Probate Information

Probate Information
Probate & Estate Administration

Provided by the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan


Who can be a Personal Representative?

A personal representative is someone appointed by the court to control or manage property that belongs only to the decedent. An attorney should help you prepare the necessary documents to open an estate and request appointment as the personal representative. The personal representative is responsible for carrying out the duties and responsibilities stated in the law. The court will appoint a personal representative from the following list of people, in order starting from the top:

  • A person named in the decedent's will as personal representative
  • A surviving spouse if he or she is beneficiary under the will
  • Other beneficiaries under the will
  • The surviving spouse if he or she is not a beneficiary under the will
  • Other heirs of the decedent
  • If none named after a certain amount of time, someone chosen by a creditor and approved by the probate judge

What do I do if I am Appointed Personal Representative?

When the court appoints you as personal representative, and if you feel you can act in that role, you must accept the appointment in writing to the court before you can act as the personal representative. After you accept the appointment, the court will issue you "letters of authority." The letters of authority identity you as the personal representative and show that you are authorized to manage the probating of the estate. Letters of authority may also limit your authority as personal representative, and may list certain actions that you can do only when you get written approval from the judge. As the personal representative, you are expected to "administer the estate" and complete certain duties under the law. An attorney can help you understand your legal duties and complete the administration.

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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."