The practice of Probate Law includes all matters that come before the Probate Courts of the various counties in the State of Michigan.
Decedent’s Estates and Wills
Upon a death, the deceased’s financial affairs need to be resolved with the payment of debts owed and the balance of the decedent’s estate distributed to his/her heirs or beneficiaries by way of a Will. The Will is submitted to the probate court for estate administration. If the decedent dies without a Will, the estate is distributed to the deceased’s heirs by way of “intestate succession”. Intestate succession is a series of laws promulgated by the State of Michigan which statutorily decides what each individual (called an heir) receives from the estate, by degree of kinship. Unless you want the State of Michigan to determine who inherits your estate, it is important that you leave a Will detailing who you want to receive your estate assets, what specific assets they receive and in what proportion an heir receives of those assets.
Trusts are created by drafting a document and the “Testator/Grantor” placing his/her assets in a trust for distribution during the testator/grantor’s lifetime and after his/her death. A trust can be a living trust – meaning the distribution provisions can be changed during the testator’s lifetime. A Trust can be irrevocable – meaning once the property is placed in the trust the distribution provisions cannot be changed. The Probate Court oversees trust administration and should a dispute arise among beneficiaries as to administration of the Trust, the Probate Court is petitioned to resolve the dispute. If there is a need for clarification or interpretation of a Trust to insure appropriate distribution of Trust assets, the Probate Court resolves those issues by court order.
Trusts are also used with other estate planning tools. Trusts are used in conjunction with a Will, “ladybird” deeds, durable power of attorneys, medical directives/patient advocate designations and other estate planning documents to provide for a comprehensive estate plan, detailed for the needs of every individual estate plan.
The Law Offices of William J. Campbell have been designing estate plans for individuals and families for well over 35 years.
Guardianships are governed by the Probate Courts, their rules and statutes. Guardianships can be of various types and vary in degree as to control by a court appointed Guardian. There are guardianships for legally incapacitated persons (LIPs) who are adult individuals who need financial and personal protection due to old age, dementia or other physical/mental conditions. Guardians are appointed by the judge of probate. There are also guardianships for developmentally disabled persons as defined by MCL 330.110a(20). These are individuals who exhibit substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities. These are persons who suffer from a disability that manifests itself before the onset of the age of 22 and are most often associated with persons who are impaired due to mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and/or multiple sclerosis. Guardianships for the developmentally disabled can be plenary in nature, which involves total control of all financial assets and day to day activities of an individual. The guardianship can be limited in nature and pertain to only certain aspects of one’s life such as: financial management assistance, choice of living arrangement, choice of rehabilitation programs.
Guardianships are also available for minor children when an adult parent is unavailable to provide the support and maintenance of their minor child. Minor guardianships can be limited in nature and can involve a “plan” by which an adult parent can regain full legal reinstatement of their rights over time by demonstration of behaviors that insure appropriate parenting.
Conservatorships are overseen by the Probate Courts to provide a mechanism by which a person is appointed to monitor the finances of another who requires assistance with his/her financial or business affairs. Persons requiring this type of assistance usually suffer from mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability. Conservators are required to file annual reports with the Probate Court to account for the use of the protected person’s money.
The Law Offices of William J. Campbell has over 35 years experience in the area of Probate Law.