Probate for Small MI Estates

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Courthouse for estate probate

Full probate is not required for small estates in Michigan, enabling an executor to save considerable effort and cost via three alternate approaches.

Small Estate Definition

Michigan defines a "small" estate as one whose assets do not exceed $27,000 for decedents passing away in 2023 (see Estate Limits column MCL 700-3983 for previous year limits).

In calculating estate value, you should value assets as of the date of death, subtracting the amounts of any associated liens or encumbrances, but ignoring any unsecured debts. Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

Note that the $27K estate limit can be increased somewhat when using Court Assignment of Property, and more significantly when using Summary Administration: see below.

Small Estate Affidavit (No Court)

A Michigan estate can use the Small Estate Affidavit process and bypass court entirely if:

  • The estate qualifies as "small" as per above
  • The estate does not include any real property (i.e., real estate)
  • At least 28 days must have passed since the death
  • An application for appointment of personal representative has not been made

To use this process, fill out an Affidavit of Decedent's Successor For Delivery Of Certain Assets Owned By Decedent (Form PC-598), attach a copy of the death certificate, and have the form notarized. You can then present this notarized form to anyone holding estate assets to obtain possession.

Once you obtain possession of estate assets, you should settle the estate in the normal manner: resolve any estate obligations and distribute remaining assets to heirs.

If everything goes smoothly, there should be no need for court involvement at all.

See MI Comp L § 700.3983.

Assignment of Property (Minimal Court)

If an estate qualifies as "small", you may instead want to use Court Assignment of Property to settle the estate.

Unlike the Small Estate Affidavit, this approach can handle real property (i.e., real estate), and is available to slightly larger estates: you can increase the small estate value limit (see above) by the amount of any funeral or burial obligations.

To use this approach, fill out a Petition and Order for Assignment (Form PC-556) and submit it to the court.

The court will then give you an order that enables you to settle the estate in the normal manner: resolve any estate obligations and distribute remaining assets to heirs.

See MI Comp L § 700.3982.

Summary Probate Administration (Some Court)

If the estate is slightly larger, you can still avoid full-blown probate via a Summary Administration as long as the qualified net value of the estate does not exceed the sum of the following:

  • Executor and estate administration expenses
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • The sum of any family entitlements
  • Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the decedent's last illness

To settle the estate via summary administration, submit an Application for Informal Probate (PC-558) to the court, and include:

You will then receive your Letters of Authority from the court. Settle the estate in the normal manner: pay any estate obligations, and distribute remaining assets to heirs.

Afterwards, notify any known creditor and heir whom the estate did not have enough money to pay, and submit a Summary Closing Statement (Form PC-590). to the court.

See MI Comp L § 700.3987 and § 700.3988.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before distributing any estate proceeds to heirs, the estate must satisfy obligations according to the following priorities:

  1. Executor and estate administration expenses
  2. Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  3. Family entitlements
  4. General debts

If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.

If you settled the estate through Court Assignment of Property, creditors can only demand payment of their debts (up to the value of any inheritance) from heirs (other than a spouse or minor children) for up to 63 days from the date of the court order (which is an improvement over the normal situation: see Estate Debts and Claim Limitations).

See also Making Distributions.

Court

In Michigan, the local Probate Court handles wills and estate matters.

See also General Probate.

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