Probate: Spotlight Practice Area

Featured Attorney Bruce RiceInterview with Bruce Rice, Attorney—

Bruce Rice graduated from Kent State University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts and Science degrees in Psychology and Justice Studies. While attending Kent State, he was a member of the Black United Student organization and played for the Kent State football team.

Bruce then attended Wayne State University Law School and received his Juris Doctorate in 2011. During law school, he served as a student attorney at the Free Legal Aid Clinic, Inc.

Prior to joining Hewson & Van Hellemont, P.C. in 2015, Bruce worked as an associate attorney with a focus on Probate and Trust Administration. His addition to HVH provides additional services to new and existing clients.

Bruce is a member of the Wayne County Probate Bar Association and specializes in Probate Administration, Litigation and Estate Planning.

How did you become interested in probate? What path brought you here?

I started my career at one of the largest Michigan Probate firms starting as a law clerk and becoming an Associate. Upon starting law school I never saw myself doing Probate work. However, as a law clerk for the Honorable Muriel Hughes of the Third Circuit Court, I became more comfortable with Probate laws and procedures, which are very different than most areas of law; I started considering the practice area as a possible career. Once the opportunity presented itself I grasped the opportunity. My early career allowed me to take responsibility for several complex issues and files, which initially was a bit overwhelming; but raised my confidence and abilities rather quickly.

What is Probate?

The term “probate” refers to the manner of administering the property (the estate) of a decedent by a Personal Representative (PR) under the jurisdiction of one of Michigan’s county probate courts. A PR is appointed by the Court to handle the administration of the Estate. The administration of a decedent’s estate, essentially, involves three parts after the court has appointed a fiduciary:

  1. marshalling assets (the assembly, securing, valuation and sorting of the decedent’s property),
  2. payment of charges (last illness and funeral expenses, amounts owed to creditors, taxes, family allowances and general expenses of administration)
  3. distribution of what is left to the estate beneficiaries (either according to the terms of the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, in accordance with Michigan’s law of intestate succession).

There are instances in which a Plaintiff or Defendant passes away either before or during a lawsuit. This often times requires an Estate be opened in order to proceed with the suit and/or settle the matter and execute release documents.

Probate also includes the protection of minors and incapacitated individuals; typically, via a Guardianship or Conservatorship. When someone is in need of protection because of disability or age, a Guardian is appointed. If that same person has assets in need of protection a Conservator is appointed.

Just as in deceased estates, there are instances in which a Plaintiff or Defendant become incapacitated during a lawsuit. This requires the appointment of a Next of Friend, Guardian, and/or Conservator to proceed with the suit to protect the individual incapacitated.

It also includes handling of Supervised and Special Needs Trusts, which includes the Mental Health and Developmentally Disabled docket.

What are you known for professionally? What do you have a knack for?

I have a knack for “explanation.” I pride myself on the ability to explain complex issues and processes to people in a clear and efficient manner. I also serve as a Guardian ad Litem in Wayne County. While handling matters in that court, I often find myself explaining the complexities of Probate court to people who have little or no knowledge of how probate operates.

What’s the one problem you are best at solving for your clients? What do your ideal clients say about you?

I get clients from point A to point B. On most occasions, my clients come to me with no idea where to start with an estate or any other probate matter. I condense the problems and outline a plan to get them from the starting line all the way to the finish line. Having this game plan takes a huge burden off the client. My ideal client says “Wow, you made that easy.” I have succeeded in the goal.

What are you most passionate about professionally? What most excites you about your work and the contribution you can make?

Often, as an attorney, I deal with people fighting over deceased loved ones’ assets. I view myself as more of a tour guide to help clients through, what is often a very difficult time. It not only requires a bit of patience and compassion, but it also requires the ability to foresee the potential problems that may arise when someone dies or is placed under guardianship. Professionally, I can provide a calm path to guide people through the unexpected and unwanted activity that surrounds an emotional and private time in an individual’s life.

I also can provide Estate planning to help avoid Probate Court altogether. With a bit of proper planning and forethought, you can avoid many of the major issues that arise when someone becomes incapacitated or passes away. For assistance in Probate matters contact Mr. Rice at 248-968-5200.

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