If you have a sufficiently large amount of assets, Michigan law requires your estate to go through a potentially lengthy probate proceeding in which a court-approved executor gathers your assets, pays your creditors and distributes remaining assets to your beneficiaries. However, if your estate is valued at $21,000 or less, it can qualify for abbreviated procedures, such as the process prescribed by Michigan’s small estate law, and your family can complete your estate without a long probate court case. Under small estate procedures, a judge can sign off on the distribution of your assets as determined by Michigan law rather than the terms of your will.
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The maximum allowable value of your estate changes periodically due to cost of living adjustments, according to the terms of Section 700.3982 of Michigan Compiled Law, which contains the requirements for estates to qualify for small estate procedures. In 2013, your estate must be valued at $21,000 or less after funeral and burial expenses are paid to qualify. When calculating this figure, Michigan includes everything you own, such as a house or other property, debts, liens and taxes owed. You must also be a resident of the county in which your loved ones file the paperwork to process your estate.
Effect of Small Estate Orders
The petition your loved ones file includes a section for the probate judge to sign, indicating his approval of the distribution plan contained in the petition. Once the judge signs the order, it is legally binding on all of your heirs and your estate’s probate process is complete. If your estate is processed under Michigan’s small estate law, the court will not approve a personal representative to manage your estate like it would if your estate went through another type of probate proceeding.
Your family must file the appropriate forms with your county’s probate court to begin the small estate process after your death, including a Petition and Order for Assignment. This document is a standardized form that lists information about your date of death, residency, heirs and assets. This form must be accompanied by a copy of your death certificate; a bill documenting the amount of your funeral and burial expenses; proof of payment of these expenses if they have been paid; your will, if you made one; and filing, copy and inventory fees.
Wills and Small Estates
While creating a will generally provides instructions about how you want your property distributed upon your death, Michigan’s small estate law doesn't take notice of any will you created. However, the court will file your will along with your small estate paperwork even though it does not consider the will’s terms when approving your small estate. This means that your assets will be distributed according to Michigan law, even if your will says otherwise. If you have a surviving spouse, Michigan law says he will inherit all of your assets after your funeral and burial expenses are paid or reimbursed to the person who paid them. If you leave no surviving spouse, your property will be distributed to your other heirs as listed in Michigan law, beginning with your surviving children.