The days and weeks following the death of a loved one can be a very difficult and confusing time. In addition to dealing with feelings of the grief and loss experienced by family members, there is also a need to handle the many details involved in administering the property, accounts and personal belongings and affairs of the deceased.

We help our clients handle these matters properly, easing their burden with knowledge of the procedures as well as compassion and caring.

The administration of an estate may include probate (whether with a will or without one), or trust administration, or both. If you have been named as a trustee or personal representative, it is very important that you understand and follow the specific rules and procedures that are established by Michigan probate and trust law. Failing to do so can result in family dissension, litigation and other penalties. Our attorneys and legal assistants are trained and experienced in those procedures and can help make the process much easier for you.

Probate of a Decedent’s Estate

Probate is designed to assure that the property, personal effects and other assets which were owned by the deceased are transferred to the appropriate beneficiaries after payment of all proper debts and expenses. While this may seem like a simple process, it involves many required procedures, notifications and court filings, as well as the preparation of required accountings, tax returns and payment of court fees. Much of this process is done as clerical work and does not involve court proceedings. This can be handled efficiently by our trained and experienced legal assistants under the supervision of an attorney.

Many of our clients have gone through a process of estate planning and have created trusts which avoid the necessity of probate, but for those situations where probate is required, we can help to simplify and streamline the process for you and your family.

Probate Litigation

At times, probate involves contested matters over wills and trusts, or guardianships and conservatorships, which require court proceedings to resolve. This is often the case where there has been a history of family conflict. We have often been successful in resolving disputes between family members without litigation. Where this is not possible, we have the depth of experience and understanding of probate law to vigorously and effectively advocate for our client in probate court.

Trust Administration

Many of our clients have revocable living trusts into which they transfer their assets, such as property, bank accounts and business assets. The trust may also receive proceeds from life insurance policies or retirement accounts. When the individual dies, his or her assets are not owned by the decedent; they are owned by the trust. As such, no probate of these assets is required. Instead, a successor trustee is named in the trust to administer the assets in much the same way as a will would be administered. The trustee pays bills and transfers assets in accordance with the directions contained in the trust document, but without any involvement of the probate court. There are legal requirements that are binding upon the trustee. When you are named as a trustee, it is critically important to have advice and guidance in the administration of a trust from an experienced attorney who understands Michigan’s trust laws. We provide the assistance and guidance you need, while allowing you to handle the management decisions and other details which your loved one intended you to handle and which you are comfortable handling.

Wenzel, Bennett and Harris P.C.

109 N. Second Avenue, Suite 200
Alpena, Michigan 49707

Phone: (989) 356-6128
Fax: (989) 356-3524
Email: contact@northernlaw.com

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