Disposition of Small Estates
The following is meant to outline processes involving minimal or no (probate) court involvement for estates that meet particular criteria. By State law, probate court staff cannot give legal advice. A lawyer is best equipped to help determine what process is best suited to your needs.
I. Minimal Court Action -- Petition and Order for Assignment.
If the date-of-death value of the decedent’s property (real estate and personal property) minus the funeral and burial expenses is less than the amount listed on the chart below, it may qualify as a small estate. (For instance, for a person who passed away in 2017, the amount is $22,000.) By filing a petition and order for assignment, a court order may be issued that directs the transfer of property to heirs or other appropriate people. MCL 700.3982. Decedent must have resided in Washtenaw County or have lived outside of the state but owned property in Washtenaw County. This type of action may be filed by submission of the following:
Only heirs or an individual who paid the funeral bill may petition the Court.
Whoever paid any part of the funeral/ burial bill must be listed on the petition and will be ordered to be reimbursed before other disbursements are authorized. If the funeral/burial bill has not been paid, the statement must show the balance owing.
For bank accounts, include the bank name and account number. For stocks and bonds, list the corporation and number of shares. List the gross value of the property as of the date of death. “Blue book” values for vehicles are acceptable. In determining whether the estate is less than the threshold permitted for this kind of action, or for determining the inventory value, no reduction is permitted for liens.
In most instances the Court will not assign real property through a petition and order for assignment. However, to nonetheless request Court assignment of real estate, include the complete legal description (not just the address). Customarily, the value of real estate is listed at two times the most recent state equalized value (SEV). The SEV can be located on the tax bill. Liens or mortgages on real property should be listed only for purposes of establishing the inventory fee.
To determine if this process may be acceptable, total the gross value of all property then subtract the funeral and burial expenses without subtracting for liens. If the amount falls under the value below, this proceeding is acceptable. After reimbursement/payment of funeral expenses, any remaining property is assigned consistent with the rules of intestate succession.
II. Non-Court Actions
A. Transfer by Affidavit. MCL 700.3983. A small estate consisting of entirely personal property may qualify for the “Transfer by Affidavit” procedure. A decedent’s successor can execute an affidavit for delivery to someone who is holding decedent’s property in order to receive the property. Affidavit of Decedent's Successor for Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by Decedent (PC 598) may be used to affirm the following:
A copy of the decedent’s death certificate must be attached.
B. Transfer of Money Due from Decedent’s Employer for Wages and Fringe Benefits. MCL 408.480. If there is no other property for which probate court estate administration is required, money from wages or fringe benefits may be transferred from an employer of the decedent without Court intervention. Money is paid 1) in accordance with the employer’s written contract or plan; 2) to a person designated by the decedent-employee in writing and filed with the employer prior to the employee’s death; and 3) if not transferred through either of the previous mechanisms, to the survivor(s) with the following priority: 1) spouse, 2) children, 3) parents, 4) siblings.
C. Transfer of a Vehicle at the Secretary of State. MCL 257.236. Title of a decedent’s registered vehicle may be transferred without court intervention if the total value of the decedent’s solely owned vehicles do not exceed $60,000 and there is no other property for which probate court administration is required. Title is transferred by doing the following:
D. Transfer of Wearing Apparel and $500 or less in cash. MCL 700.3981. The decedent’s clothing and cash of $500 or less may be transferred to an heir by particular entities without court intervention. Specifically, a hospital, convalescent or nursing home, morgue, or police agency may make the transfer to a spouse, child, or parent with proof of identification. A sworn statement is needed that indicates the requestor’s relationship with the decedent and that there is no application or petition pending for estate administration.
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