When a loved one dies and family members are dealing with grief and sorrow, they are often in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with the dispersion of assets and property, or are even burdened with debt their loved one has left behind. The demands of estate administration can be overwhelming without a knowledgeable attorney to guide you through the probate or trust administration process.
Intestate Succession Through Probate Proceedings
When a person dies without an estate plan, the distribution of their estate is governed by the Michigan Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) in a process called intestate succession. This law directs probate court judges with procedures to name personal representatives, identify and quantify assets, and distribute the estate. Generally, intestate succession will pass a person’s assets to his or her closest relatives, starting with his or her spouse and children.
Executing a Will Through Formal or Informal Probate
In many cases, the deceased person (the decedent or testator) will have drafted a will that directs how his or her property and assets are to be distributed to loved ones and desired charities or organizations. After the person passes, it is the duty of the executor or personal representative named in the will to distribute the estate’s assets according to the will’s specific terms.
This process is overseen by the probate court and, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, the executor may be able to select informal probate, or a more formal proceeding may be required. The formality of the proceeding and size of the estate will dictate the length of the probate process and any associated probate court fees and costs.
Executing a will involves:
- Preparing an inventory of the assets and debts
- Sending out notices to heirs, creditors, and other interested parties
- Placing values on the property
- Selling homes, vehicles, and personal effects not specifically gifted to heirs
- Paying off debts and final expenses
- Distributing inheritances
Throughout the process, the probate court will require the personal representative to file documents with the court to ensure the matter is resolved properly.
Contesting a Will or Estate Administration
In some cases, family members may disagree on the administration of their loved one’s estate. Some may dispute how shares of property are valued or distributed. Occasionally, the will itself may be challenged, either because the petitioner claims the decedent was not competent when it was signed, or because there are two or more versions of the document. Such disputes are often resolved through litigation in probate court.
When a person creates a trust, he or she must name a trustee to oversee its administration. After the person dies or becomes incapacitated, the trustee must steward the trust and direct its use and distribution according to the directives contained in the trust.
Contact us to schedule your free consultation with a probate attorney who knows how sensitive estate administration can be, and who has experience working within the parameters of EPIC standards and the demands of probate court. When necessary, we will also appear in court and/or meet with family members to resolve contested will disputes and negotiate a mutually agreeable solution.
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