Decedent’s Estates

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. At a time when you have so many personal matters to handle, the thought of managing responsibilities for probate and estate administration can make the situation overwhelming. But we can help.

At Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC, our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys can help manage all aspects of estate and trust administration after a death in the family. We can handle many tasks directly on your behalf to save you precious time.

With other responsibilities, we provide guidance and support to help you complete obligations efficiently without unnecessary delays or mistakes. We take the time to explain what needs to happen and why so that you can make informed decisions and understand the process. Probate in Michigan can be confusing, costly, and time-consuming, but the right assistance can allow you to fulfill all requirements without wasted effort or resources.

What is an Estate?

For many people, the first thing that springs to mind when they hear the word “estate” is a big house in the country. Most of us don’t have those, but anyone can have an estate.

The term refers to property left when the deceased person (legally called the “decedent”) passed away. This could include real estate, money, accounts, personal and household goods, vehicles, and intangible property such as mineral rights. If someone owed money to the deceased person, that money will be owed to the estate instead unless a will or other legal document cancels the debt.

However, not all property will belong to the estate, so it is important to understand what will be included in the estate and what property is outside of the estate. Michigan probate courts have the task of ensuring that when someone passes away, the estate pays appropriate debts and that property remaining in the estate is distributed appropriately under the terms of a will or state law. An individual can leave an estate regardless of whether or not they had a will or other estate planning documents.

Property Not Included in an Estate

Some property will not become part of the estate because it passes to other people directly on the death of the decedent. This includes:

  • Accounts with a beneficiary clause.  Accounts such as retirement, investment, credit union, and some banking accounts have beneficiary designations that pass proceeds directly to the beneficiaries named on the account, so the funds never go into the estate. 
  • Life insurance proceeds. Often these will go to the beneficiaries, unless the estate has been named as the beneficiary or the named beneficiary has already died.
  • Property with a co-owner who has a right of survivorship. For instance, a house or vehicle with someone else’s name on the title could go entirely to the other person, depending on how the title is held. In some situations, the deceased person’s share of the jointly-owned property will pass to their heirs or beneficiaries instead of the co-owner.
  • Property transferred into a trust. Many people set up revocable living trusts to hold their property so that they do not leave an estate behind when they pass away. Property in the trust goes directly to beneficiaries and bypasses the probate process, saving time, money, and effort.

Do All Estates Need to Go Through Probate in Michigan?

Michigan law provides for formal and informal probate processes, as well as other legal procedures for transferring property with little or no supervision by the probate court. The type of process needed for a particular decedent’s estate will depend on the value of the property in the estate and whether the heirs want to follow the terms in a will instead of the state’s legal inheritance formula.

If the value of property in the estate is less than a certain amount ($27,000 in 2023), then property may be transferred through a simplified process such as Transfer by Affidavit or Assignment of Property.

Formal and Informal Probate Processes

When the value is above that amount or property will be distributed according to the terms of a will, then probate is necessary. If there are no disagreements about the validity of a will, who will be receiving property, and who will be designated as the representative of the estate, then informal probate often serves as the most effective process. Proceedings are generally completed through the probate register instead of a judge, but the proceedings may be as complicated as if they had been handled through the formal process.

Formal probate requires a hearing, so the process takes longer, but it provides more protection for heirs or beneficiaries who are uncertain about their rights. An experienced estate attorney can help you review the situation and determine which process makes the most sense for your situation.

Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC Helps with Efficient Management of Decedent’s Estates

If you are the close family member, heir, or beneficiary of a decedent, then administration of their estate can have a significant impact on your future. You deserve to have the estate managed properly and to receive any legacy that is rightfully yours.

If you have been named the personal representative of an estate, you have a number of legal responsibilities that must be completed in compliance with Michigan law or you could be held personally liable. In either situation, the experienced team at Basset Murray Law Group, PLLC is ready to help protect your rights and interests. We invite you to schedule a consultation so we can answer your questions and explain how we can assist with your particular needs.


Get to know us better by scheduling an initial consultation where we can discuss your needs.

Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942

Petoskey Office
By Appointment only
3319 Lakeside Dr S
Petoskey, MI 49770
Phone: 231-427-2292

Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942