CRISTOPHER A. HOGAN, ATTORNEY
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Western Michigan Probate Attorneys

Hogan Law, P.C. has been helping West Michigan area residents with legal issues for decades. We have extensive legal experience and are committed to helping our clients succeed. Client focused, results driven.

Western Michigan Probate Attorneys

We understand that having to go through a probate process can be emotionally challenging – our legal team is here to offer support as well as expert guidance in navigating the complexities of each situation.

At Hogan Law, we have decades of experience handling all types of probate matters across the state of Michigan. Our team can assist with conservatorships, guardianships for adults and minors, decedents' estates, name changes, and developmentally disabled planning. 

We understand that having to go through a probate process can be emotionally challenging – our legal team is here to offer support as well as expert guidance in navigating the complexities of each situation. 

We understand that every family’s needs are different - talk to us today so we can discuss your specific case and determine the best way forward. Schedule your consultation with us now and let us help you navigate this difficult time with ease. 

With years of experience under our belt and a commitment to providing excellent customer service, you can trust our team of experts to respond quickly and competently as we work towards the best solution for your family. Contact us today and get started on the road to peace of mind. 

Hogan Law is here to provide experienced legal support during what can be a trying time – call us now and let us walk alongside you every step of the way. We are committed to offering compassionate counsel every step of the way and helping families achieve their goals in probate cases. Let Hogan Law help you find the path forward in your case. Reach out and schedule a consultation today.

What is probate and why is it necessary?

Probate is a legal process that, in Michigan, is used to transfer property from the deceased to their heirs. It involves five steps: (1) filing for probate; (2) identifying and appraising assets; (3) paying off debts and taxes; (4) distributing assets according to the will or intestacy laws; and (5) closing the estate. 

The goal of the probate process is to ensure that all creditors are paid, and all assets are correctly transferred according to state law. 

The probate process can be lengthy depending on the complexity of the estate at hand. During this time, appointed representatives must take care of any outstanding debts or expenses incurred by or on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. 

This includes things like funeral expenses, medical bills, property taxes, and other debts. In Michigan, if the deceased person had a will in place at the time of their death, probate must be opened to ensure that their wishes are followed. 

The probate process can be costly as well due to court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other costs associated with the transfer of assets. When the deceased does not have a will or trust in place before their death or is under-insured for any liabilities they may have had, it could leave their heirs responsible for settling those obligations. 

In summary, probate is an essential part of Michigan law because it ensures that all matters related to a deceased person’s estate are addressed and that their assets are dispersed by the law. 

It is a formal process that is handled by the legal system, and it can be costly and time-consuming depending on the complexity of the case. Nevertheless, it provides an important service to those who have recently lost someone close to them. 

What assets are subject to probate?

In Michigan, probate generally applies to all assets that are owned by a deceased person solely in their name, with no written agreement for another individual or entity to inherit the asset. 

This includes real estate, bank accounts, stocks, and bonds, vehicles (cars and boats), jewelry, furniture, and artwork. Generally, anything of value that is owned by an individual at the time of death will become part of probate proceedings in Michigan. 

One important point to consider when discussing assets subject to probate is whether they are considered transferable property or non-transferable property. Transferable property refers to items such as money or other financial instruments that can be easily moved from one account to another without any extra steps or paperwork. 

Non-transferable property refers to items such as real estate or vehicles that require additional paperwork and signatures to transfer ownership. In Michigan, both types of assets are subject to probate proceedings. 

It is also important to note that certain assets may be exempt from probate altogether, depending on the value of the asset and other details surrounding it. For example, any life insurance policy proceeds with a designated beneficiary will not become part of the deceased's estate. 

Additionally, certain retirement accounts held by the deceased may bypass probate as well if there is a listed beneficiary on the account at the time of death. It is best to consult with an attorney who specializes in Michigan probate law for more specific advice regarding assets subject to probate in your situation. 

In conclusion, all assets owned solely by an individual at the time of death in Michigan are subject to probate proceedings in some form or another. Transferable and non-transferable property both become part of the estate and will be handled according to the deceased's last will or other written instructions. 

