The probate court is a fascinating place to work as a lawyer. Each case filed in the probate court tells a unique story of that person’s life, assets, debts, and family relations. As the leading probate administration firm, The Probate Pro feels tremendous respect for the families that it has the privilege to represent. Let’s take a close look at the jurisdiction of the probate court to better understand the role that the probate performs.

Probate Court Jurisdiction Overview

Since the probate court is a statutory court, historically, probate court jurisdiction has been narrowly proscribed. The Revised Probate Code (RPC), which became effective July 1, 1979, was designed in part to clarify the authority of the probate court to adjudicate matters related to the settlement of an estate. In 1989, the legislature amended the RPC and gave the probate court equitable jurisdiction. In 1992, the court rule MCR 5.101 was amended to provide for the filing of a “civil action” in probate court under certain limited circumstances. This rule offered an alternative forum for the resolution of legal disputes. However, the amendment of MCR 5.101 has not expanded the scope of the probate court’s jurisdiction.

Michigan’s new Probate Code, the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) became effective April 1, 2000. With EPIC, probate court jurisdiction was carried over from the Revised Probate Code with only one minor changes.

Decedent Estate Jurisdiction

Michigan probate courts have jurisdiction related to the estate of a deceased person, including the distribution of assets, determination of heirs, and appointment of a personal representative. These courts are responsible for ensuring that the deceased person’s wishes are carried out according to state law.

The probate process in Michigan can be complex and time-consuming. It is important to work with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your interests.

Probate courts have exclusive legal and equitable jurisdiction over matters relating to the settlement of a deceased person’s estate, whether they died testate or intestate, if, at the time of death, the person was

(1) domiciled in the county, or

(2) was domiciled out of state and died owning assets within the county to be administered.

Jurisdiction includes, but is not limited to, the following proceedings:

  • Internal affairs of an estate.
  • Estate administration, settlement, and distribution.
  • Declaration of rights involving estates, devisees, heirs, and fiduciaries.
  • Construction of a will.
  • Determination of heirs.
  • Determination of death of an accident or disaster victim (See MCL 700.1208).

Trust Jurisdiction

Probate courts have exclusive legal and equitable jurisdiction over proceedings concerning the validity, internal affairs, and settlement of trusts. Probate courts also have jurisdiction over the administration, distribution, modification, reformation, and termination of trusts, and the declaration of rights involving trusts, trustees, and beneficiaries of trusts.

Jurisdiction includes, but is not limited to, the following proceedings:

  • Appoint or remove a trustee.
  • Review the fees of a trustee.
  • Require, hear, and settle interim or final accounts.
  • Ascertain beneficiaries.
  • Determine any question arising in the administration or distribution of any trust, including questions of construction of wills and trusts; instruct trustees, and determine relative thereto the existence or nonexistence of an immunity, power, privilege, duty or right.
  • Release registration of a trust.
  • Determine an action or proceeding involving settlement of an irrevocable trust.

Guardianship Jurisdiction

Probate courts have exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings concerning guardianships (See MCL 700.1302(c)). Under certain limited circumstances, the family division of a circuit court may have ancillary jurisdiction over certain guardianship cases (See MCL 600.1021(2)). A guardian is a person who has qualified as a guardian of a minor or a legally incapacitated individual under a parental or spousal nomination or court appointment.

Conservatorship Jurisdiction

Probate courts have exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings concerning conservatorship and protective proceedings (See MCL 700.1302(c)).

A conservator is a person appointed by a court to manage a protected individual’s estate (See MCL 700.1103(h)). Under certain limited circumstances, the family division of a circuit court may have ancillary jurisdiction over certain conservatorship cases (See MCL 600.1021(2)).

Fiduciary Accountings

Probate courts have exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings to review and settle fiduciary accounts (See MCL 700.1302(d)). A person appointed fiduciary by the probate court who manages money (i.e., personal representative of a decedent’s estate, trustee, or conservator) must account each year for these funds. And, in response to an interested person’s petition or on its own motion, the court may at any time order a fiduciary of an estate under its jurisdiction to file an accounting. After due hearing on the accounting, the court shall enter an order that agrees with the law and the facts of the case (See MCL 700.1308(2)).

Concurrent Jurisdiction

There are times that two courts jurisdiction to hear a matter. This is called concurrent jurisdiction. Probate courts have concurrent legal and equitable jurisdiction over the following matters involving an estate of a decedent, protected individual, trust, or ward (See MCL 700.1303(1)).

  • To determine property rights and interests.
  • Contract disputes by or against an estate, ward, or trust.
  • To authorize specific performance of a contract in a joint or mutual will or of a contract to leave property by will.
  • Partition of property.
  • Ascertain survivorship of persons.
  • Bar an incapacitated or minor wife from her dower right.
  • Determine cy-pres, gifts, grants, bequests, and devises in trust or otherwise.
  • Hear and decide an action or proceeding against distributees of an estate fiduciary to enforce liability arising because the estate was liable upon some claim or demand before distribution of the estate.
  • To require, hear, and settle an accounting of an agent under a power of attorney.
  • To impose a constructive trust.
  • To hear and decide any claim by or against a fiduciary or trustee for the return of property.

Mental Health Code

Probate courts have jurisdiction over proceedings under the Mental Health Code.

  • Civil Admission and Discharge Proceedings – Petitions of this type are filed in the Mental Division of probate court (See MCL 330.1400(c)).
  • Guardianships for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities- Probate courts have jurisdiction over guardianship proceedings for individuals with developmental disabilities (See MCL 330.1604(1)). Developmental disability is defined at MCL 330.1100a(20).

The Probate Pro does not expect that people will understand all of the various nuances of the probate court statutes.  Unsure which probate court to file in? The Probate Pro is happy to assist.

Call The Probate Pro at (833) PROBATE.