When an estate goes through probate in Michigan, beneficiaries and heirs naturally ask how long it takes to complete the process. The length of probate varies greatly, depending on a number of factors, including the size of the estate and nature of the assets.
If an estate is small (less that $24,000 in 2021), Michigan has simplified processes that reduce the time it takes to complete administration. Under these processes, it may be possible to distribute the estate in several months.
For larger estates, satisfying specific statutory requirements takes time, even if no other issues arise during probate. In the best of circumstances, when everything goes smoothly, the probate process takes at least seven months to complete. A delay due to the nature of the estate or other issues can extend that time by months or even years, depending on what causes the delay.
Steps in the Probate Process
Probate is the court-supervised process established in Michigan law for administration of a decedent’s estate. While it is possible to avoid probate with a carefully structured estate plan, without those in place, state law requires that estates go through probate.
Appointing the Estate Representative
The first step in probate is court appointment of the personal representative for the estate. If the decedent had a will, an executor named in the will has priority for applying to serve as the personal representative.
If there is no will, or the executor named in a will cannot or does not wish to serve, Michigan statutes establish a priority order in which individuals may apply for appointment.
Appointment of the personal representative can affect the length of probate. If family members disagree about who should serve, the court must determine which person to appoint — and the court process takes up time before probate even begins.
Fiduciary Duties of the Representative
Following the appointment, the personal representative has significant fiduciary duties under Michigan law. The duties are the same regardless of whether the decedent left a will or died intestate (without a will).
Our blog post discussing the duties of a personal representative explains the steps of the probate process that the personal representative follows. Each step of the process takes time. The amount of time for each step can vary substantially, depending on the estate and circumstances.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
If failure or refusal of the personal representative to administer an estate properly causes an unjustifiable delay in the probate process, others with an interest in the estate may need to file an action in court to get the probate estate back on track.
Any breach of fiduciary duty can affect the timetable for probate. Probate litigation can extend the length of the probate process considerably.
Factors Affecting Length of Probate
In addition to potential issues concerning appointment of a personal representative, other factors also determine the length of probate.
- Size of the Estate - The size of the estate and nature of the property and assets significantly affect how long probate takes. Smaller estates typically take less time to complete probate. Larger, more complex estates take more time.
- Estate is Intestate - A key factor in the length of probate is whether the decedent had a will. Often, administration of an intestate estate is more complicated than probate of an estate with a will. But the specific circumstances of an estate affect probate length in both situations.
- Will Contests - Whether a potential beneficiary or heir decides to contest the provisions of the will also affects the probate timeline. In some situations, probate litigation involving an estate can last for years. Completion of the probate process usually depends on resolution of any related court actions.
- Estate Debts - Debts of the decedent also affect probate, especially if there is a dispute over the amount or liability of a debt.
- Estate Taxes - Another factor is whether the estate is large enough to be subject to estate tax, since preparation of tax returns can consume a substantial amount of time.
- Inventory and Valuation of Assets - Under Michigan law, all assets in a probate estate must be included in an inventory of the estate property as part of the probate process. For an estate with considerable property and complex assets, inventory preparation and valuation of assets can be a time-consuming process.
- Out-of-State Property - Finally, if the decedent owned property in another state, that state’s probate laws apply to processing the property. The probate process varies greatly from state-to-state, so out-of-state property in an estate can extend the amount of time necessary to complete estate administration.
Discuss Probate With Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras P.C
Our BRMM probate administration attorneys assist personal representatives, beneficiaries, and heirs with all matters relating to probate of an estate. Guidance from a knowledgeable lawyer ensures that all legal requirements for estate administration are met, while making certain that the process progresses as expeditiously as possible under applicable Michigan laws.
At BRMM, we’ve been providing legal services to clients for more than 40 years. Our compassion, credentials, and commitment set us apart.
Call us at (248) 494-4577 to talk with us about matters relating to any area of concern included in our practice.