» Probate / Estate Administration

Am I liable to pay my mother’s credit cards if I am the personal representative of her estate?

No. You have no personal liability for your mother’s debts. The credit card companies must make a claim against her estate. If there are insufficient funds in the estate to pay the debts, the credit card companies cannot then pursue you.

Do I have to notify my brother’s creditors if I open an estate for him?

Yes, if your brother had known creditors such as credit cards, you should send a notice to those creditors advising of the existence of the estate.

Why do I have to publish a notice to unknown creditors in the newspaper?

In Michigan, a personal representative is required to publish a notice to unknown creditors in the newspaper in which legal notices are usually posted in the county in which the estate is probated. In Wayne County, the publication is published in the Detroit Legal News. In Washtenaw County, it is the Washtenaw County Legal News. The publication starts a four-month clock for creditors to file claims against the estate. If a creditor fails to file a claim against the estate within this time frame, the creditor is barred from later bringing the claim. This time limitation protects the estate from being subjected to creditor claims months or years after the estate has been probated.

Do I need to file a bond if I am appointed personal representative of my father’s estate?

It depends. In Washtenaw County, for example, the probate court does not typically require a personal representative to file a bond unless an interested person provides a reason why bond is necessary. However, in other counties, for example, Wayne County, the probate court is much more likely to require you to file a bond in the amount of the inventory value of the estate. The bond is intended to protect beneficiaries of the estate from any wrong doing by the Personal Representative.

I can’t find an original will, I only have a copy. What can I do?

Often a person cannot locate an original will, either because it has been lost or because the testator put the will in a “safe” place that cannot be found after his or her death. Michigan law addresses this type of situation. If an original will cannot be found, a copy can be admitted to probate under certain circumstances. While you can file an application to admit an original will administratively, you cannot file an application for a will copy. Instead, you have to file a petition with the probate court and schedule a hearing. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the will copy is a replica of the testator’s original will, the court will admit the will copy and the estate will be probated.

What can I do if my sibling refuses to turn over our parent’s will?

In Michigan, a person who is a custodian of a will or a person having possession or care of a will must forward it to a probate court in the county where the testator died or owned property with reasonable promptness after the death of a testator. If your sibling refuses to turn over the will to the court or to open probate, you can file a petition with the probate court to compel your sibling to file the will or be found guilty of contempt of court.

I think that my father’s will is in his safe deposit box but the bank won’t let me access it. What should I do?

Often a person will keep his or her important documents such as an original will in a safe deposit box at the bank. Unfortunately, there is a catch-22 situation when a family member needs to obtain the original will to open probate, but has no authority to do so until probate is opened. In order to resolve this problem, the court can issue an order directing the bank or credit union to allow a person named in the order to examine the safe deposit box in the presence of a bank representative and take the will in order to file it with the probate court. However, the person cannot remove any other items from the safe deposit box until probate is opened. If you find yourself in this situation, you can file a petition with the probate court to open safe deposit box to obtain a will.

Who can be appointed personal representative of an estate?

In Michigan, certain people have priority to be appointed as a personal representative as follows:

  • A person who is nominated as the personal representative in a will
  • The decedent’s surviving spouse
  • Other people who are included in the decedent’s will as devisees
  • Other heirs of the decedent
  • After 42 days after the decedent’s death, a creditor can nominate a personal representative

What is an heir?

Usually, an heir is a surviving family members such as a spouse, parent, child or sibling, although an heir can be the state, that is entitled under the intestate statute to a decedent's property. You may have to provide notice of an estate to an heir when you file a Petition or Application to open an estate, even if that heir is disinherited in the will.

What is a decedent?

A decedent is the term used for a person who has died.

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