Ann Arbor Probate & Trust Administration Attorneys

When a Michigan resident passes away, a family member usually becomes responsible for paying their last debts and distributing the estate assets that remain. The probate (estate administration) process can be confusing. If you are grieving and unfamiliar with the probate court system, it can be downright daunting. Fortunately, you do not need to figure it out on your own.

At Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon, P.C., our experienced Michigan probate attorneys will help you navigate the estate administration process with both the compassion and the legal guidance you need. We help you identify and prepare the documents needed to initiate probate, whether or not the deceased had a will, notify heirs and creditors of the estate, inventory assets, complete accounting,, and wind down the estate.

Michigan Probate Administration

The person in charge of administering a deceased person’s estate is the personal representative (similar to a different term you may have heard of: executor or administrator of the estate). However, whether or not there was a will, the personal representative has no legal authority to act on behalf of the estate until the court grants it.

In order to be granted that power, a probate case must be opened in the Michigan county where the deceased last resided or where the decedent owned property. Our attorneys are familiar with the process of opening an estate and getting personal representatives properly prepared to fulfill their duties. We do everything possible to demystify the probate process for personal representatives, making it less stressful and more efficient, which ultimately saves time and money for the estate.

When you serve as a personal representative, your actions directly affect the rights of others to receive assets from the estate. Even an inadvertent mistake can lead to personal liability for a personal representative. We will work with you to make sure you understand your responsibilities and your rights when serving in your role.

A probate attorney’s assistance can help you avoid unnecessary mistakes and costly delays in administering your loved one’s estate. It is in everyone’s best interest to have an efficient administration of the estate. For that reason, Michigan views the services of an experienced probate attorney as a benefit to the estate; so long as they are necessary and reasonable, the attorney’s fees may be paid by the estate, rather than the personal representative, personally.

Michigan Trust Administration

Increasingly, people are incorporating trusts into their estate plans. A trust is a document that allows an individual, the trustee, to manage assets owned by the trust for beneficiaries of the trust. Different types of trusts offer different advantages, including creditor protection, tax planning, and protecting assets for younger beneficiaries. One advantage of all types of trusts is that assets held in a trust do not go through probate.

Living trusts are common and allow the person who created the trust to serve as both trustee and beneficiary, during their lifetime. When the creator of the trust dies, a successor trustee takes over. Depending on the provisions of the trust document, the trustee either immediately distributes trust assets to the named beneficiaries, or manages those assets on their behalf for a period of time.

If you have been named a trustee and accepted that role, you are required by Michigan law to meet certain legal requirements governing trusts and trustees. Many successor trustees are not financial or legal professionals and are unfamiliar with these requirements. Our trust administration attorneys can make sure that you understand and properly execute your duties as trustee, as well as to receive any compensation and professional support you are entitled to under the terms of the trust.

How Our Experienced Estate Attorneys Can Help

Whether you are faced with the administration of a probate estate, a trust, or both, our experienced attorneys walk you through the process, ensuring that all goes smoothly. We are committed to supporting you as you fulfill your obligations, helping you understand your duties so you can carry them out with confidence.

Our attorneys know Michigan law, and are familiar with the local probate courts. While we have helped our clients to handle numerous probate and trust administration matters, we never lose sight of the fact that behind every case is a family that has experienced loss. We serve families throughout Washtenaw County and the surrounding counties of Michigan with both competence and compassion.

We invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation regarding your Michigan probate or trust administration matter.

Frequently Asked Questions - Probate & Trust Administration

What is Probate?

Probate is the process a court uses to supervise a deceased person’s estate. At times, it can be costly and time-consuming, so many people consult with an estate planning attorney to try to avoid the probate process. Our attorneys can discuss with you the various and often free or inexpensive ways that you can avoid probate for many of your assets.

However, in some circumstances, you may be named as the personal representative for someone else’s probate estate, or a friend or loved one has died without a will. We can assist you through the process and help walk you through the maze of legal requirements.

Should I try to avoid Probate in my estate plan?

The short answer is maybe. For many estates, you may be able to save your loved ones from the expense, time, and headaches by establishing a solid estate plan designed to avoid probate. But there are always exceptions to the rule. For a few people, their assets may be small enough that a unique procedure for small estates can be used that is quicker and easier than typical probate.

Additionally, some assets may be easily handled through the probate process, while others may not. Thus, it is important to consult with someone who is knowledgeable about the subject of probate law to help guide you through the considerations.

I have been named the personal representative in someone’s will. What should I do now?

The probate process can be a daunting experience for anyone. You may have questions about how to access estate accounts, how to prepare an inventory, what should you do about creditors, how long the process will take, and whether you can charge for your time. For these and many other questions surrounding the process, the best advice is to seek the assistance of someone knowledgeable in probate law. In most situations, the fee associated with seeking help from an experienced attorney can be reimbursed from the estate. Our lawyers are here to help you and to make sure the job is done properly, so you can minimize risk to yourself.

What is Trust Administration and what do I do if I have been named the trustee of a trust?

A trust is a legal document that names a particular person (a trustee) to hold and manage assets belonging to the trust. Trusts can be helpful to avoid probate, manage your assets after you die, protect assets for your children, or minimize tax consequences to your beneficiaries. When you have been named as a trustee of a trust and you accept the role, you are required by Michigan law to meet certain legal requirements governing trusts and trustees.

Our lawyers can assist you so that you can be certain you have met all the legal requirements of your responsibility as a trustee in administering the trust according to its terms. If you have been named as a trustee of a trust, it would be wise to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about trust administration. Many trust documents allow the trustee to not only be compensated for their time, but to also hire professionals such as attorneys, accountants, and financial advisers to assist them in administering the trust assets.