Probate Estates, Guardianship, & Conservatorship

When a loved one passes or becomes unable to make decisions about their care, you need compassionate, experienced counsel to help you resolve their affairs with dignity. We will advise you every step of the way.

Michigan’s probate courts determine the validity of wills, enforce their provisions, and preside over will and trust disputes. If someone dies “intestate” – without a will – probate courts dispose of the deceased person’s assets and ensure certain obligations are met.

Probate judges have powers over the living, too, particularly people without the legal standing or capacity to make decisions about their own healthcare and finances.

If someone you love has died, with or without a will, or if a minor child or incapacitated adult relative requires probate court protection, count on the Shimek Law Firm to guide you through the process.

Probate and Estate Administration

Wrapping up a deceased person’s financial obligations and distributing their property is called “probate” or “estate administration.” This process can be complicated, adding extra stress during a family’s time of grief. Our attorneys will help you understand how to navigate the system, prepare the necessary documentation, mediate and resolve disputes, and negotiate solutions that allow everyone to obtain closure and move forward.

After an individual dies, the court appoints a “personal representative” who is authorized to pay off debts, close accounts, notify heirs, resolve tax issues, and satisfy other financial obligations. The PR is then responsible for distributing any remaining assets according to either the deceased’s will or Michigan’s succession laws if they died intestate.

An estate can include real estate, personal property, and financial investments, but the probate court excludes some assets, including trusts, from the probate process.

Even small or straightforward estates can be complicated to administer, and the journey can be emotional for everyone involved. Our experienced attorneys will help you navigate the system as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Will and Trust Contests

A person’s intended gifts and assets are often distributed to living beneficiaries or designated organizations according to a will or trust with little or no conflict. Sometimes, beneficiaries who disagree over a distribution will challenge the will and trust provisions, the deceased or a grantor’s intent or capacity, or the will or trust’s validity or authenticity. Other times, beneficiaries may question the PR’s performance, integrity, or legal standing to administer a will or the trustee’s authority to disburse trust proceeds.

Will and trust contests can be highly charged and emotional, causing longstanding rifts in families. If you’re involved with a will or trust dispute, you need a level-headed, confident, and competent lawyer – like the attorneys at the Shimek Law Firm – on your side. We can mediate disagreements and negotiate fair compromises, and if courtroom litigation becomes necessary, we will aggressively advocate for your rights.

Guardianships

A guardian is a person legally authorized by the probate court to make decisions about another individual’s care. Guardianship may be appropriate for an “incapacitated individual” adult, which Michigan law defines as someone unable to understand, make, or communicate informed decisions about their health and welfare due to illness, disability, mental illness, or other reasons.

For a minor child under 18, the probate court can appoint a guardian when the child’s parents can’t or won’t fulfill their parental duties, either in part or in full. The guardian has the same powers and owes the same duties to the child as a parent, except the guardian does not have to support the child – also called a “ward” – from the guardian’s funds.

Conservatorships

If an adult can make informed medical and personal care decisions but cannot manage their financial affairs, a conservatorship may be appropriate. The probate court appoints a conservator (either a person or a financial institution) to handle an individual’s property and financial affairs. The appointment can be temporary (during an extended illness, for example) or permanent.

The probate court may also appoint a conservator for a minor who:

  • Owns money or property or has property interest that cannot be managed otherwise.
  • Is involved with business affairs that may be affected by the child’s minority status.
  • Requires money for education or other financial support.

Any interested person can petition the court for a guardian or conservator of a protected individual. In fact, any adult or a minor who is at least 14 years old may nominate their own guardian or petition the probate court to appoint a conservator.

If a legal issue or dispute requires probate court oversight or intervention, contact the Shimek Law Firm today to discuss your rights and how to enforce them. We’re here to help.