Probate and Estate Administration

The administration of trusts and estates is a specialized, but wide-ranging practice area. It can be broken into two areas. One area commonly known as probate, refers to the process of handling the estate of a deceased person, through the local probate court. The other area, often called Trust Administration, is the process of managing property that is held in a trust.


There are a variety of probate processes in Michigan and choosing the right one depends on the amount and types of property in the estate, whether disputes (such as a will contest) are expected, and how much court oversight is needed. Most processes begin within a month or so after a person dies. If they die without a Will, the estate is called “intestate” and if there is a Last Will, it is called a “testate” estate.  In an intestate estate, Michigan law determines who has priority to become the court appointed fiduciary (the “personal Representative”) and who inherits the property and in what proportions. In a testate estate, the court looks to the Last Will for these instructions.

The first step is usually for the person who is nominated as Personal Representative in the Last Will to ask the Probate Court to formally appoint him or her as the Personal Representative by granting Letters of Authority. Until those Letters are granted by the court, the nominated PR is just that, a nominee. Their real powers come from being appointed by the court.

The next step is to notify creditors of the death, so that they have an opportunity to make their claims during administration. this is very important to the PR, since knowingly failing to pay a debt could result in personal liability for the PR. The PR will also begin getting control of the assets and making an inventory to list the assets and their values. Appraisals may be needed. The PR has to decide what should be sold and what can be distributed “in kind”. He/she must collect the income and pay the ongoing expenses (utilities, insurance, etc.) of running the estate, and must account for each transaction. Tax returns need to be filed.

Finally, when the assets are all gathered, the debts and expenses and taxes paid, the PR will distribute the remaining property to the heirs (in an intestate estate) or to the “legatees and devisees” of the Last Will.

Probate litigation requires an attorney with both extensive litigation background as well as sound Probate Court experience. Attorney Ronald Kaplovitz has handled numerous contested and uncontested probate matters and has the required litigation background to make a difference.

Visit our offices today for a consultation.