When someone passes away, their family members often must act quickly to find and gather important documents that need to be presented to the court as soon as possible. These documents typically detail the final wishes of the person who has passed away.
Thinking ahead about these matters for your own estate planning purposes can help your loved ones when the time comes that they have to file your Will with the court and begin the Probate process in Michigan. Remember, unlike a Trust, a Will must go through Probate. Some people mistakenly believe that a clearly written Will, drafted by an attorney, signed, witnessed and notarized, will avoid Probate. This is not true. A Will is instructions or suggestions that you are making, in writing, to the Probate Court. After your loved ones have located your last Will and Testament, or other documents linked to your estate plan, the next step is to open a Probate case. Every Probate case will have some unique facets, but such cases generally will involve the following steps:
- Formally filing a petition in Probate court
- Making an appointment of a personal representative for the estate, who may already be named in the last Will and Testament
- Creating an inventory of all of the estate’s debts and making payments on these
- Publishing various documents, such as notices to creditors or the acceptance of appointment to the personal representative
- Inventorying all the property and assets inside the Michigan estate
- Distributing property under Michigan’s intestacy or inheritance formula if there is no Will, or under the terms of a valid Will
- Responding to any disputes that arise in the Probate process or administration of the Will
- Closing out the estate once all payments have been made and the case is completed
Consulting with a knowledgeable Michigan estate planning attorney can help make this process easier for your loved ones should the need for Probate arise. In fact, with proper planning, you can minimize or totally eliminate the need for your loved ones to go through the Probate process.