How Do You Become an Executor of an Estate in Michigan When One Was Not Appointed?

By Andrine Redsteer

Generally, will makers, or "testators," name an executor in a last will and testament. However, when an individual dies without a will -- referred to as dying intestate -- a probate court appoints an executor or personal representative. In Michigan, as in other states, a deceased person's family members or friends may request appointment by a probate court. Typically, a request for appointment as personal representative must be filed with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived.

Informal Probate

Michigan probate courts allow for informal probate proceedings upon request. Informal probate proceedings typically involve little oversight by the probate court. Moreover, informal probate proceedings may not require any court hearings; the court's role may be limited to reviewing and accepting paperwork. In Michigan, an individual who is interested in being appointed as personal representative for informal probate may file an application for appointment with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived.

Formal Probate

A decedent typically names an executor in his will. However, if no executor was named in the will or the validity of the will is in question, formal probate proceedings may be required. Formal probate proceedings generally involve more oversight than informal probate proceedings and may be necessary if the decedent's will leaves any doubt as to who the executor should be. A petition for formal probate and appointment of a personal representative may be filed with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived.

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Michigan probate courts require a prospective personal representative to notify anyone who may be of "equal or higher priority" in the application for appointment. For example, if the decedent has family members, an applicant who is not related to the decedent must notify them of her application for appointment. If the decedent's family members do not object, the probate court may grant the application. However, if the decedent's family members do object, the probate court may deny the application.

Additional Requirements

Michigan probate courts require a filing fee and a death certificate or other proof of the decedent's death. An individual who seeks appointment as personal representative may need to gather other information for the application or petition, such as the names and addresses of the decedent's heirs. If an applicant is aware of individuals who are of equal or higher priority, he may list them on the application.

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How to File a Will to Be Probated in Michigan

To start the probate of a will in Michigan, you must file the will, which initiates the court proceedings necessary to formally appoint you as a personal representative to settle the deceased's estate. You must file the will in the correct county, which is usually the county the deceased lived in when he died, or in the county where he owned real estate. In Michigan, to file the will and the application for informal probate, you need the official proof of death, such as the death certificate, plus the original will and any codicils. You may use an authenticated copy of the will, along with any codicils, such as copies that a probate court from another county has stamped, if you no longer have the originals.

What Is an Appointed Executor of a Will?

A person names an executor, also called a personal representative, in her will. When the person dies, her will must be probated. Probate judges generally honor decedents' wishes by formally appointing executors identified in wills. If a person dies without a will, the court chooses someone to administer the decedent's estate. Relatives are usually considered first. However, if none are available, any party the court deems fit may serve.

Who Can Probate a Will in the State of Alabama?

In Alabama, if the deceased named someone in his will to oversee probate, he is referred to as the executor or personal representative; if no one is named in the will and the court must appoint someone, he is called the administrator. Probate is the process of disposing of the testator's property according to the will’s terms. The executor or administrator must also ensure that all of the deceased’s debts and any estate taxes are paid. Anyone in possession of the will can present it for probate after the testator’s death. This person does not necessarily have to be the executor.

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