Troy, MI asked in Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate for Michigan

Q: A widow can't find her husband's stock certificate. To replace it the stock company requires certification from probate.

The decedent lived in Wayne County, MI. The Stock is worth approximately $2,500. He never updated beneficiary forms and the stock company needs to see that the widow is named the personal representative or see a small estate affidavit in order to transfer the ownership of the stock to her. Before passing away, he and his wife established a trust. The value of the estate included in the trust surpasses the $22,000.

1) Can the widow go to Small Estate in wayne county request to open an estate for the value of the stock only? She has the proof of funeral expenses and the death certificate.

2) Will Wayne county probate look at the entire estate and the trust document?

She thought that having the trust, would "keep their property out of probate" for the $2,500. 3) Is it worth opening this can of worms?

1 Lawyer Answer
Trent Harris
Trent Harris
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Jackson, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: #1: It shouldn't be necessary to open a full-fledged probate estate. First, widow could try using SCAO form pc598, Affidavit of Decedent's Successor for Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by Decedent (see MCL 700.3983). That might work if stock company will accept it. Or, if stock company will not accept that, and insists on something signed by the Probate Court, then the next option would be to use SCAO form pc556, Petition and Order for Assignment (see MCL 700.3982).

#2: The property that needs to be considered for the above purposes is the property that belonged to the deceased, outside of the trust. Property that was conveyed into the trust before death is not part of the decedent's probate estate, and is not a probate asset.

#3: The above two techniques may be able to get the job done without opening a can of worms.

***But note, widow (or whoever is trustee of the trust) has duties to publish notice to creditors and pay certain claims of deceased husband's estate, notwithstanding the avoidance of probate under MCL 700.7605-15. A trust avoids the need for estate administration in probate court, but doesn't avoid the need for some estate administration after a death.

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