If you pass away owning an asset in your individual name, with no named beneficiary or  joint owner, then that asset must go through probate. One of the most common misconceptions is that if there is a will then you don’t have to go through the probate process.  Fact is, the ownership of the asset dictates whether probate is necessary, not the existence of a will. If there is a will, it simply directs the probate court as to who you want to be appointed as the personal representative and to who are assets are to be distributed. If there is no will, then Michigan statute decides who may be appointed as the personal representative and who will receive your assets.

To begin the probate process, a probate estate is commenced by filing pleadings with the probate court, either formally through a petition, or informally through an application. Within that document, a personal representative will be appointed, and heirs may be designated.

The next stage, which is rather timely, involves publishing for unknown creditors. For any unknown creditors, you will begin the four month process in which you will give notice to anyone that the decedent may have owed money to. Unknown creditors may include credit card companies, medical billing companies, or simply a neighbor down the street. You will provide direct notice to the known creditors.

Publishing is a statutory requirement in the state of Michigan, regardless of your knowledge of the existence of unknown creditors. Once this part of the process is completed, you are ensuring that you have fulfilled your obligations as personal representative to provide notice to all known and unknown creditors. By doing so, if a creditor were to come forward months later, they are statutorily barred from making a claim.

The next step involves the letters of authority. These documents give the personal representative the legal authority to act and administer the probate assets. The personal representative gets this letter of authority from the probate court. Subsequently, as part of the role of personal representative, you must identify and gather the assets that the decedent owns. Those assets are then identified on the Inventory which is filed with the probate court. Only the interested parties have the right to see and view the inventory.

Next, you must administer the estate assets and settle any debts that the decedent may have had. Before distributing assets pursuant to the will or statute, you mush settle any debts that have been properly raised by creditors. Once completed, you can distribute the remaining assets and report the distribution to the court. Finally, you’re able to close the estate through the probate court in a variety of ways.

This is a general summary of the Michigan probate timeline, however, each estate has its own unique issues which may require variation. If you are involved in a probate estate, have been appointed as personal representative, or have any questions about the probate process, call us at (833) PROBATE or visit us at theprobatepro.com.