Buffalo, NY asked in Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate for Michigan

Q: Had a question about becoming executor of someone's estate in MI. My mother recently passed and had no will.

I'm her only child and she's not married. The only thing she has left is some clothes and a few nick nacks. I intend to donate most of it to good will. How do I go about being named executor? Since she had nothing why would I want to be named executor? She was married for a long time to a very horrible person. She divorced him in January of 2022. The divorce stated she would receive $60k for her interest in their house which she paid for. She was to receive $45k up front and then $7.5k 6 months after the divorce followed by another 7.5k after that. He paid the intitial 45k but not the rest. She took him back to court last year and represented herself. He agreed to pay $500 a month until the debt was paid. He made a few payments but stopped when he found out my mother was sick and wasn't able to respresent herself. I would like to recover the remaining $10k he still owes her estate.

2 Lawyer Answers
Kenneth V Zichi
Kenneth V Zichi
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Fowlerville, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: You say she didn't have anything but then add she has a 10,000 (plus judgment interest?) debt owed to her. Therefore she DOES have something to probate: her interest in that judgment.

The question becomes is it worth it to begin probate for the POSSIBILITY of recovering 10k? The answer to that is 'probably yes' but understand the up-front costs and what it will take both in time and effort. The best way to do that is to contact a local attorney in the county where you mother lived at the time of her passing and see what it will cost to begin probate there and then enforce the judgment. There is a POSSIBILITY you can get 'enforcement costs' and judgment interest on the debt if he's not paying but again, a local practitioner will be able to better provide advice on that.

Seek out local legal representation -- it will be well worth the cost even if you cannot recover it from the 'debtor' directly.

Joseph  Dallo
Joseph Dallo
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Troy, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: I'm sorry for your loss. When a person dies intestate (without a will) in Michigan, the process to administer the estate can be more involved. Here's a general overview regarding becoming the personal representative (often referred to as the "executor" in other states) of someone's estate in Michigan under such circumstances:

Opening a Probate Estate: If there's a need to open a probate estate (for example, if there are substantial assets that aren't otherwise transferred by beneficiary designations or joint ownership), you would typically start by filing a petition with the appropriate probate court in the county where the decedent lived.

Petitioning to be the Personal Representative: As the child of the decedent, you have priority to serve as the personal representative of the estate, but this isn't automatic. You would need to petition the court. If there are other interested persons (like other siblings) who also want to serve, the court will consider the statutory order of preference and any objections in deciding who to appoint.

Appointing a Personal Representative: Once the court approves the appointment of a personal representative, they will issue "Letters of Authority," which give the personal representative the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. This document is essential for tasks like accessing bank accounts, selling property, and interacting with creditors.

Duties of the Personal Representative: If appointed, you'll have various duties, including notifying potential creditors, gathering and protecting assets, paying valid debts, and distributing the remaining assets according to Michigan's intestacy laws. In the absence of a will, assets are distributed to heirs as specified by state statute, which typically prioritizes spouses, children, parents, and then more distant relatives.

Closing the Estate: After all obligations have been addressed and assets distributed, you'll need to account for your actions to the court and ask for the estate to be closed.

Seek Legal Advice: Probate procedures, especially for intestate estates, can be complex. It's often beneficial to consult with a probate attorney to guide you through the process, ensure compliance with all legal requirements, and handle potential disputes or issues that might arise.

Remember, this is a general overview, and the right answer requires specific facts, so please don’t rely on this answer. Always consult with an attorney to get detailed information tailored to your situation.

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