However, certain assets may be exempt from probate depending on their value and other details surrounding them, so it is always best to seek legal advice before making any assumptions about which assets may require probate court approval. 

How long does probate usually take in Michigan?

The timeline for probate in Michigan can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors. Generally, the process begins with filing a petition and ends with the distribution of assets to beneficiaries; this is known as testacy or intestacy, depending on if there is a will or not. The average length of probate in Michigan is typically between 6-12 months, however, it may take longer if complications arise. 

Some common factors that can affect the length of time it takes to go through probate include the complexity of the estate, how quickly creditors are paid off, potential disputes among heirs and beneficiaries, delays related to tax filings or appraisals, etc. Furthermore, certain estates can require additional court hearings which could further extend the timeline. 

In some cases, it is possible to expedite the probate process through mediation or other methods. If you are looking to shorten the timeline in Michigan, it’s important to consult with a qualified lawyer or legal professional who can provide guidance and advice on potential strategies for speeding up the process. 

Overall, understanding all the factors that could affect how long probate takes in Michigan is essential for helping you manage your expectations about when assets will be distributed and available for use. 

Although timelines may vary, taking steps to ensure that each step of the process is completed quickly and efficiently can help alleviate any delays. With careful planning and knowledge of these factors, you can have a better idea of what to expect throughout the probate process. 

What happens if there is no will or estate plan?

If Michigan probate is necessary and there is no will or estate plan, the individual's assets are distributed according to state law. Michigan intestate succession laws determine who inherits from the deceased person. The surviving family members must go through a court-supervised process called probate to have those assets distributed according to those laws. 

In Michigan, if there is no will or estate plan in place, the property of a deceased person passes to his/her immediate family members in this order: spouse, children, parents, and siblings (in that order). If none of these people survive the decedent then it goes down the line to more distant relatives such as uncles and aunts, grandparents, cousins, and even great-grandparents. 

The probate court will usually appoint an executor to oversee the process, who is often someone named in the decedent's will or chosen by the surviving family members. The executor is responsible for gathering all the deceased’s assets and settling any debts that may be outstanding before the distribution of the remaining assets to those entitled under state law. 

Once probate has been completed and all debts have been paid off, any remaining property is distributed according to Michigan intestacy laws. All distributions are supervised by the probate court to ensure compliance with applicable laws. 

It is important to note that if a person dies without a will or estate plan in Michigan, their entire estate may not pass through probate. For example, if the decedent held certain assets jointly with another person or in a trust, those assets would not have to go through probate. The court must still approve the transfer of these assets. 

The process of dealing with a deceased loved one’s estate can be overwhelming and daunting for surviving family members, especially when there is no will or estate plan in place. Professional legal advice is advised as there are numerous complex rules and procedures involved in administering an intestate estate. 

Having an experienced attorney guide you through the Michigan probate process can help make it much easier and ensure that all legal requirements are met. 

Probate Matters
Cristopher A. Hogan
May 30, 2023
Read More...(expanded content)

Can a will be contested in probate court?

In Michigan probate court, a will can be contested under certain circumstances. In most cases, the person contesting the will must be an interested party — someone who stands to gain from or lose from the outcome of the contested will. This includes beneficiaries named in the will, those who would have inherited if there was no valid will, and creditors of the estate. 

The grounds for contesting a will vary by state, but in Michigan, they may include claims that: The testator (will-maker) lacked mental capacity; The maker was unduly influenced by another person; or the document doesn't meet certain formal requirements set out by law. 

When a claim is made that a testator lacked mental capacity when the will was made, it must be proven that the testator wasn't fully aware of the consequences of making a will. This could include evidence that the maker didn't understand what he or she was signing or had limited understanding due to dementia or illness. 

When a claim is made that a testator was unduly influenced when writing their will, it must be proven that another person exerted pressure on them to change their terms in some way. Evidence may include conversations with witnesses and medical records showing signs of coercion. 

