Informal Probate of a Will

Inquiry: My aunt died in Michigan without a will. I am the only heir. She had only a trailer, a car, and other miscellaneous personal items. I filed papers to open a probate estate in Eaton County and was appointed the personal representative. Now what do I do?

Response: It sounds like you could probate the estate informally. You probably already filed an Application for Informal Probate along with the Testimony of Interested Persons, Supplemental Testimony of Interested Persons Testate Estate, Register’s Statement, Acceptance of Appointment and Letters of Authority for Personal Representative. The Register probably signed the Register’s Statement and issued your Letters of Authority as the Personal Representative.

You must now prepare and inventory, pay the inventory fee, give notice to creditors, pay the taxes, pay the bills of the estate and any claims against the estate (which you will discover as a result of the notice to creditors), and distribute the assets as appropriate. You must finally file either a Notice of Continuing Administration if the estate is open for more than a year (PC 587), or file a Sworn Statement to Close the estate once it has been fully administered.

The law on administering the estate can be found in Chapter 700 of the Michigan Compiled Laws: PROBATE OF WILLS AND ADMINISTRATION.

DUTIES OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES can be found starting at MCL 700.3701.

If you have not sent out your Notice of Appointment, take care of that. Look at MCL 700.3705. Michigan law requires the personal representative to provide notice of their appointment to “interested parties” whose address is readily available, either by personal service or by first-class mail. If you do not know and cannot find out the address or identity of a person who is to receive notice, you must publish it one time in a newspaper in the county in which your aunt resided. The form Notice of Appointment and Duties of Personal Representative (PC 573) provides for all of the required information.

You must provide all interested persons with a copy of the petition for your appointment, a copy of the will, if any, a copy of the inventory, a copy of the settlement petition or of the closing statement and, unless waived, a copy of the account. (An interested person may petition the court for a court hearing on any matter at any time during the estate’s administration.)

Federal and Michigan estate taxes, if any, must be paid within 9 months after the death or another time period specified by law.

As to the Notice to Creditors, look at MCL 700.3801 and the statutes that follow it. Unless the notice has already been given, you must publish a notice to creditors in a newspaper in a county in which your aunt lived. You will be telling creditors that their claims will be forever barred unless presented to you, within 4 months after the publication of the notice. MCR 5.306(A). There are special rules for known creditors.

It is your responsibility to administer your aunt’s estate. As such, you are responsible for identifying, valuing and protecting everything that she owned at the time of her death, which makes up the assets of her estate. You must prepare an Inventory (PC 577) which lists all assets and their fair market value and any lien or encumbrance. You must send this to all presumptive distributees and other interested persons requesting it within 91 days following the appointment of the Personal Representative. Take a look at mcl-700-3706. The probate court uses the Inventory amount to calculate the fee which must be paid to the court as part of probate administration.

Certain property is not subject to probate:

  • Property which is owned jointly with right of survivorship
  • Beneficiary designated property such as a life insurance policy
  • Revocable trust property
  • Exempt property: Unpaid wages, cash up to $500 and wearing apparel, travelers checks, motor vehicle transfers if the combined value does not exceed $60,000 and there are no probate proceedings, watercraft transfers if the combined value does not exceed $100000 and there are no probate proceedings, income tax refunds, transfer by affidavit of personal property valued at not more than $15,000

As to closing the estate, take a look at CLOSING ESTATES, MCL 700.3951 and the statutes that follow it . (If you discover assets after the estate has been closed, the Court may appoint you or a successor Personal Representative upon the petition of an interested person. MCL 700.3959.)

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