay any liabilities that the estate has. The court may or may not oversee the process but will have the final say about when the process is complete.
However, individuals in Michigan should understand that some assets are not subject to the probate process. Instead of being transferred through the court, these assets are transferred to another individual upon the decedent's death. It is important for individuals to understand when an asset will not be subject to probate and when an asset will be included in the estate subject to the probate court.
The probate process in Michigan excludes many items. First, accounts with a payable upon death or transfer on death beneficiary clause are not subject to the probate court. This includes bank accounts. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts and property placed in a revocable trust are also not subject to probate court.
In addition, certain real estate held in joint tenancy is also free from the probate process. Individuals' personal assets, including personal property, that does not exceed $15,000, up to $500 in cash, certain motor vehicles and boats are also exempt from the probate process.
It is important for individuals to understand which of their assets will end up in the probate court. With the right estate planning, individuals can avoid a lengthy and expensive probate process for their families. By planning ahead, individuals can make the most of their assets and simplify the estate administration process. Individuals should speak with an attorney in order to understand their estate planning and probate options.