Probate Administration is a process of collecting, managing, and distributing assets held by an individual when they pass away. This is not a private process and does involve the Probate Court and its rules and timeline. Every document and all information filed with the Probate Court is considered public record.
I begin by holding a review session with the Personal Representative to outline each of their responsibilities and discuss how involved they would like me to be. I can provide instructions to the Personal Representative regarding each task they are responsible for, or the Personal Representative may retain me to work with them throughout the process.
What does a Personal Representative do?
A Personal Representative has many responsibilities similar to a Successor Trustee, including filing documents to open the Probate Estate, publishing a notice in the newspaper, communicating with interested persons, creating an inventory, managing assets, paying bills and taxes, filing tax returns, and making distributions. A Personal Representative may charge a reasonable fee as compensation for their services.
A Personal Representative must notify all of the persons and entities that have an interest in the Probate Estate, provide each of them with copies of the documents filed with the Probate Court, and prove this to the Probate Court.
Final tax returns must be filed for the deceased individual. A tax return may also need to be filed for the Probate Estate for each year of Probate Administration. I am happy to provide referrals for both personal and Probate Estate tax filing services.
Opening an Estate
A Personal Representative is responsible for filing all of the necessary forms with the local Probate Court to open and administer the Probate Estate. The Probate Court has various rules and deadlines for filing these forms that the Personal Representative must adhere to. According to Michigan law, a Probate Estate must be open for at least 5 months.
A Personal Representative is required to file an inventory within 91 days of the Probate Estate being opened. Additionally, the Probate Court will charge an inventory fee based upon the value of all of the probate assets.
Paying bills & taxes
A Personal Representative is responsible for paying all of the final bills and taxes of the deceased individual, canceling utilities and closing accounts, canceling services, etc. All of these bills and taxes will be paid out of the assets of the Probate Estate.
One Probate Court rule requires the Personal Representative to file a legal notice in the local newspaper that gives potential unknown creditors notice that the individual has passed away. This notice triggers a statutory period for creditors to file claims with the Personal Representative for payment of a debt. Known creditors must notified directly.
A Personal Representative may have to file claims as the beneficiary of retirement accounts and/or life insurance. They may also be responsible for preparing deeds and handling real estate transactions.
A Personal Representative must follow the instructions provided in the decedent's Last Will & Testament in making specific distributions of money or property, and in making periodic and final distributions to complete Probate Administration.