What Is Probate, And What Triggers Probate In Michigan?
Probate is a specialized court system that manages wills, intestate successions (which refers to situations where someone dies without a will but leaves behind assets needing distribution), conflicts among beneficiaries, and guardianships as well as conservatorships.
Essentially, Probate Court ensures that the deceased's assets are divided as intended or according to the law. Probate Court starts when a case is initiated or "opened" there. Although anyone can open a case in Michigan's Probate Courts, success in claiming assets usually depends on the existence of a will or other designations such as Trusts, Ladybird deeds, or beneficiary designations on instruments like retirement plans.
Can I Avoid Probate of My Estate After Death?
While it's true that anyone can file a case against an estate in probate court, strategic planning can help ensure that their attempts to deviate from your wishes aren't successful. Probate court proceedings can be costly and time-consuming, and an individual with little to no chance of inheriting assets may think twice before initiating a case. A well-structured estate plan is instrumental in avoiding probate; it ensures that assets are directly transferred to beneficiaries, bypassing the need for interference from a Probate Court.
Can Someone Realistically Navigate the Probate Process On Their Own Without An Experienced Probate Attorney?
It's not impossible to approach the probate process without legal representation. Many Probate Court judges are approachable and offer as much guidance as they can to individuals representing themselves, without offering legal advice which they cannot do. However, the journey isn't without pitfalls. Even in uncontested cases, unexpected challenges can arise that demand legal expertise. The probate system involves myriad forms that may seem similar but serve different purposes, a confusing language of terms-of-art that are in many ways different from common English, and its own arcane rules and processes that can trip up intelligent and capable people.
For those considering self-representation, it's wise to have an experienced professional review your actions or serve as an advisor. While navigating probate independently is feasible, enlisting the services of a seasoned attorney is strongly recommended.