Michigan Death Estate Settlement Procedures

By Erika Johansen

When someone dies, her estate must be settled. The settlement process includes following the terms of the will, paying off the deceased's debts and taxes, selling or giving away her property, and dealing with the probate court. In Michigan, the person who oversees estate settlement is known as the personal representative of the deceased; this person is either named in the deceased's will or chosen after her death by the probate court.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a process in which a personal representative settles the estate of a decedent under the supervision of a probate court. Probate can be an extensive process, taking several months or more. However, Michigan offers a simplified probate procedure for small estates of limited value. If a person owned no property at the time of death, or owned property jointly with a surviving spouse (in which case, the property goes to the spouse upon decedent's death), the need for probate is unlikely. Most probate proceedings are a matter of public record.

The Probate Process

If the deceased left a will, the first step is for the personal representative to procure a copy of the will. He then petitions the probate court, typically in the county where the death took place, to admit the will and formally appoint him as personal representative. If the probate court finds the will valid, it will admit the will and give the personal representative permission to begin settling the estate according to the terms of the will. Once the settlement process is complete, the personal representative files an accounting with the probate court that basically details everything he did: money spent, debts and taxes paid, and property or cash distributed. Unless a family member of the deceased wishes to dispute this accounting, the probate court will then give the personal representative permission to close the estate.

Get a free, confidential bankruptcy evaluation. Learn More

Personal Representative's Duties

Whether the deceased left a will or not, the personal representative will have many duties as part of the probate process. After presenting the will, he must collect all of the deceased's property. He must inform any potential creditors, usually via direct contact or notices in local publications, who then have a few months to submit a claim to the estate; if they do, the personal representative must pay all valid claims. He must also file an income tax return for the decedent; in the case of larger estates, an estate income tax return may be required as well. All estate debts and taxes must be paid before the personal representative may distribute remaining property to beneficiaries; in Michigan, if the personal representative distributes property too early, before the time limit for creditor claims runs out, he will be liable for any shortfall if further creditor claims arrive.

Final Distribution

Once the personal representative has dealt with debts and taxes, he can then begin to distribute property to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will. If there is no will, property distribution becomes more complicated and the personal representative must distribute the decedent's assets to his closest relations, or heirs, in accordance with Michigan law. The order of distribution is known as the order of intestate succession; in Michigan, this first begins with the surviving spouse and any descendants before moving on to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and so forth. Once all property is distributed, the personal representative can present his accounting to the probate court.

Get a free, confidential bankruptcy evaluation. Learn More
What Are the Protocols of Executor of a Will in the State of Florida?
 

References

Related articles

Arkansas Will and Testament Filing

In Arkansas, as in most states, the probate process begins with filing the deceased’s will. It is a necessary first step before any payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of his property to his beneficiaries can begin. The Circuit Court in the county where the testator lived when he passed away oversees probate. The court permits jury trials in the event of a dispute, and can punish anyone who doesn’t cooperate with the probate process with contempt of court.

How to File a Will & Testament in Florida

A will describes how the person writing it -- the testator -- wants his property to be distributed when he dies and nominates an executor, or personal representative, to administer his estate through the probate process. However, the representative cannot administer the testator's estate or properly distribute his assets until the will is filed with the Probate Division of the testator's local Circuit Court.

Probate Laws for No Will in the State of Maine

Maine probate courts oversee the distribution of decedents' estates to their heirs. When a person dies without a will, thus leaving an intestate estate, Maine probate statutes govern how the intestate estate should be divided. Probate judges appoint personal representatives, also called administrators, to distribute intestate estates to heirs. Generally, an administrator must gather estate assets, pay estate debts and convey the net assets to heirs within approximately one year of appointment.

Bankruptcy

Related articles

Probating an Unsupervised Estate in Michigan

Probate is the process of settling the estate of a deceased person, who is known as a decedent. In Michigan, ...

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will in Nebraska?

If someone dies with a valid will, the will leaves instructions about who should manage his estate and who should ...

What Do I Do With His Will if My Dad Passed Away?

When parents pass away, and leave behind a last will and testament, their heirs must navigate the often-complex process ...

What to Do When Someone Dies Without Leaving a Will?

When someone dies without a will or other estate planning direction, this is legally known as dying "intestate." ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED