LAPEER COUNTY PROBATE COURT

HONORABLE JUSTUS C. SCOTT
PROBATE JUDGE
255 CLAY STREET
LAPEER, MICHIGAN 48446
810-667-0261

What is Probate Court?
Probate Court has jurisdiction over the administration of estates of deceased persons and matters pertaining to trusts. The Court also hears cases pertaining to guardianships and conservatorships for incapacitated adults, minors, and individuals with developmental disabilities. The Court also hears petitions for the involuntary hospitalization and treatment of persons with mental illness. The Probate Court follows the rules outlined in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) that took effect on April 1, 2000, and the Michigan Mental Health Code. In addition, the Court also handles miscellaneous issues that include unpublicized marriages, delayed registration of foreign birth, and Drain Appeals.

       WHEN IS PROBATE REQUIRED?

Generally speaking, probate is only necessary when a person dies leaving property in his or her own name (such as a house titled only in the name of the decedent) or having rights to receive property (such as wrongful death claim or a debt owed to the decedent).  However, not all property in which the decedent has an interest will be subject to probate.  There are 4 kinds of property which pass to a new owner on death without going through probate.  Note that personal representatives must file a letter of authority annually and remit the inventory fee in the first year.  If the letter is not updated annually the case will be administratively closed.  A $100 fee will be required to reopen the case.

READ BELOW TO DETERMINE WHICH TYPE OF ESTATE WOULD BEST SUIT YOUR NEEDS: 

a.    Unsupervised - Informal probate - permits the Personal Representative (PR) to act in a manner independent of court intervention unless supervision is requested by the PR or an interested person (such as an unpaid creditor or an estate beneficiary).  This form of administration is generally preferred unless there is a specific reason to request the court’s supervision of the estate.  In addition, because there is less court involvement, unsupervised administration offers some privacy for the decedent's family, as fewer details concerning the estate's administration will be in the court file and available for inspection by the public and the media.

b.    Supervised - Formal probate  - requires the probate court's review and approval of much of the estate activities.  For example, in supervised administration the court would be required to (i) approve the sale of the decedent's real estate (unless the decedent's will authorizes the PR to do so), (ii) authorize the payment of PR and attorney fees, (iii) review the PR's accounting of all receipts and disbursements, and (iv) approve all distributions to heirs (people receiving property from the estate if there is no will) and devisees (people receiving property under a will).  While the court's involvement frequently adds to the time and expense of administering an estate, the court's supervision will likely afford greater protection to the PR and the other interested persons against losses and claims.

c.     Estate under $22,000 * -   all of the real and personal property owned by the decedent has a total value equal to or less than the sum of the following: (1) the funeral and burial expenses; plus (2) $22,000.  Upon presentation of a petition and payment of the filing and inventory fee, the probate court may order that the funeral and burial expenses be paid, if they have not been paid, or that the person who paid them be reimbursed.  The balance of the property will be assigned to the surviving spouse, or if none, to the decedent's heirs under Michigan's law of intestate succession.  No court hearing is held, no will is probated, and no personal representative is appointed.

d.     Affidavit of Decedent's successor for delivery of certain assets owned by decedent -   if an estate is under $22,000 in value, there is no real property, and it has been more than 28 days after a decedent's date of death, you may be able to use this form to present to an institution to obtain the funds (i.e., bank, stock company).

 

There are 4 kinds of property which pass to a new owner on death without going through probate. 

  1. Property which is owned by the decedent and another person as joint tenants with right of survivorship will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner without going through probate (except in the case of certain joint bank accounts which are established with another person who is to act as agent for the decedent). 
  2. Beneficiary designated properties (such as life insurance, pension benefits, and IRAs) are payable on death, without probate, to the beneficiary designated by the decedent (or, if none, as designated in the contract or plan itself).  
  3. Properties owned by a revocable trust do not go through probate but instead are disposed of after death in accordance with the instructions written into the trust document.  
  4. There are even some forms of property owned solely by the decedent which would otherwise require probate that are exempt in certain instances. Those notable exceptions include the following

a. Unpaid wages.  An employer in Michigan may pay the wages due a deceased employee to the employee's spouse, children, parents or siblings in that order unless the employee filed a request to the contrary with the employer. 

b. Cash up to $500 and wearing apparel. A hospital, convalescent or nursing home, morgue, or law enforcement agency in Michigan holding cash not exceeding $500 and wearing apparel of the decedent may deliver that property to the decedent's spouse, child, or parent who provides (i) suitable identification and (ii) an affidavit which states the person's relationship to the decedent and that there are no pending probate proceedings for the decedent's estate.

c. Traveler's checks.  Most issuing companies (such as American Express) will redeem unused travelers checks following the death of the owner without requiring the appointment of a PR on submission of the checks, a death certificate, and an appropriate affidavit by the next of kin indicating to whom payment should be made. 

d. Motor vehicle transfers.  If the combined value of one or more of the decedent's motor vehicles does not exceed $60,000 and there are no probate proceedings for the decedent's estate, registration of title may be transferred by the Michigan Secretary of State to the surviving spouse or next of kin upon submitting a death certificate, an affidavit of kinship, the vehicle's certificate of title, and certain other Michigan Secretary of State documents.

e. Watercraft transfers.  If the combined value of all of the decedent's watercraft does not exceed $100,000, and there are no probate proceedings for the decedent's estate, registration of title may be transferred by the Michigan Secretary of State to the surviving spouse or next of kin upon submitting a death certificate, an affidavit of kinship, and the certificate of title for the watercraft. 

          f.  Income tax refund claims.  These may be collected without probate by filing IRS or       Michigan Form 1310.      

                             g.  Transfer by affidavit.  Personal property with a value not exceeding $15,000 may be                                            transferred to a decedent’s successor by presenting a death certificate and an affidavit                                               stating who is entitled to the property.

Informal Probate is a method of administering an estate of a deceased individual without the intervention of the Probate Judge. The Probate Register handles all Independent Probate files. Since inventories and accounts are not required to be filed with the Court, Informal Probate preserves privacy. Administration of this type of estate should be simpler, faster, and less expensive.         

Estates must be administered by the Informal Personal Representative or an attorney representing the Personal Representative. The Court cannot give legal advice, therefore, employees cannot assist in administering the estate. Court employees can provide direction and forms which would be required to probate an estate.    

     

How to Start an Informal Probate Estate

ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS TO BE FILED:        

  • File the original Application for Informal Probate and/or Appointment of Personal Representative (PC 558).
    (NOTE:  File in the probate court in the county where the deceased individual resided) 
  • Testimony, Interested Persons (PC 565)  
  • Original Will (if testate) 
  • Consents of all interested persons or set for hearing if no will is available
  • Acceptance of Appointment   (PC 571) and Bond of Fiduciary   (PC 570) if required by the Will 

If there is a Will or Codicil involved, the original must be filed with the Probate Court. If there are issues which require the Judge’s ruling or order, you may file a Petition for Supervised Administration after Previous Adjudication (PC 560), along with a $20.00 filing fee to convert the estate to a Supervised Estate.

                             There are numerous documents which are required to be filed within the Court file in an Informal Estate. These documents are:

$175.00 filing fee payable to: Lapeer County Probate Court

  • Application for Informal Probate and/or Appointment of Personal Representative (PC 558). 
  • Testimony, Interested Persons (PC 565).
  • Acceptance of App(PC 571). 
  • Original Will and/or Codicil (if testate).
  • Proof of Service (PC 564) for Notice of Appointment and Duties of Personal Representative (PC 573). 
  • Proof of Service (PC 564) for Notice Regarding Attorney Fees (PC 576) (if an attorney is assisting in probating the estate).
  • Inventory (PC 577) (the original does not have to be filed, but it must be reviewed by the Probate Register to determine any inventory fee required).
  • Affidavit of Publication.
  • Sworn Statement to Close Unsupervised Administration (PC 591). 

The Notice to Creditors form (PC 574) must be completed and mailed to the local newspaper, along with the required publication fee. The Personal Representative shall publish notice in a local newspaper notifying creditors of the estate to present 

their claims within 4 months after the date of publication of the notice or be forever

barred. The earliest an estate can be closed is 5 months from the date of

commencement, provided the claims period of 4 months has elapsed.

Any Michigan estate or inheritance taxes shall be handled by the Personal Representative. The Lapeer County Probate Court does not handle any aspect of this requirement.

There may be other documents which may be required to be done depending on the nature of the assets or matters which need to be administered in each individual estate. The Court has other estate forms which may be helpful in assisting the administration of the estate.