Losing a loved one is difficult to deal with, no matter how or when it happens or if it is expected or comes as a complete shock. The last thing anyone wants to do when grieving their loss is worry about having to close out their loved one’s estate, but it has to happen — sooner rather than later. Probate is the process by which this is done. This week, this column will discuss how probate works in Michigan.
According to state laws, if a resident dies with a valid will in place, his or her estate will be distributed according to the terms established in the document. If no will is found or one exists, but it is ruled invalid, state laws will determine how the estate will be distributed and to whom. Will or no will, four steps in the probate process generally need to be completed:
- Identify a personal representative — may be named in the deceased’s will
- Inventory assets
- Pay taxes, outstanding debts and any other bills
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries
The state of Michigan allows for an expedited probate process for small estates. A personal representative does not need to be appointed in such cases. Summary administration, as this is called, can be completed fairly quickly. Formal administration, on the other hand, can take longer and may need to be worked through in court. Every case is different.
Some assets may avoid being passed through probate, such as assets held in a trust, jointly owned property and accounts with beneficiaries already designated. Again, every case is different. Legal counsel can help one determine which type of probate is appropriate for one’s case and assist one through the process so it can be completed swiftly and without error.