What is Probate?

Probate is the legal court process by which a decedent’s estate is administered. When someone dies, certain assets may pass to heirs free of court interference; however, many assets do not automatically pass to heirs without a court process.

In the probate process, an appointed administrator collects the decedents assets, takes inventory of them, and values the estate. The administrator then identifies heirs, settles debts with creditors, files tax returns, and, finally, distributes assets.

Having a will does not avoid the probate process. If the deceased person created a will during their lifetime, it is submitted to the probate court where it is then validated. Once this occurs, the estates assets are distributed according to the will’s terms. If a person dies intestate (without a will) the decedent’s assets are distributed according to state statute.

The probate process in Michigan is usually unsupervised – meaning the administrator has full authority to manage the estate without interference from the court. If there are any disputes between heirs or over how the estate is being administered, the court may order the process be supervised. Once supervised, the probate judge must approve every detail of the administration.

Probate in the state of Michigan is sometimes fairly quick and inexpensive; however, it can often be lengthy and time-consuming. The length of the probate process is dependent on the size of the estate and the complexity of the administration. An objection to a will (a will contest) is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings A will contest can stem from unhappy heirs who receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or can be a quarrel over the person who has been designated to serve as administrator. This can result in delaying the administration of the estate and can be incredibly costly to litigate.