The process of overseeing the distribution of your property is administered through the probate court (generally called probate).
Probate proceedings are generally public in nature. In most circumstances, anyone can examine the court file for a deceased person’s estate. The personal representative is given the discretion not to file the inventory of the estate with the court. Therefore, the value and nature of the estate may not be available to the general public.
If the estate of a deceased person consists of property valued at $20,000 or less (in 2010), then a shortened probate procedure is available. The probate court issues an order that the property be turned over to the person who paid the funeral expenses, with any remaining amount going to the surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, to the heirs. The probate court has a form for this procedure.
Probate Proceedings For Estates Valued at More Than $20,000
If the estate of a deceased person consists of property valued at more than $20,000, distribution of the estate is governed by the rules of either informal probate or formal probate administration.
- Informal Probate: The rules of informal probate eliminate the need for a petition or proceeding before the probate court for most of the steps in the probate process.
- Formal Probate: The rules of formal administration retain the supervision of the probate court over certain steps in the probate process. The law allows a probate estate to be closed after 5 months if all claims and other matters are resolved.
Probate Proceedings – Only Asset is Automobile
If the only asset or assets of the estate are an automobile or automobiles valued at $60,000 or less, then transfer of ownership to the spouse or next of kin can be accomplished through the Secretary of State and no probate proceedings are necessary.
If you have questions about the probate process contact Samantha Moffett at (248) 624-5500