We all understand the concept of majority rules.  In many probate situations, having the economic majority can dictate who gets appointed personal representative.

The importance of having the highest priority as personal representative to appointment cannot be overstated.  The person that serves as the personal representative is able to dictate the way, speed, and manner in which the estate is administered.  The personal representative can hire an attorney and the fees associated with the hiring of the attorney can be paid from the estate rather than from the person’s own personal funds.

Economic MajorityOne of the most common reasons that disputes arise over the appointment of a personal representative is when two family members would like to hire different personal injury attorneys to pursue wrongful death claims.  In these circumstances, it is important to understand who has the priority as personal representative.

Michigan’s probate code (called EPIC), §700.3203 addresses the appointment and priority as personal representative.  Of highest priority is the person representative named in the Will.  Next, is the surviving spouse , if a devisee in the Will. Next, are other devisees listed in a Will.  Next,  is the surviving spouse.  Last, are the other heirs of the estate.

In interpreting §700.3203(e) it is necessary to determine who is an “heir of the decedent.”  MCL §700.1104 defines “heir” as a person that is entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to a decedent’s property. That means any person that would receive an inheritance if there is no Will.

So, then…What happens if the decedent dies with no Will, no spouse, and five children? Which child has the highest priority to serve as personal representative?

Of course, the child with the economic majority.  Let me explain what the economic majority concept means as it relates to the appointment of a personal representative.

Michigan’s statute MCL 700.3203(2)(b), goes further stating in relevant part:

If a devisee or heir who appears to have a substantial interest in the estate objects to the appointment of a person whose priority is not determined by will, the court may appoint a person who is acceptable to the devisees and heirs whose interest in the estate appear to be worth more than ½ of the probable distributable value …

In short, under MCL 700.3203(2)(b), unless priority is determined by having been named in the decedent’s Will, the nominee of a majority of the devisees or a majority of the heirs is to be appointed as personal representative.

This is the probate economic majority concept.  That means that if three of the heirs want one person to be appointed (representing 60% of the distributable value) and two of the heirs want another person appointed (representing 40% of the distributable value), the probate court should pick the person that is wanted by the majority.

In those circumstanes, the economic majority wins for priority as personal representative.

When disputes arise, The Probate Pro’s team of experienced litigation attorneys will represent trustees, personal representatives and beneficiaries in probate and trust litigation.