Administering a Decedent's Estate

Filing Fees

Small Estates
   $22,000.00* or less................................... $25.00**

All Other Estates..........................................$150.00**

*As Indexed for inflation
**All Estates........................................Inventory Fee

FAQ


When is it necessary to open an estate for a decedent?

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 UNDER $22,000:   

  • Small Estate probate can be used if the estate is worth $22,000.00 or less.  If a Wayne County resident died leaving property, in their name only, and the property is under $22,000, 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 day.

     Estate OVER $22,000:

  • If a Wayne County resident has died leaving property in their name only and the property is over $22,000, the closest relative or person named in the will may file a petition to have the estate probated.  The filing fee is $150.  There is also a publication charge of $80.25.  It may take a while to process the forms.  There are two types of estates over $22,000:

1.  Supervised Administration requires the court to review and approve the actions of the personal representative.

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 representative?

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 paid.

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 removed?

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 permission.

Can I receive payment for serving as personal representative?

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 mid-afternoon.  

 How do I get certified copies of court documents? 

They can be obtained in person or by mailing a request to: 

Wayne County Probate Court

Attn: Probate Counter

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.  

 

Rev. 4/14