Probate courts oversee special cases involving the administration of wills and trusts. Probate courts also handle guardianship, conservatorship, incapacity, and other cases regarding the distribution of a decedent’s assets. Many situations become quite complicated and emotionally charged. For example, a person may pass away intestate, without a will, or trust. Other times, wealthy folks own numerous properties which may be in other states.
An experienced estate attorney can help navigate various complex situations. Therefore, make sure you hire an excellent probate lawyer to represent your interests during this difficult time.
Common Types of Complex Probate Administration
Various scenarios may arise that require an attorney’s assistance. Examples include:
- Intestate Succession – This occurs when a person passes away without a will or trust. In this case, Michigan’s intestate succession laws must be followed. The Probate Court supervises this process. However, an experienced attorney’s guidance is vital during the process.
- Will Contests – Another complex scenario arises when there is a dispute regarding the validity of a will. Will contests may occur for a variety of reasons including: suspicions of fraud, lack of mental capacity, improper execution, or undue influence. Hopefully, this may be settled without a trial. In these cases, a skilled attorney may assist your family in avoiding a lengthy court battle.
- Trust Disputes – Generally speaking, a well-executed trust avoids probate court. However, beneficiaries may question the trustee’s actions regarding management of the assets. Beneficiaries may be concerned that the trustee is not fulfilling their fiduciary duties. When the beneficiaries do not trust the trustee, they may contact probate court, or an attorney.
- Multiple Real Estate Properties – When a deceased individual owned multiple properties in different jurisdictions, probate administration becomes quite complex. The process becomes more complicated as different courts are involved in settling the estate. In this situation, hiring an experienced attorney is necessary.
- Business Succession Planning – Business succession planning should be set up before a person passes away. When a family business is involved, there may be more than one owner and the succession may remain quite simple. However, sometimes business agreements are outdated and successors have passed away, or children are now part of the family. If a family business is to be passed on to multiple heirs, probate court must assess each person’s suitability to manage the business. Also, if a business owner has no heirs and no succession plan in place, probate court determines the future of the business. Once again, these complex issues require an experienced attorney’s guidance.
- Estate Tax Consideration – Michigan does not have a state estate tax. However, Michigan residents must pay federal estate taxes. An estate planning attorney and a financial professional can provide guidance in this important area.
- Creditor Claims – When a loved one passes away, creditors may come forward with claims against the estate. If the deceased owes money, the claims must be paid. However, an attorney can evaluate these claims to ensure they are all legitimate. Also, your attorney knows the laws regarding the time period creditors have to make a claim against an estate. So, check any dubious claims with your attorney.
- Guardianship and Conservatorship – Disagreements often arise over who should be appointed as guardian or conservator over a minor or incapacitated adult. An attorney may help you prepare to make a presentation in court if you are seeking the role of guardian, or conservator. The court must make challenging decisions in the best interest of the vulnerable individual.
Complex probate administration in Michigan can be emotionally draining and legally challenging for everyone. Disputes over wills, trusts, real estate, business succession, estate taxes, creditors, guardianship and conservatorship require a thorough understanding of probate law.
An experienced probate attorney relieves stress by promoting alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation. Your attorney assists all parties in working toward a fair solution that upholds the decedent’s wishes and ensures a just conclusion in complex probate matters.