Frequently Asked Questions for Probate Law

Q. Does a Will avoid probate?

A. No, a Will must be submitted to the probate court when a person dies.  The probate court will appoint a personal representative and issue Letters of Authority (order of the court) legally allowing the personal representative to gather up all the assets and debts of the deceased person and report back to the probate court with an Inventory and Accounting of estate assets and debts.  The person will not have the legal authority to obtain access to information and accounts without the order of the court.  Trust owned assets, joint titled property and properly designated beneficiaries can help avoid probate.

Q. Who will inherit if there is no Will?

A. Michigan probate law designates what portion of an estate is distributed to the heirs if a person dies without a Will.  The typical distribution schedule includes the spouse, decedent’s children, parents and any siblings.  Each of the aforesaid heirs will be entitled to a certain portion of the estate.  Thus, it is important that a person prepare a Will or Trust designating exactly who they want to be their beneficiaries and what portion of their estate they want to distribute to that person.

Q. What are the steps in the probate process?

A. The probate process can be either informal or formal depending on the particular case.  After a person dies, a person must petition the probate court to be appointed Personal Representative.  A person’s Will and death certificate are provided to the court.  The court will then appoint a personal representative to gather up the assets and debts of the deceased person and report back to the court with an Inventory.  The personal representative is issued a Letter of Authority (order of the court) which allows the person to gain access to the information necessary to take control of the assets and debts and prepare the inventory.  In a typical probate case, after the tax returns are prepared and any taxes and debts paid, the personal representative will provide a final accounting to the court and the heirs.  The net funds of the estate may only be distributed after the probate rules are followed completed.