Step-by-Step Guide through the Probate Process


If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, you may have questions about the probate process. For many residents of the Grand Rapids area, the term “probate” is not one with which most of us are familiar. Yet when you are dealing with the estate of a family member, it is important to understand precisely what probate is, how probate works and when it is used, and what the process entails. Generally speaking, the probate process falls within the broader category of trust and estate law, and it is an issue that tends to arise during estate planning and in administering the estate of a deceased person.

What is the Probate Process?

First, and most importantly, you are likely wondering: what is probate? As an article from the American Bar Association explains, probate is the legal word for the process of administering the estate of the deceased when that administration is supervised by the court. What do we mean when we say administering the estate? A pamphlet from the State Bar of Michigan helps to explain what estate administration requires in our state. In short, during the probate process, a personal representative will administer the property of the deceased by doing the following:

  • “Marshalling” the assets of the deceased, which includes sorting through the property of the decedent, assembling and securing assets, and having those assets valued;
  • Paying charges owed by the deceased, such as final medical bills or funeral expenses, taxes, any money owed to creditors, and expenses associated with administering the estate; and
  • Distributing the remaining assets of the estate to the decedent’s beneficiaries.

Distribution of assets will happen in one of two ways. If the decedent had a will, then the assets will be distributed according to the will. If there was no will, however, then the assets will be distributed according to the law of intestate succession in Michigan.

When is the Probate Process Necessary?

When is the probate process necessary? Typically, whenever a decedent has property in his or her name, or has rights to receive property in his or her name (such as a debt owed), then the property must go through the probate process. In Michigan, there are some exceptions, and an experienced Michigan estate planning lawyer can examine the specifics of your case.

Understanding the Process of Probate

Now that you know what the probate process is and when it is required, it is important to understand the general steps in the probate process:

  • Family of the decedent will make funeral arrangements, locate the decedent’s will, compile a list of decedent’s property, and determine whether probate will be necessary;
  • Nomination of a personal representative will occur, and the court will appoint a personal representative of the estate;
  • Personal representative will assemble the deceased’s assets;
  • Personal representative will handle a wide variety of financial issues concerning the deceased’s property, including paying any charges owed by the deceased, distributing exempt property, and planning for taxes;
  • Personal representative will distribute the assets of the deceased to the beneficiaries; and
  • Personal representative will close the estate once all requirements of the probate process have been satisfied.
  • Generally speaking, after the appointment of the personal representative and prior to closing the estate, the personal representative has a duty to property manage the estate, including investments and other assets.

    Contact a Michigan Probate Attorney

    If you have questions about the probate process and how it works, an experienced probate lawyer in Michigan can assist you today. Contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. for more information about our services.

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