The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Michigan offers a few probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Michigan allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, if your estate qualifies as "small," your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.
Michigan has two procedures that allow heirs or inheritors to skip probate altogether, so long as the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. For deaths in 2022, that amount was $25,000, but this value is adjusted every year or two to keep up with inflation. If the estate in question is around this size, you can call your county probate court and ask for the exact cutoff amount for a "small" estate for the year of death, or you can often find a chart of small estate threshold amounts on the websites of county probate courts in Michigan.
The two procedures that allow you to skip probate are discussed below. Both procedures, if they're available to you, are much simpler, faster, and less costly than going through probate.
You can complete a form called a Petition for Assignment to ask the probate court to order that property be turned over to you if:
(Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.3982.) Note that if you are a named beneficiary (inheritor) under the deceased person's will, you can't use this procedure. And once the court issues an Order of Assignment allowing you to use this small estate proceeding, for 63 days after the order, you might also be liable for the estate's debts, up to the amount you receive through this procedure. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.3982.)
The other avenue for skipping probate is to collect property using an affidavit (a simple statement signed under oath). If you are entitled to the property, you simply fill out, sign, and get notarized an Affidavit of Decedent's Successor for Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by Decedent, and present it to the person or party (such as a bank) who is currently in possession of the property, or who owes the deceased person money. Again, you can skip probate court with this procedure.
Collection by affidavit is available after 28 days following the death, and only if:
(Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.3983.) You will need to swear in the affidavit that you're entitled to the property. You'll also attach a certified copy of the death certificate to the affidavit. As with the small estate proceeding, while you are able to claim property directly using this procedure, without going through probate, you might still need to give up the property later if the estate has creditors.
Even if they don't qualify for one of the probate-skipping procedures discussed above, small estates in Michigan might still qualify for a probate shortcut called "summary administration" or "summary probate." With this procedure, you won't skip probate entirely, but you will be able to bypass a large portion of it. In other words, probate will be sped up, and the costs of probate will be lower.
To qualify for summary administration, the value of the gross estate can't exceed the sum of:
(Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.3987.) In other words, after paying for probate fees, funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses of the deceased person's last illness, and any allowances to spouses and children required by law, there's nothing left in the estate.
To request summary administration, the executor or personal representative of the estate files a written request with the local probate court. If approved, the personal representative can then immediately distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate. After the assets are distributed, the personal representative completes and files a sworn closing statement for summary administration with the court.
For more information on probate in Michigan, read the following articles:
Nolo also offers several resources and tools to help with Michigan probate. If you're an executor or personal representative of an estate and tasked with wrapping up a loved one's property, you can consult a probate attorney or the comprehensive book The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), for further help.
On the other hand, if you're interested in actively planning now to minimize probate costs for your loved ones after your death, consider these next steps: