Regularly, my office gets asked by attorneys the same question: “What do I do if I need to serve a deceased defendant?”

Deceased Defendant: Driver or Owner Dies

This scenario occurs most often in auto related cases where the at-fault driver or vehicle owner dies.  However, it can occur in any context in which a defendant has died and personal jurisdiction must be obtained through service of process of the lawsuit. There is no other manner in which to obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant that has died than through the appointment of a personal representative.

Deceased Defendant: Service of Process

Often, a process server returns the Summons with a notation that the defendant has died. Of course, this is not what is meant by a grave side service. To effectuate service of process, a deceased defendant probate file needs to be commenced to appoint a personal representative.

Appointment of Personal Representative

Michigan’s probate code (EPIC) has a process to appoint a personal representative on behalf of a deceased defendant. Most importantly, there is no need for the surviving family members or devisees to cooperate. The process involves commencing a deceased defendant probate estate in the county in which the deceased defendant resided. The petitioner of the probate action is the plaintiff in the underlying cause of action.  EPIC provides that the plaintiff can petition as “a creditor’s nominee” as long as 42 days have passed since the decedent’s death. Upon appointment of the personal representative, service of process of the lawsuit can be acknowledged and the lawsuit turned over to the insurance carrier for its defense.

This is a perfect situation in which my office can relieve you of a probate headache and allow you to focus on doing what you do best…litigating your case.

Call The Probate Pro at (248) 399-3300 for assistance.