The Probate Court has jurisdiction over proceedings to admit a will (i.e., find it to be valid), appoint a personal representative (or executor), and administer a decedent's estate. The admission of a will as valid and the appointment of a personal representative can only be made by the Probate Court.
If you have questions about what you must or should do, you may wish to consult an attorney. If you are inquiring about a decedent's estate which you believe has a relatively small cash value, you may wish to learn about the small estate assignment procedure.
Application versus Petition
You may be able to open the estate case with the Application for Informal Probate and/or Appointment of Personal Representative (Testate/Intestate). The Application process is an informal one, completed in the Probate Office without a hearing; it typically results in a great time savings over a Petition process. Petitions go before a judge, typically require a hearing, and are usually scheduled for a time approximately four weeks after filing.
Because the Application process is an expedited one, the law prescribes specific requirements for granting the relief it requests:
(1) If there is a will, you must provide the original. [If the will was admitted somewhere else (e.g., in another state) then it is acceptable to file a certified copy of the admitted will along with a certified copy of the order admitting the will.]
(2) In order to appoint the person requested in the Application as personal representative, the person must have ultimate priority for appointment or proper notice that appointment is being sought must have been given to all those with prior or equal right to appointment.
The application, testimony (interested persons) form, and filing fee
If you wish to open a decedent estate for someone who has passed away, you must
- Have statutory priority:
7. Public administrator (if either nothing has been filed and it is 42 or more days after death, or the decedent died apparently leaving no blood heirs, or heirs and will distributees are not U.S. citizens)
- Person, or persons, nominated as PR in the will
- If there is a will, the decedent's surviving spouse if he/she is a devisee
- If there is a will, other devisees
- Surviving spouse
- Other heirs
- Suitable nominee of a creditor (if 42 or more days after decedent's death)
If the nominee in the Application does not have ultimate priority, he/she can obtain it either through each other person with equal or prior right to appointment filing a renunciation or nomination on the Renunciation of Right to Appointment, Nomination of Personal Representative, and Waiver of Notice form. If you cannot comply with either the original will or nomination requirement, you may wish to consider filing a Petition for Probate and/or Appointment of Personal Representative (Testate/Intestate).
- Complete an Application or Petition for appointment of a personal representative and/or admission of a will (the Application is attached).
The Application must be completely filled out, including (a) a list of all heirs and devisees, (b) a statement about whether or not there is a valid will, (c) a nomination of a personal representative, (d) what you are requesting the court to do, and (e) a dated signature, with address and phone;
- Complete the attached Testimony to Identify Heirs (with notarized signature);
- Submit a Death Certificate for the decedent; and
- Pay to the Ingham County Probate Court a filing fee of $175 (cash, check, money order and credit or debit card payments).
If you are using the Application procedure, you need to complete a Register's Statement, Acceptance of Appointment, and Letters of Authority and submit these documents with your filings. If you or your nominee is appointed and Letters of Authority are issued, there is a $10 fee plus $1 per page to obtain a certified copy of those Letters.
If you have the decedent's will, you must submit it to our court. And if the will gives any property to anyone other than an heir, you must complete and have notarized a Supplemental Testimony to Identify Non-Heir Devisees (Testate Estate).
After Personal Representative has been Appointed
Under the law, the Personal Representative has varies duties that must be done:
- Notice of Appointment (PC 573)- Within 14 days of appointment, Personal Representative must provide notice to interested persons in the estate of the appointment.
- Notice to Friend of the Court (PC 618) - Within 28 days of appointment, Personal Representative must give notice to the Ingham County Friend of the Court of the decedent's surviving spouse (if any) and either of the decedent's devisees (if a testate estate) or of the decedent's heirs (if an intestate estate).
- Notice of Creditors: Notice to Known Creditors (PC 578) and/or Notice of Unknown Creditors (PC 574)- Notice to known or potential creditors of the estate must be given, except in select circumstances. [These circumstances include where the estate has no assets, the costs and expenses of administration exceed estate assets, the decedent has been dead for more than three years, or notice to creditors has been provided under the decadent's revocable trust (if there is one).]
- Inventory (PC 577)- Within 91 days of the date on your Letters of Authority, Personal Representative must prepare an inventory of all of the decedent's property (home, other real estate, household items and other personal property, money, stock, other assets) and its approximate value, serve all interested persons with the inventory, and submit the information on the inventory to our court.
- Inventory Fee (Inventory Fee calculator)- Within one year of the appointment, the personal representative must pay to our court an inventory fee based on the inventory that the personal representative had provided. The inventory fee is mandated by state statute. Court accepts: cash, checks, money orders and credit cards.
- Notice of Continued Administration (PC 587)- If you do not close the estate within one year of appointment, serve interested persons with a notice explaining why the estate is still open, and then file the notice with a signed certification that the personal representative has mailed the notice to interested persons.
- Closing the Case (Informally: Sworn Statement to close [PC 591]) - Once the personal representative has completed all aspects of the duties of the personal representative, including the proper notification to creditors, dealing with any claims filed against the estate, and distributing estate assets, you should seek to close the estate. After 28 days after filing the Sworn Statement to close, if there is not objections from any interested parties, a Certificate of Completion will be entered and the case will be closed.