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:
- marshalling assets (the assembly, securing, valuation and sorting of the decedent’s property),
- payment of charges (last illness and funeral expenses, amounts owed to creditors, taxes, family allowances and general expenses of administration)
- 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.