a Decedent's Estate
*As Indexed for inflation
When is it necessary to open an estate for a
An estate must be opened if a person dies with property in
their name alone (not joint), or owns an insurance policy or retirement
benefits and has not named anyone as a beneficiary or has made the money
payable to the estate. A personal representative is appointed
by the court to handle the administration of the decedent’s estate.
In which county should I file to open an
estate for a decedent?
A petitioner would file a decedent's estate in the
county in which the decedent was domiciled (usually, this is where the decedent
lived) at the time of death. If the decedent was domiciled outside of
Michigan , but had property in Michigan , the petitioner may file an estate
in the county where decedent’s property was located at the time of death.
What are the different types of estates?
Estate probate can be used if the
estate is worth $24,000.00 or less. If a Wayne County resident
died leaving property, in their name only, and the property is under
$24,000, the closest relative or person who paid the funeral bill may
bring the death certificate and paid funeral bill to Room 1307 of the
of the Probate Court in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
The cost is $37, plus an inventory fee. This can be done in one
Estate OVER $24,000:
- If a Wayne County resident
has died leaving property in their name only and the property is over
$24,000, the closest relative or person named in the will may file a
petition to have the estate probated. The filing fee is $175.
There is also a publication charge of $95.15. It may take a
while to process the forms. There are two types of estates over
1. Supervised Administration
requires the court to review and approve the actions of the personal
2. In Unsupervised Administration,
the court is only involved at the beginning and the end unless requested by
an interested person or the personal representative.
How is a personal representative appointed?
A personal representative may be formally appointed by a
Probate Judge after a petition is filed in the Probate Court. The
petition can be filed by an interested person to the decedent’s
estate. When the petition is filed, unless waivers and consents from
all interested persons are attached, a hearing will be held. The
person who files the petition has the responsibility to properly notify the
persons who have a right to know about the hearing. On the date of
the hearing, the petitioner and anyone else who wants to take part goes
before the Judge and explains the need for a personal representative.
A personal representative may be appointed informally by
filing an application directed to the Probate Register. An applicant
seeking appointment in an informal proceeding must give notice and a copy
of the application to each person having a prior or equal right to
appointment who has not waived the right. Such a waiver may be
accomplished by filing a Waiver and Consent. A proof of service must
also be filed with the court.
The person appointed personal representative is required to
file an Acceptance of Appointment and possibly a Bond to protect the
estate’s assets. After filing the Acceptance of Appointment and Bond
(if ordered), Letters of Authority will be issued to the personal
representative. The Letters of Authority give the personal
representative the right to perform the following duties, unless the court
restricts their authority.
What are the duties of a personal
1. To determine if the
decedent had a will. If they did, copies must be given to the
beneficiaries. A hearing must be conducted so the Judge can determine
whether the will is valid.
2. Gather the estate’s assets
and determine what they are worth. This includes checking the
decedent’s safety deposit box; determining what, if any, insurance, social
security, pension, veterans or other benefits are payable to the estate or
its beneficiaries; and obtaining appraisals, if necessary.
Within 91 days of being appointed, the
personal representative in supervised administration is required to file an
Inventory with the court listing all the decedent’s assets. For
unsupervised administration, the inventory must be presented to and may be
filed with the court within 91 days.
In all estates, the personal representative must provide all
interested persons with an Inventory within 91 days.
3. Give notice to the
decedent’s creditors. This must be published in a legal newspaper; if
you know of particular creditors of the decedent, they must be given actual
notice. You must determine what creditors’ claims, if any, should be
4. The estate’s assets must be
preserved and distributed to the heirs according to the will, or if none,
by the laws of intestate succession. If you improperly distribute
assets without leaving enough in the estate to pay taxes, you may be
personally responsible for coming up with the difference.
5. The personal representative
must keep careful records of all income of the estate and all disbursements
of the estate’s funds. The personal representative must keep the
estate’s assets separate and never “borrow” from them.
6. In supervised
administration, file an annual Account each year within 56 days of the
anniversary date of the personal representative’s appointment and a Final
Account when the estate is closed.
The Account must list receipts (monies in)
and disbursements (monies out). Save your receipts; one must be
presented to the court for each disbursement. In unsupervised
administration the Accounts do not have to be filed with the Court, but
they must still be served on interested persons.
7. If the estate is not settled within a
year of the first personal representative’s appointment, file a Notice of
Continued Administration with the court stating why the estate must remain
open. A copy of this notice must be
given to all interested persons.
8. Ensure that all taxes on the
estate are paid. You must also see that the decedent’s final federal,
state and city income taxes are paid and the returns filed.
When may a personal representative be
If the personal representative does not timely perform their
duties, any interested person or the court itself may start proceedings to
remove the personal representative or to force them to take action.
The personal representative may be held liable for losses caused by his or
her mistakes or for failing to act quickly and sensibly.
Do I have to serve as personal
representative if I am nominated in the decedent's will?
No. You can decline to serve as personal
representative. If you decline, the court will appoint someone
else. Once you are appointed, you cannot resign without the court’s
Can I receive payment for serving as
Yes. The amount must be reasonable and is subject to
review by the court. The fees cannot be taken until the
administration of the estate is completed.
Can I hire a lawyer or other professionals
to help me administer the estate?
Yes. You can use attorneys, accountants, investment
advisors or other professionals to help assist in estate
administration. The fees of these professionals are subject to review
of the court, and if reasonable, can be paid from the estate. Even if
you hire experts, as personal representative, you are still responsible for
the estate’s administration.
Do I need an attorney?
If you have questions that this pamphlet did not answer,
please seek legal advice from an attorney. By law, court employees
are not permitted to give legal advice.
How much time should I plan on spending at
the court to open an estate?
The court’s hours are 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. –
4:30 p.m., excluding weekends and holidays. Early morning is the best
time to come to the court. Plan on coming no later than
How do I get certified copies of court
They can be obtained in person or by mailing a request
Wayne County Probate Court
Attn: Service Clerks
1307 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center
Detroit , Mich. 48226
If the request is mailed in, the court will send you a
bill. The cost is $11 for the first
page and $1 for each additional page per document.