Guidance from Proven Probate Lawyers in St. Joseph, MI

Navigating probate in and around Berrien County, MI, is more than a legal formality. It’s about honoring the legacy of your loved one, preserving family harmony, appropriately disbursing their assets, and ensuring their wishes are fulfilled. As a premier boutique probate law firm serving S.W. Michigan, Legacy Counsel offers empathetic and comprehensive probate services tailored to each client’s unique circumstances, whether they involve simple asset distribution, complex estate and trust administration, or dispute resolution.

At Legacy Counsel, we’re dedicated to simplifying the probate process for our clients, preserving the estates of lives well-lived, and providing peace of mind during difficult times. Our probate attorneys ensure a smooth transition for personal representatives and beneficiaries alike. With an in-depth understanding of Michigan probate law and a commitment to detail-oriented administration, we clearly outline the personal representative’s duties and support you through every phase – helping keep you on track and the estate conflict-free.

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What is Probate?

Probate in Michigan is the legal procedure through which an estate is settled under the court’s supervision following an individual’s death. It involves validating the will (if any), appointing a personal representative, inventorying assets, paying debts, administering established trusts, and distributing assets to the rightful heirs.

Michigan Probate Covers:

  • Estate & Trust Administration: Managing and settling the estate in accordance with Michigan laws.
  • Creditor Claims: Resolving outstanding debts and handle creditor claims against the estate.
  • Asset Distribution: Transferring ownership and distributing assets to beneficiaries as outlined in the will, trust, or as per state laws if no will exists.
  • Tax Settlement: Settling any estate taxes and filing final tax returns for the deceased.
  • Disputes & Probate Litigation: Addressing any challenge or contests that may arise in a difficult time for all involved.

Why You Need a Probate Lawyer

The Michigan probate process provides the legal framework to help prevent fraud, resolve disputes, and confirm the validity of an individual’s will, if any. It also offers transparency and protection for the parties involved, including creditors, heirs, and others. A probate lawyer is indispensable for ensuring that your loved one’s estate is settled correctly and lawfully, safeguarding asset transfer and distribution to rightful beneficiaries.

Legacy Counsel believes navigating probate should be a journey of respect and dignity. It should also be as seamless as possible. When you meet with Legacy Counsel, we’ll review the estate in question, and any concerns will be addressed by a knowledgeable Berrien County probate attorney.

What Our St. Joseph Probate Lawyers Do

During your probate planning sessions, our experienced lawyers will meticulously organize and guide your loved one’s estate through the intricacies of Michigan’s probate court system so everything is lawfully in place and set up for a smooth transition. 

Estate Evaluation & Management

A critical part of probate involves gathering assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing inheritance. We can advise on strategies to protect an estate during probate and ensure it is administered in full compliance with state law.

Will Validation

Verifying the legitimacy of a will is a vital part of probate. We’ll handle the probate court proceedings to establish legitimacy so the decedent’s intentions are honored.

Trust Administration

If your loved one passes with a trust, it is essential that the trustee (whether a family member or corporate trustee) understands its instructions and accurately administers the trust to benefit the heirs. Every trust is different, and an attorney can help oversee it effectively, efficiently, and accurately.

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Guardianship & Conservatorship Appointments

When minors or incapacitated adults are involved, we facilitate the appointment of guardians or conservators, protecting their welfare and financial interests throughout the probate process.

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Guidance for Executors & Representatives

We guide personal representatives and trustees in Michigan through each step of probate, providing support regarding their duties, fiduciary advice, and ensuring compliance with all legal and ethical standards.

More about Personal Representatives

Probate Tax Filing

We provide steadfast support and guidance regarding the estate’s federal and state tax obligations.

Asset Distribution & Transfer

After settling any debts and taxes, we prepare accountings and manage the orderly distribution and transfer of the estate’s assets so beneficiaries receive their due inheritance.

Simplified Probate for Small Estates

Our team assists with Michigan’s “summary probate” for estates below a certain value. This simplified probate foregoes a court hearing and involves straightforward forms. After a prescribed waiting period, assets can be distributed, making the process quicker and more cost-effective.

Real Estate in Probate

Dealing with real estate in probate can be complex. Fortunately, our attorneys are skilled in handling property issues involving probate. From title and deed transfers to accurately assessing, managing, and selling real estate in probate, we can ensure compliance and effective execution.

Learn More About Real Estate in Probate

Probate Disputes & Litigation

We aim to manage probate so effectively that pitfalls are avoided well in advance. But sometimes probate gets contested. Whether it’s a will contest, beneficiary dispute, or some other issue, we provide steadfast representation to resolve matters in or out of court in a way that protects your interests.

Benefit from Our Precision Probate Services

At Legacy Counsel, we recognize that every probate case is as unique as the life it represents. We dedicate time to meet with each client to understand the estate they’re attempting to settle. Our probate attorneys are here to clarify your questions, move you through the process quickly, and create a plan that accomplishes all your probate objectives.

