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1. What is Probate? Why do so many people say it should be avoided?

Probate is the court-supervised distribution of your assets after your death. The Probate Court appoints a Personal Representative (Executor) to manage the assets in your Estate. The Personal Representative has to account to the Court for how the assets have been managed. The Probate process can be time-consuming and costly. Most Estate administrations take between six and twenty-four months, depending on size, complexity and how well the beneficiaries get along. Also, Probate Court records are generally public. Therefore, if your planning objectives include efficiently administering your Estate, minimizing fees and maintaining privacy, the Probate Court is not the place for you. A Living Trust-Centered Estate Plan can help you to achieve those objectives.

2. What happens if someone contests a Will?

Generally, disputes arise over who gets what and who is in charge of the Estate. When a disgruntled person seeks to challenge the terms of a Will, that person must file a Petition in the Probate Court. While that litigation is pending, the Estate administration grinds to a halt. Will contests can be very costly to litigate and can destroy family harmony.

3. What does it cost to probate an Estate, and how long does it take?

Many different factors determine the cost and duration of probate. These include whether or not there is a Will, the size and nature of the estate, how well family members get along, the location of estate assets and many more. In Michigan, it usually takes between 6 and 24 months to settle an Estate… longer, of course, if litigation is involved. Fees, such as those for Personal Representatives, Attorneys, court costs, appraisals and more, generally total between 2 and 7 percent of the estate’s value.

4. Are all assets subject to probate?

Some assets, called non-probate assets, are not subject to the probate process. These include:

  • Retirement accounts and life insurance policies for which there are designated beneficiaries
  • Property titled as joint tenancy with right of survivorship
  • Bank accounts designated as In Trust For (ITF) or Pay on Death (POD)
  • Assets named in a living trust

5. If I agree to serve as Personal Representative, will I get paid? Are there any risks?

You will receive compensation for expenses and, perhaps, fees for serving as Personal Representative of an Estate. However, the decision to serve as Personal Representative should not be taken lightly. You could be held accountable, and legally liable, for the decisions you make. An experienced estate planning attorney can explain the risks involved and guide you through the process to minimize your personal liability risks.

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Huron Valley Law Center, PLC
2850 S. Milford Road
Highland, Michigan 48357
Phone: 248.685.8743
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