Probate Information

Probate Information
Probate & Estate Administration

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.

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This brochure is for informational purposes only. The information provided in this brochure is not legal advice. You can get legal advice from a lawyer who is a member of the State Bar of Michigan at You can find a lawyer who knows about the probate and estate administration process by searching for a lawyer in your area and using the practice area search terms “probate & estate planning/estate administration” or “trusts & estates.” The information in this brochure may be modified or rendered incorrect by future legislative or judicial developments and may not be applicable to any individual reader’s facts and circumstances.

Publication Notice

Copyright 2016 Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

Permission to print or copy part or all of this work for classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies clearly display this verbatim notice. Otherwise, permission must be obtained to copy all or part of this material in any manner. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To further copy, republish, post on servers, or redistribute to lists requires prior specific permission from the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Persons granted permission to copy this work must display the above Publication Notice followed by "Included here by permission."