Provided by the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan
Steps to Take After the Decedent's Death
As soon as possible after your loved one's death, the following items should be located and given to the person responsible for completing the deceased's final affairs:
- Directives regarding funeral arrangements
- Prepaid funeral or burial contracts & related documents
- Original last will & testament
- Trust agreements (if any)
- Premarital agreement (if any)
- Bank statements & account information
- Keys to any safe-deposit boxes
- Statements for retirement & brokerage accounts
- Automobile, trailer, & other vehicle titles
- Tax returns & tax documents (including 1099 & W-2 forms)
- Birth & marriage certificates
- Military discharge documents
- Stock certificates & savings bonds
- Social Security card
- Copies of bills owed by the deceased
- Deeds & tax information for real estate
When is Probate Required?
Generally, probate is necessary when a person dies owning property in his or her name alone or when the person has rights to receive property at some time in the future (such as an inheritance from someone else). There are three kinds of property that may not need to be probated: (1) jointly-owned property that goes to the surviving owner; (2) property that goes to a named beneficiary; and (3) property transferred to a trust. These kinds of property are explained below.
- Property that is owned jointly by the decedent and another person with right of survivorship automatically goes to the surviving joint owner. Many bank accounts between spouses are owned this way; when the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse becomes the owner of the whole bank account.
- Property such as life insurance, pension benefits, payable-on-death bank accounts, and IRAs are distributed to the named beneficiary after a proper claim is made to the property's custodian.
- Property transferred to a trust before the decedent's death is administered according to the terms of the trust, and does not need to be probated.