As a Grand Rapids estate planning attorney, I help my clients avoid the delays and cost of probate. If probate is unavoidable, I can help walk you through the probate process.
What is Probate? Probate is a court oversight process to determine who will inherit your assets – and if applicable: (a) appoint who will care for your minor children (Guardian); (b) appoint who will oversee their finances (Conservator).
When is Probate Required? Probate applies if you don’t have a will or if your assets exceed a threshold amount (which is quite low).
Types of Probate: Michigan has four probate avenues:
Small Estate: if your total non-exempt assets (after paying for burial and funeral costs) is less than $22,000, you can use the Small Estate process. It is quite simple and merely requires the filing of Form PC 556.
Medium Estate: if you are survived by your spouse and/or minor children and your total non-exempt assets (after paying for burial, funeral, last illness, and administration costs) is less than approximately $55,000 (there is a specified formula based upon types of assets), you can use the Medium Estate process. It is quite simple and merely requires the filing of Form PC 556.
Unsupervised Regular Probate: the personal representative is permitted to close the estate without court supervision unless the personal representative requests the court’s assistance or an interested party (usually a creditor or beneficiary) requests court intervention. The minimum time to close your estate using this avenue is 5 months.
Supervised Regular Probate: the court reviews and approves the estate activities. This is required for estates where: (a) real estate will be sold; (b) fees will be paid to an attorney or personal representative, or (c) distributions will be made to beneficiaries.
Assets Exempt from Probate: Items “exempt” from probate include:
Living Trust assets: These are the assets that are in a living trust
Jointly owned Assets: If the asset passes automatically to the surviving owner – which means it is owned by at least 2 people and the first to die gives their interest to the survivor(s). This includes:
Joint tenancy with right to survivorship – available for real estate, stock, bonds, mortgages, and other forms of indebtedness. Tenancy by the Entirety – available only to married couples (in Michigan this only applies to real estate)
Life Insurance: If the insurance policy has a designated beneficiary – which means when the person dies, the policy’s proceeds have been designated to be paid to a specified person or entity.
Retirement Plans: Such as an IRA, 401k, pension benefit, social security, etc.
Bank Accounts: If the account has a designated “payable on death” (POD) beneficiary or “transfer on death” (TOD) beneficiary.
Cash: Up to $500.
Travelers' checks: Most issuing companies will redeem travelers' checks without an order of the court.
Unpaid Wages: From a Michigan employer. This also includes fringe benefits.
Income tax refunds: Both federal and state.
Motor Vehicles: If the total value of all vehicles does not exceed $60,000.
Watercraft: If the total value of all watercraft does not exceed $100,000.
Personal property: Up to $15,000.
Wearing Apparel: If the apparel is held by a hospital, convalescent or nursing home, morgue, or law enforcement agency.
All other assets will be subject to probate if the total assets non-exempt assets exceed $22,000.
If probate is necessary, as a Grand Rapids estate planning lawyer, I can help walk you through the probate process. What happens in the probate process?
Guardians – the probate court will appoint who the Guardian(s) will be to raise your minor children (or care for your incapacitated adult children). If you have a will nominating Guardians, in almost all instances, the court will honor your wishes by appointing the person you nominated. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint a Guardian based upon what is in the “best interests of the child”.
Conservator – the probate court will appoint the Conservator who will oversee the assets available for your minor children (or incapacitated adult children). These assets will include: (a) assets the children owned before your death; (b) assets inherited through your will; or (c) if there is no provision in your will, then according to statutory inheritance rules (called Intestate Succession). If you have a will nominating a Conservator, in almost all instances, the court will honor your wishes by appointing the person you nominated in your will. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint a Conservator based upon what is in the “best interests of the child”.
Personal Representative – the probate court will appoint your Personal Representative who will wrap up your estate according to the terms of your will or, if you don’t have a will, then according to law. If you have a will nominating a Personal Representative, in almost all instances, the court will honor your wishes by appointing the person you nominated in your will. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint the Personal Representative.
Asset Distribution – the probate court will transfer legal title for your estate assets: (a) to the beneficiaries designated in your will or; (b) if you don’t have will, then to the inheritors who will take the assets by statutory inheritance rules (called Intestate Succession).
Protect your family and your estate by trusting LAH Law PLC, the law firm that specializes in probate law in Grand Rapids, MI. Our clients benefit from our many years of legal experience and our deep familiarity with probate law. The services we provide make probate administration a simple, streamlined process for your family. While probate law is often complicated, our legal services offer the clarity and assistance you need in order to enjoy peace of mind. Schedule an appointment at our office to discuss our probate services.
As your probate lawyers, we assist with all of the official duties pertaining to your estate’s executorship. These responsibilities include:
Making an Inventory of Assets
Validating the Will
Settling Outstanding Debts
Distributing Remaining Assets on Behalf of the Decedent
Preparing and Filing the Necessary Paperwork
Mediating Disputes over Assets between Beneficiaries
Our objective is to see that the distribution of your assets, including property and finances, runs as smoothly as possible. Our probate administration services are designed to eliminate stress and to ensure that any lingering legal matters are resolved satisfactorily.
We understand that our probate services are often proactively retained as part of our clients’ end-of-life considerations, so we always execute our duties with consideration and compassion. When you want to guarantee that your interests are protected by experienced attorneys, call our office.
Contact us today to speak with a reputable probate lawyer. We serve clients in Grand Rapids, MI.