In the event that a person dies and only leaves only a small bank account, must you go through the extensive and often expensive process to probate this small probate estate?

Fortunately, answer is NO.

Michigan has a two primary shortcuts when a small probate estate is needed.

Shortcut number one is Michigan’s Affidavit process (formally called Affidavit of Decedent’s Successor For Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by Decedent).  The Probate Pro is always amazed that something so simple requires such a complicated and long name.  Thankfully, filling out the documents is not complicated nor long.  

Small Estate Affidavit Probate

Determine whether this exception to the probate statute applies to your situation. Michigan law provides that 28 days after a decedent’s death, a person indebted to the decedent or having possession of tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock, or chose in action belonging to the decedent shall pay the indebtedness or deliver the tangible personal property or the instrument to a person claiming to be the decedent’s successor upon being presented with the decedent’s death certificate and a sworn statement made by or on behalf of the successor.

Here is how it works.  The Affidavit can be used to remove the contents of a bank accounts under certain conditions:

1. More than 28 days must have elapsed since the person died (not so handy if the money is needed to pay for a funeral or burial).

2.The total value of the decedent’s assets (less liens or encumbrances) does not exceed $23,000 (as of 2019).

3. There is no probate proceeding (in any form) ever filed in any jurisdiction.

4. No real property (such as vacant land or a house) is included in the person’s estate.

The Affidavit must be signed by an appropriate family member and then notarized.  After completing the Affidavit and attaching a certified death certificate, you go to the bank and present it.  There is no need to go to the probate court (or any court for that matter). The bank will allow for the removal of the funds to be distributed to those persons entitled to a share of the property.  This Affidavit is not limited to bank accounts. It can be used to obtain funds from any person indebted to the decedent or having possession of tangible personal property.

Shortcut number 2 is Michigan’s Small Probate Estate process.  This is formally called a Petition and Order for Assignment. Unfortunately, this process must go to the probate court.  However, the process is quick and has less rules than the Affidavit process.

The primary reason to go through this small estate probate process is as follows:

1.If less than 28 days have elapsed and the family needs access to the monies in the account (often to pay funeral and burial expenses).

2.There is real property included in the person’s estate.

Here is how it works. A Petition is filed with the probate court (yep, with a $25 filing fee).  The Petition must contain a statement that after the payment of the expenses for the decedent’s funeral and burial and if the balance of a decedent’s gross estate consists of property of the value of $21,000.00 or less (as of 2013), the court may order that the property be turned over to the surviving spouse or, if there is not a spouse, to the decedent’s heirs.

One thing to be aware of  with the Petition and Order for Assignment is that for 63 days from the date of the court’s order, the share of each heir other than a surviving spouse or minor child shall be subject to any unsatisfied debt of the decedent up to the value of property received through the order.

Both of these processes will allow a person to quickly access funds after a person died.  The Probate Pro can assist you through each of these. (877) YOUR-FIRM.