Finally, if a document doesn't meet certain formal requirements set out by law, there are procedures for contesting it in probate court. This includes issues such as proper execution (making sure all paperwork is executed properly), notarization, and signature requirements. 

In Michigan probate court, a will can be contested under certain circumstances. As mentioned before, interested parties such as beneficiaries named in the will, those who would have inherited if there was no valid will, and creditors of the estate may challenge a will on various grounds. 

If successful, this could lead to changes or even invalidation of the document. It's important for anyone thinking about contesting a will to consult an experienced attorney to help make their case in court. 

How are debts and taxes handled in a probate case?

The process for handling debts and taxes during a Michigan probate case is complex. It starts with what's known as “creditor notification”—a formal notice to the decedent's creditors that they have a certain period (generally six months) to submit any claims they may have against the estate. 

Claims can also be filed by other interested parties such as spouses, children, or business partners who believe they're owed money through the estate.

Once all potential claims are gathered, the executor or administrator of the estate must then determine if they are valid and decide how much money should be paid out to each creditor or party involved by Michigan probate law. If there are more creditors than assets available to satisfy the claims, each creditor's share of the estate will be reduced accordingly.

Meanwhile, if there are any taxes owed by the decedent or the estate itself, these must also be paid before any distribution of assets can occur. This means that in addition to claims from creditors and other interested parties, an executor or administrator must also identify any outstanding state or federal taxes that must be paid before the distribution of assets can take place. 

Once all debts and taxes have been paid out, assets can then be distributed according to the terms of a will (if one exists) or by Michigan probate laws. During this process, an executor or administrator needs to have accurate records of all claims and payments, as it may be necessary to provide them if a dispute should arise. 

With all these procedures in mind, handling debts and taxes during a Michigan probate case can be a complex process—but having the right knowledge and resources can help make it smoother for those involved. 

What are the fees associated with probate?

In Michigan, the cost of probate depends on several factors such as the value of the estate and whether there are disputes amongst heirs. Probate costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars in some cases. 

The most common forms of fees associated with probate in Michigan include court filing fees, personal representative compensation, attorney's fees, appraisal fees for real estate and/or personal property assets, and lastly, creditor’s claims. 

Court filing fees typically amount to $175 for an estate valued at less than $15000 and upwards from there based on the value of the estate; however, if the decedent owned real property outside of the state, additional filing charges may apply. The cost of an attorney varies based on the complexities of the estate as well.

The personal representative of the estate is entitled to reasonable compensation, which may be paid by the estate or waived. The amount of personal representative fees is set by court order and can range from 3% to 5% commission rate on all assets collected and distributed. Appraisal fees are usually necessary if real property or large collections are included in the estate. 

Lastly, any outstanding creditor’s claims must be addressed during the probate process. All valid claims must be honored before any assets can be transferred out of an estate after accounting for costs associated with settling an estate such as court filing fees and attorney’s fees. These creditors' claims must be addressed promptly to avoid prolonged probate proceedings with additional filing fees. 

How can I avoid probate?

One way to avoid probate in the state of Michigan is to create trust. A trust allows an individual (the Trustor) to transfer property or assets into a fiduciary relationship, where a Trustee administers them for the benefit of a Beneficiary. 

The Trustor can choose someone they trust and have confidence in, such as a family member or friend, to act as the trustee. The trustee then has legal control over the assets within the trust. 

Creating a trust helps to avoid probate because when you pass away, your assets are already transferred into the trust, so there is no need for them to go through probate court. This makes it easier for beneficiaries to receive their inheritance without having lengthy court proceedings. 

Another way to avoid probate is by assigning beneficiaries for certain types of assets, such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. This allows the beneficiary to receive these assets when you die without going through the probate process. To do this, you must contact your financial institution or insurance company and fill out their forms detailing who will be the beneficiary of each asset. 