Legacy Counsel’s Probate Process

  • Our Initial Personal Representative Engagement Meeting: We start with an in-depth conversation to comprehend the details of the estate and your goals for the probate process.
  • Document Gathering & Review: We help collect the pertinent estate forms such as death certificates, wills, trust documents, property deeds, and financial statements that will be necessary throughout probate.
  • Filing & Probate Administration: We prepare and file all required court documents, represent you in probate court when needed, and oversee the estate or trust administration from start to finish.
  • Our PR Inventory and Strategy Session: With the information we collect, our team develops a strategic approach for your probate proceedings, focusing on efficiency and compliance with Michigan law.
  • Ongoing Support & Adjustment: As circumstances evolve, we adjust the probate strategy accordingly. We also offer post-probate support for any legal matters that may arise.

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Why Work with Legacy Counsel?

Our approach extends beyond estate planning and probate services. We believe in nurturing relationships and recognize that helping you manage your loved one’s estate through probate is an important responsibility. From the moment you sign your documents, we commit to being with you and your loved ones every step of the way.

Legacy Clients Benefit From:

  • A Custom Probate Strategy
  • Clear & Upfront Pricing
  • Regular & Detailed Probate Timelines
  • Open & Honest Communication
  • E-Signature Capability, Virtual Consults & Expedited Services.

Contact Legal Counsel today to book a consultation. We’ll answer all your questions and address your concerns.

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“The experience was great!

The step-by-step process greatly assisted us in getting our estate in order. What a relief to know that this will minimize the stress our children will not have to go through after we pass.”

Brenda R.

Michigan Probate Law Information Center

Whether you’re trying to settle a recently deceased parent’s estate, trying to manage the sale of a relative’s home in probate or manage a complicated distribution of assets to several beneficiaries, Legacy Counsel is dedicated to equipping you with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed decisions for your and your family. 

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Michigan Probate FAQs

What is the Function of Probate?

Probate is the state process by which a court looks at a will and determines whether it is valid. The probate court records the will in the public record and then gives time to the public to contest the will. Probate courts will also determine what to do with an estate if a person dies intestate, meaning without a will. Without a will, the probate court will distribute a person’s assets following Michigan intestate law, which may or may not result in the outcome you’d expect.

Do I Need to Go Through Probate? 

As an estate planning practice, we strive to keep as many of your assets as possible out of probate. We do this by creating estate plans that allow assets to be transferred more quickly and without the need for court approval and public recordation. However, with a will-based estate plan, there may be some assets that will not be able to avoid probate. Still, it will be much less expensive, stressful, and time-consuming if most of the estate has passed to beneficiaries outside of probate. If your goal is to avoid probate entirely, we will educate you about other planning options, such as revocable living trusts.

My Loved One Died Without a Will. What Happens?

When someone in Michigan dies without a will, the probate court will determine how to distribute assets under state law. Without a will, however, there may be assets that can be distributed based on beneficiary designations and pay-on-death clauses. These are assets like bank accounts, insurance policies, and retirement accounts. The forms designate who should receive the assets at the time of the account holder’s death control and will win out over state law.

My Loved One Passed Away with Few Assets. Is Probate Necessary?

Yes. If the deceased had any significant assets not already distributed by beneficiary designations or pay-on-death clauses, they must be distributed through probate. This can include real estate, valuable personal property, and any funds the deceased may have had. Michigan does have a simplified process for small estates, but these proceedings are still part of the public record.

How Long Does Probate Take? 

In Michigan, probate can take anywhere from a few months to over a year, but this can vary. Simple estates may be settled more quickly, especially when utilizing procedures for small estates. Conversely, more complex cases, especially those involving will contests, multiple beneficiaries, or tax issues, can extend the process significantly. The statutory four-month period for creditors to file claims against estates in Michigan can also influence the timeline. Ultimately, you should speak with a probate lawyer about the details of your estate to determine an accurate estimate. At Legacy Counsel, we have created systems and processes that would allow a probate matter to be completed in as little as 6 months.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Cost? 

Legacy Counsel adheres to predictable billing practices yet recognizes that Michigan’s legal standards typically charge hourly for probate and trust administration. We maintain this model with full transparency by offering advanced cost estimates and detailed invoices.

Who Pays a Probate Attorney? 

A probate attorney’s fees are typically paid from the estate’s assets as part of the administrative expenses during the probate process. Sometimes, the personal representative or beneficiaries might agree to pay for probate services if the estate lacks sufficient assets to cover these costs. However, such arrangements should be agreed upon and documented to prevent misunderstandings or disputes. If the estate has sufficient assets, anyone who has paid legal fees from their personal funds will be entitled to reimbursement from the estate before distributions are made to the beneficiaries.

How Do You Choose a Probate Lawyer? 

When choosing an attorney to assist you with moving an estate through Michigan probate, consider their experience, whether their firm has a concentration in Michigan probate law, client reviews, and your comfort with them. It’s essential to work with someone who understands your needs and whom you can trust.

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