Probate / Estate Administration

When a loved one passes away, there may be a need to “probate” his or her assets, depending on how such assets are owned. Probate is the process by which assets which were solely owned by the decedent are transferred to the heirs (if no will) or devisees (if a will).

Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:
  • Filing of an application or petition with the probate court
  • Application/Petition to appoint a Personal Representative
  • Notice to heirs under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists)
  • Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by the Personal Representative
  • Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors
  • Management of estate assets
  • Payment of estate taxes, if applicable
  • Accounting to heirs
  • Final distribution of assets to heirs
Does probate administer all property of the deceased?
Probate is primarily a process through which title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. 
Certain types of assets are what is called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate.  These include:
  • Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and do not go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.
  • Property owned by a living trust.  Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.
How long does probate last?
The laws of the State of Michigan require that the probate estate remain open for a minimum of five (5) months. Most estates can be completed within eight (8) months. However, if we are required to file a Federal estate tax return, you may anticipate eighteen (18) months or more to complete the probate of the estate, because the probate estate cannot be closed until the Federal estate tax return is finalized and the clearance letter is received. Also, the probate estate will be lengthened in the event there are disagreements among the estate beneficiaries.
What happens if someone objects to the Will?
An objection to a Will, also known as a “Will contest” is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate.
In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections.  This usually occurs when, for example children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will.  In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as Personal Representative.
Do I get paid for serving as a Personal Representative?

Personal Representatives are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased estate.  In addition, you may be entitled to fees for your service as Personal Representative. The Personal Representative has to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the estate with the highest degree of integrity and can be held liable for mismanagement of estate assets in his or her care.  We would be happy to assist you for the duration of the probate process.

For Passaro, Kahne & Taylor attorneys and staff providing client services in the Probate / Estate Administration area, please see:

Howard H. Kahne, Attorney

Lori M. Thompson, Attorney

Ashley N. Stephens, Attorney

The attorneys at Passaro, Kahne & Taylor Law Offices, PLLC assist clients in Southwest Michigan (Berrien County, Cass County Van Buren County) including Saint Joseph, Benton Harbor, Stevensville, South Haven, Cassopolis, Dowagiac and Harbor Country, including Bridgman, New Buffalo, Lakeside, Sawyer, Union Pier and Three Oaks.

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| Phone: 269-983-0325
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| Phone: 269-469-5297

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