Exceptions to Probate Court

There are several statutes that allow for assets owned by the decedent to pass to the decedent's heirs without the necessity of probate. These statutes are exceptions to the general rule as to when probate is required.

MCL 257.236 provides that the title to motor vehicles of a decedent whose total value does not exceed $60,000 may be transferred to the heirs by the Michigan Department of State if there are no other assets requiring probate. The Secretary of State must be furnished with proof of death of the registered owner and a certificate setting forth the fact that the applicant is the surviving husband or wife or the applicants are the heirs of the decedent. This is accomplished by filing the papers at the Secretary of State Office.

MCL 324.80312 provides for the transfer of water craft without probate proceedings if there are no other assets requiring probate and the value of the water craft is less than $100,000. This is accomplished by filing the proper papers at the Secretary of State Office. MCL 408.480 provides that wages or fringe benefits in any amount may be delivered to the heirs of the decedent in order of priority listed in this statute. The priority is as follows: surviving spouse, surviving children, surviving mother or father, and surviving sister or brother.

MCL 700.3981 provides that a hospital, convalescent or nursing home, morgue, or law enforcement agency holding cash not exceeding $500 and wearing apparel of a decedent may deliver the cash and wearing apparel to a person furnishing identification and an affidavit that the person is the spouse, child, or parent of the decedent and that an estate of the decedent is not pending. These documents are given to the person holding the property and are not filed with the probate court.

CL 700.3983 of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code provides that 28 days after a decedent's death, a person indebted to the decedent or having possession of tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock, or chose in action belonging to the decedent shall pay the indebtedness or deliver the tangible personal property or the instrument to a person claiming to be the decedent's successor upon being presented with the decedent's death certificate and a sworn statement made by or on behalf of the successor. The court will provide a form which meets the requirements of this statute. The form is titled Affidavit of Decedent's Successor for Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by Decedent (PC 598). The sworn statement (affidavit) must state all of the following as true before the procedure can be used:

1. The estate does not include real property and the value of the entire estate wherever located, net of liens and encumbrances, does not exceed $15,000. (This amount will be adjusted annually for inflation beginning January 1, 2001.

2. Twenty-eight days have elapsed since the decedent's death.

3. An application or petition for the appointment of a personal representative is not pending or has not been granted in any jurisdiction.

4. The claiming successor is entitled to payment or delivery of the property.

5. The name and address of each other person that is entitled to a share of the property and the portion to which each is entitled.

Successor as used in MCL 700.3982 includes one who is eligible to take under the exempt property and allowances provisions of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code. It also includes those who are entitled to assets under the intestate succession provisions of that Code. A beneficiary under an unprobated will may be a successor under this provision.

MCL 700.3982 of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code contains a very similar provision that may be used to distribute estates of this size. It may be used when either personal or real property is involved. It can not be used to distribute property to a beneficiary of a will. That provision is discussed in the next probate note entitled Court Order Distributing Small Estates.

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