Decedent Estates

When Is Probate Required?
Generally speaking, probate is only necessary when a person dies leaving property solely in his or her own name (such as a house titled only in the name of the decedent) or having rights to receive property (such as wrongful death claim or a debt owed to the decedent). However, not all property in which the decedent has an interest will be subject to probate.

Types of Estates
The following are the different types of estates:

Unsupervised - Informal probate - permits the Personal Representative (PR) to act in a manner independent of the court unless intervention is requested by the PR or an interested person (such as an unpaid creditor or an estate beneficiary).

Supervised - Formal Probate
This requires the probate court's review and approval of much of the estate activities. For example, in supervised administration the court would be required to:
• Approve the sale of the decedent's real estate (unless the decedent's will authorizes the PR to do so)
• Authorize the payment of PR and attorney fees
• Devisees (people receiving property under a will)
• Prior approval of all distributions to heirs (people receiving property from the estate if there is no will)
• Review the Personal Representative's accounting of all receipts and disbursements

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Estate Under $24,000 (Small Estate)
All of the real and personal property owned by the decedent has a total value equal to or less than the sum of the following: the funeral expenses plus $24,000.

Upon presentation of a petition and payment of the filing fee, the probate court may order that the funeral expenses be paid, if they have not been paid, or that the person who paid them be reimbursed. The balance of the property will be assigned to the surviving spouse or, if none, to the decedent's heirs under Michigan's law of intestate succession. No court hearing is held.

If the decedent had a will, please note that in this process, the terms of the will are not carried out. However, if the decedent had a will, by law, it must be filed with the Probate Court, per MCL 700.2516. If you want the terms of the will carried out, you must file an informal or formal probate.

• Affidavit of decedent's successor for delivery of certain assets owned by decedent
If an estate is under $21,000 in value, has no real property, and it has been more than 28 days after a decedent's date of death, you may be able to use this form, PC598 (PDF), to present to an institution to obtain the funds (i.e., bank, stock company).
Small Estate (Petition and Order for Assignment)
Small Estate Assignment

*This page is meant to provide you with general information in regards to small estates. Please note: Our staff is prohibited by law from giving you legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you require assistance.

Michigan law (MCL 700.3982) allows small estates to be probated using an expedited process that does not require a personal representative to be appointed. To qualify as a small estate, the total value of the estate, minus funeral and burial expenses, must be $22,000 or less for 2014*. Please note that in this process, the terms of the decedent’s will are not carried out (however, if the decedent had a will, by law, it must be filed with the Probate Court, per MCL 700.2516).

This small estate process has several requirements.

You must fill out a  Petition and Order for Assignment, PC 556 (PDF). There is a$25 filing fee, and a statutorily-mandated inventory fee based on the value of the estate. You may access an inventory fee calculator online. If you need to have the Order certified, there is an additional $12 fee. If you are submitting a check or money order for the filing fee, it can be made payable to the Charlevoix County Probate Court.

• The decedent must have been a Charlevoix County resident. If the decedent was not a Charlevoix County resident, he/she must have left property in our county.
• You must submit a copy of the death certificate to the court.
• A description and gross value must be given of all property within the decedent’s estate. Estate assets are assets solely in the decedent’s name.

Since small estate assignment is an expedited procedure, Michigan Statute is very strict on how a decedent’s estate may be assigned.

• 1st, the estate assets will be applied to pay any unpaid funeral or burial expenses to the funeral home. If the estate is less than or equal to the amount of the unpaid funeral and burial expenses, then all of the estate goes to the funeral home.

• 2nd, if there are assets left over after full payment of the funeral home, then any individuals or entities (including the Department of Human Services) who paid the funeral expenses need to be repaid out of the estate.

• 3rd:
 If the funeral home has been paid
 Or if the funeral expenses have been paid by insurance or have been prepaid by the decedent
 Or the person(s) who had paid for the funeral expenses has been paid back
 Or if the funeral expenses have been paid by insurance or have been prepaid by the decedent

After all of this has been considered, then remaining assets will be assigned to the surviving spouse or to the heirs if there is no surviving spouse.

The small estate assignment process may not be appropriate in cases where a bulk of the estate is made up of an automobile, household belongings, or real property and there are multiple individuals entitled to the property.

Civil Actions
The probate court will handle a civil case that arises from a dispute in a probate matter such as an estate, a trust, or a guardianship or conservatorship. The amount of the claim is not relevant. The civil case must be filed in the county where the probate court matter is being handled. If there is no underlying probate matter, the civil case must be filed in either the circuit court or district court based on the amount of the claim.

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