What Is Probate Court? What Kinds of Matters Does It Handle?

A Michigan probate court handles two main areas: (1) establishing guardianships or conservatorships and (2) estate settlements after a person’s death. Regarding the latter, official courts authenticate wills and authorize estate distribution to creditors and beneficiaries.

For estate administration, the probate process typically takes four to six months, or even longer if the decedent’s family members dispute the will. Other downsides of probate are its heavy fees and the lack of privacy it provides.

At The TGQ Law Firm, we use smart legal strategies to help you and your family simplify the process—or even avoid it entirely through trusts and other services discussed while working with the team at The TGQ Law Firm.

How Do I Know If I Need To Go to Probate Court?

By default, assets that the decedent held in their name as a sole owner must go through probate with or without a will. However, without a valid will (intestate), the process is likelier to last longer, involve disputes, and cost more.

Some assets do not need to go through probate in Michigan. These include:

  • Property that the decedent jointly owned with a surviving spouse
  • Insurance policies and retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
  • Payable-upon-death bank accounts
  • Personal property worth up to $15,000
  • Assets placed in a revocable living trust

At The TGQ Law Firm, We’re on Your Side

At The TGQ Law Firm, we deal with all matters related to probate in Michigan. Whether you want to help your family avoid probate or need to handle estate administration as a personal representative, our team at The TGQ Law Firm is here to help you save time, cut costs, and avoid conflict.

If you are currently making an estate plan, we can show you how placing property in a revocable trust may help you avoid probate and gain higher control, flexibility, and privacy in your estate management.

If you are an estate representative or potential beneficiary facing probate, we can:

  • Prepare and file all court documents
  • Handle real property appraisals
  • Help settle estate and inheritance taxes
  • Assist with all estate administration tasks, from identifying estate assets to notifying creditors
  • Distribute assets to beneficiaries after the court’s approval
  • Represent you in a case of a contested will

What Is the Process for Going Through Probate Court in Michigan?

In Michigan, small estates (generally under $15,000) may only need a simplified probate procedure or an affidavit.

For estates that require formal probate, the procedure involves:

  • Appointing a personal representative, or approving the one the decedent named in their will
  • Inventorying, safeguarding, and appraising the estate assets
  • Notifying any creditors of the decedent’s passing and paying any outstanding bills, taxes, debts, estate administration costs, and attorney fees
  • Distributing any remaining assets according to the decedent’s will, or according to Michigan’s intestacy laws if the decedent left no valid will

Can I Avoid Going to Probate Court If I Have a Will or Trust in Place?

While a will doesn’t allow your estate to avoid probate, it simplifies the process and minimizes the risk of inheritance disputes. However, it may be possible to bypass probate by placing the assets under your sole ownership in a revocable trust.

You can create a revocable trust during your lifetime, name yourself as a trustee, and appoint a co-trustee to take over trust management after your death. Then you can continue using trust property as you normally would. Alternatively, you can set up a testamentary trust as part of your will.

What Are Some of the Most Common Mistakes People Make When Dealing With Probate Court?

If you are a personal representative, we can help you avoid common probate pitfalls, such as:

  • Failing to secure and manage estate assets
  • Omissions or inaccuracies in the estate asset inventory
  • Waiting too long or making mistakes in selling the decedent’s real estate
  • Neglecting to keep precise accounting records
  • Failing to communicate with beneficiaries when necessary
  • Distributing property before formal estate closure

Michigan Probate Attorney | Schedule A Consultation

The probate process in Michigan can be long, tedious, and costly. At The TGQ Law Firm, we manage the process, handle inheritance disputes, and help families bypass or streamline the court process.

For a no-cost 15-minute consultation with a Michigan probate lawyer at The TGQ Law Firm, schedule a consultation now or contact us in Ann Arbor, MI, at (734) 707-3232.

Sign up for a needs assessment

During this 60-minute (one hour) in-person meeting we will review your situation, listen to your interests, and identify a satisfactory plan of action. We look forward to meeting you!

Probate Court Matters

Probate court can be a very valuable resource for families, individuals, etc., when facing challenges involving assets, children, family members and inheritances.  Many people feel that probate court means trouble and conflict.  While that may be true in some instances, probate court is actually available to assist people, families and institutions in their efforts to satisfy asset, family and health matters.  It is certainly ideal to be proactive in the settling of will or trust, powers of attorney, and other matters, but when those matters are still open, probate court is the tool to use to properly pursue resolution.  Below is a list of some of the ways upon which probate court can be relied:

Estate Administration

When a person has died with assets remaining in his/her name without designated beneficiaries, those assets will be inaccessible until someone has been given authority to handle those assets.  The Probate Court is usually the only entity that maintains authority to give such authority to an appointed fiduciary.  The Court looks to the Last Will and Testament and/or state law to determine who should be appointed.  The Court will then hold that person accountable for the proper handling and distribution of such assets.  At times, interested parties (heirs, devisees, creditors, etc.) will find it necessary to challenge the fiduciary’s decisions and handling of such assets (including assets held in trust, separate from the Court).  The Probate Court is the proper venue for such challenges and disputes.

Guardianships and Conservatorships

Probate Court does not only deal with matters following a person’s death; it also deals with matters involving individuals needing someone to handle matters for them while they are alive.  If and incapacitated person, or example, has not properly executed valid powers of attorney, someone will likely need to pursue the probate court to seek authority to handle financial and personal/health matters of the incapacitated individual.  In such situations, only the Probate Court can provide such authority.  Such is also the case in situations involving minor children.  In the absence of a fit parent, the Court will appoint a fiduciary (guardian, conservator, payee, etc.) to act on behalf of the child.

At TGQ Law, we are very experienced in probate court litigation and we would love to assist you in your efforts.  Please contact us to schedule a time for us to chat.  We look forward to hearing from you.