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Continuing, Closing, Reopening an Estate Part 2

In the previous note we discussed how an estate could be continued, closing a small estate by sworn statement of the personal representative and closing a regular estate by sworn statement of the personal representative. This note will discuss how an estate may be closed through formal proceedings and the procedure for reopening a closed estate.

Order of complete estate settlement

Pursuant to MCL 700.3952 a personal representative or an interested person may petition for an order of complete estate settlement. This is a formal proceeding which offers a procedure to settle all issues in closing an estate. It gives the personal representative the protection of the conclusiveness of a court order. This procedure is available for all estate proceedings whether or not they were begun by informal or formal proceedings. If formal testacy has not been determined, such a determination can be asked for if it is desired before final distribution. An estate proceeding in supervised administration must be closed in this manner. The personal representative may petition at any time, and an interested person may petition after 1 year from the original personal representative's appointment. However, the court shall not accept a petition under this section until the time expires for presenting a claim that arises before the decedent's death.

A petition for an order of complete estate settlement may request the court to determine testacy, if not previously determined, to consider the final account, to compel or approve an accounting and distribution, to construe a will or determine heirs, and to adjudicate the estate's final settlement and distribution. There are two court form that may be used depending upon whether testacy was or was not previously adjudicated. The forms are Petition for Complete Estate Settlement, Testacy Previously Adjudicated (PC 593) and Petition for Adjudication of Testacy and Complete Estate Settlement (PC 594). Schedule of Distribution and Payment of Claims (PC 596) may be used as an attachment for either petition. If there is a request for an adjudication of testacy, there must also be a determination of heirs. It is contemplated that as a part of this procedure the personal representative will request to be discharged. Pursuant to Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 5.311(B)(3) a personal representative filing a discharge request must also file additional papers with the court so the court can make a determination that the estate has been properly administered. Those papers and proof of service for them are as follows:

1. Inventory.

2. Accountings.

3. Notice of Appointment.

4. Fees notice pursuant to MCR 5.313

5. Notice to spouse.

6. Notice of continued administration.

7. Affidavit of any required publication.

8. Tax information concerning inheritance or estate tax.

9. Any other papers which the court may require.

Pursuant to MCR 5.125(C)(8) the persons interested in a petition for an order of complete estate settlement under MCL 700.3952 or a petition for discharge under MCR 5.311(B)(3) are the:

1. Devisees of a testate estate.

2. Heirs unless there has been an adjudication that decedent died testate.

3. Claimants.

4. Such other persons whose interests are affected by the relief requested. Pursuant to MCL 700.3952(3) a method is provided for curing any prior oversight as to notice of an interested person during estate administration. Such an interested person may now be given notice and such notice in the absence of objection will fully adjudicate the interested person's interest.

After notice to all interested persons and a hearing, the court may enter an order or orders, on appropriate conditions, determining the persons entitled to distribution of the estate, and as circumstances require, approving settlement, directing or approving estate distribution, and discharging the personal representative from further claim or demand of an interested person. To accomplish this the court will use Order for Complete Estate Settlement (PC 595). After the personal representative files evidence of payment of claims and distributions as set forth in the Order for Complete Estate Settlement and the court is satisfied that estate administration is complete, the court will issue Order of Discharge (PC 597). This order will terminate the personal representative's authority and close estate administration.

Order construing will without adjudication of testacy

Pursuant to MCL 700.3953, a personal representative administering an estate under an informally probated will or a devisee under an informally probated will may petition for a settlement order for the estate that does not adjudicate the decedent's testacy status. This provision is very similar to a petition for a complete settlement order. However, such a petition may be filed only in an estate being administered under a will admitted to probate in an informal proceeding. The petition may not contain a request for a determination of the decedent testacy status in a formal proceeding. This procedure is not available if the estate is in supervised administration or if it appears that a part of the estate is intestate. The personal representative may petition at any time, and a devisee may petition after one year after the original personal representative's appointment. However, the court shall not accept a petition under this procedure until the time expires for presenting a claim that arises before the decedent's death.

A petition under this procedure may request the court to consider the final account, to compel or approve an accounting and distribution, to construe the will, or to adjudicate the estate's final settlement and distribution. Since it is not contemplated that this procedure will be often used, there are no approved forms for the procedure and any such petition and order would have to be individually drafted. The personal representative may request to be discharged as a part of this procedure. Pursuant to Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 5.311(B)(3) a personal representative filing such a request must also file additional papers with the court so the court can make a determination that the estate has been properly administered. Those papers were previously described above.

Pursuant to MCR 5.125(C)(9) the persons interested in a petition for an estate settlement order under MCL700.3953 are the:

1. Personal representative.

2. Devisees .

3. Claimants.

4. Such other persons whose interests are affected by the relief requested.

After notice to all interested persons and a hearing, the court may enter appropriate orders, on appropriate conditions, determining the persons entitled to distribution of the estate under the will, and , as circumstances require, approving settlement, directing or approving estate distribution, and discharging the personal representative from further claim or demand of a devisee who is a party to the proceeding and those the devisee represents. After the personal representative files evidence of payment of claims and distributions as set forth in any Order and the court is satisfied that estate administration is complete, the court will issue Order of Discharge (PC 597). This order will terminate the personal representative's authority and close estate administration.

Reopening a closed estate

Pursuant to MCR 5.312(A) if there is good cause to reopen a previously administered estate, other than an estate that was terminated in supervised administration, any interested person may apply to the register to reopen the estate and appoint the former personal representative or another person who has priority. For good cause and without notice, the register may reopen the estate, appoint the former personal representative or a person who has priority, and issue letters of authority with a specified termination date. Pursuant to MCR 5.312(B) the previously appointed personal representative or an interested person may file a petition with the court to reopen the estate and appoint a personal representative under MCL 700.3959.

Pursuant to MCL 700.3959 if estate property is discovered after an estate is settled and either the personal representative is discharged or 1 year has expired after a closing statement is filed, or if there is other good cause to reopen a previously administered estate, including an estate administratively closed, upon petition of an interested person and notice as the court directs, the court may appoint the same personal representative to administer the subsequently discovered estate. A claim previously barred shall not be asserted in the subsequent administration.

The two above mentioned provisions give interested persons two choices as how to reopen an estate unless the estate was closed while in supervised administration. If closed while in supervised administration, the estate can only be reopened by a petition in a formal proceeding. The court rule allows the register to issue the order reopening an estate without notice in all other cases and the statute allows for reopening the estate by petition in all cases. A request to reopen the estate may be filed on / /Application / /Petition to Reopen Estate (PC 607). It should be noted that in estates closed by a sworn statement pursuant to MCL 700.3954, the personal representative would have authority to act during the one year period following the filing of the sworn statement without being reappointed.

Pursuant to MCR 5.144(B) an estate that has been administratively close before administration was completed must be reopened by petition

Closing a reopened estate

Pursuant to MCR 5.311(C) after the completion of the reopened estate administration, the personal representative shall proceed to close the estate by filing a petition under MCL 700.3952, MCL 700.3953 or a supplemental closing statement under MCL 700.3954. If a supplement closing statement is filed, the personal representative must serve a copy on each interested person. The Sworn Statement to Close Unsupervised Administration / / Supplemental (PC 591) is used with the supplemental box checked. If an objection is not filed within 28 days, the personal representative is entitled to receive a supplemental certificate of completion. The Certificate of Completion / / Supplemental (PC 592) is used with the supplemental box checked.

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