Finally, Michigan's Small Estate Affidavit Process can help families avoid probate in some cases. This allows family members with legal authority to collect assets that don’t exceed $27,000 in value without having to go through court proceedings. To qualify for this process, all creditors must be paid off and certain requirements must be met. 

By following these steps, it is possible to avoid probate in the state of Michigan, making it easier and faster for family members to receive their inheritance. It’s important to consult a qualified estate planning attorney before taking any action, who can help you create an effective plan. 

What is the difference between a formal and informal probate proceeding?

Formal probate proceedings in the state of Michigan are an official court process that is overseen by a judge and administered by a legal representative. This process involves filing legal documents, attending court hearings, and responding to any objections posed against the estate. 

The main purpose of formal probate is to have a judge validate the will of the deceased and determine how his or her assets should be distributed. 

In contrast, informal probate proceedings are less complex as they do not require court supervision or attendance at hearings. Instead, this type of probate is commonly done through self-help forms and paperwork filed with the local registrar’s office. 

No actual lawyer representation is necessary for informal proceedings; however, it still requires verification from witnesses, executors, and creditors of the estate. 

In Michigan, both formal and informal probate proceedings require a petition to be filed with the court, an inventory of all assets to be distributed in the will being established or validated and notice to be provided to potential heirs and creditors. 

The primary difference between these two types of proceedings is that only formal probate requires court hearings and legal representation. In contrast, informal probate proceedings can often be completed without any additional assistance. 

It is important to note that in some cases a combination of both formal and informal processes may be necessary for settling a person’s estate. Ultimately, which type of proceeding should be used depends on the complexity of the estate at hand as well as its size. 

Can a probate case be reopened after it has been closed?

In Michigan, a probate case can be reopened after it has been closed. A probate case may be reopened when new evidence becomes available or when the claimants in the estate change their minds about certain aspects of the settlement agreement. The court will review any requests for reopening on a case-by-case basis and decide if there are sufficient grounds to grant it. 

The process for requesting to reopen a probate case varies depending on what type of evidence is being presented and why the case needs to be reopened. If new information that wasn't previously available comes to light, then an amendment can typically be made without needing to completely reopen proceedings. On the other hand, if changes need to be made to the settlement agreement, then it may require a new hearing. 

To increase the chances of successfully reopening a probate case in Michigan, those looking to do so should prepare a detailed written request and provide evidence showing why it is necessary. 

The court will evaluate this information and decide if reopening proceedings is warranted. It's important to note that there are deadlines for filing such requests, so make sure that these are followed or else you might miss out on an opportunity for your case to be reopened. 

Whether or not a probate case can be reopened after being closed in Michigan depends on the situation. If new information arises or changes need to be made to the settlement agreement, then the court may grant your request. 

However, it's important to make sure that you can provide sufficient evidence and meet any deadlines to increase your chances of success. 

By understanding the legal process for requesting a reopening and preparing a detailed written request with supporting evidence, those looking to reopen their probate case in Michigan can pursue their desired outcome. 

What is conservatorship and how is it different from probate?

In the state of Michigan, conservatorship and probate are two distinct legal processes that serve distinct purposes. Conservatorship is a court process in which a judge appoints an individual as guardian over another person’s financial and assistance affairs. 

The appointed individual, known as the conservator, makes decisions about how to use and manage the assets of the protected person - such as their banking accounts or investments - for their benefit. The protected person has limited control over their finances, with all major decisions being made by the conservator on their behalf.

Probate is a more complicated process in which individuals will away their property after death. During probate, Michigan courts examine wills to ensure they comply with state laws and are valid. 

The assets of the deceased are then distributed according to the terms of their will and any applicable state laws. In some cases, probate can involve legal disputes over the validity of a person’s will or the division of assets among heirs. 

In short, a conservatorship is a court process that appoints an individual as guardian for another person’s finances, while probate is a legal process used to divide up a deceased person's assets upon death. 

Both processes have different rules and regulations in Michigan, so it is important to understand each one before deciding which is best suited for your situation. Consulting with an attorney can help provide more clarity on both conservatorships and probates in Michigan. 

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