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Should the Estate Go Through Formal or Informal Probate?

Formal probate and informal probate proceedings are available to a personal representative when administering a decedent's estate in Michigan, but careful consideration is necessary to determine which is best in a given situation. Formal proceedings may add some extra security and court oversight, but may also take more time. Informal proceedings require fewer steps, but that does not mean you should proceed without qualified legal counsel.

Formal vs. Informal Probate

Formal probate is best when there are disagreements concerning the will or appointing a personal representative. This may be chosen when the estate is complex. Informal probate is less time-consuming and done at a lower cost. This is a good option if the assets are straightforward and there are no disagreements.


At Willis Law we represent individuals and fiduciaries in the probate administration process, and we are a full-service estate and probate administration law firm. We will help you identify and evaluate your best legal options in all circumstances, whether the decedent's estate has a large or small amount of property. Remember, probate is only necessary when a person dies and some of their property is left in their name alone or they alone have rights to receive property (e.g., debt owed to the decedent).


Formal Probate in Michigan

Formal probate administration is best to use when there is a disagreement regarding the will, a trust or the appointing of a personal representative (PR). You may also choose formal probate proceedings when the estate is particularly large or complex. Formal probate is completed in front of a probate court judge and offers more oversight in the process of administering and closing of the estate.

There are two types of formal probate administration: supervised and unsupervised.

Supervised probate administration requires probate court review and approval throughout the estate administration process, which means the PR in charge of administering the estate will have to gain court approval for most activities.

Unsupervised probate administration allows the PR's activities to be independent of the probate court unless a request for intervention in the administration process is made by the PR or another interested heir, beneficiary (devisee) or creditor.

The unsupervised formal administration process is preferred in most cases because of the following benefits:

  1. Fewer details of the estate administration enter the public record, which provides more privacy for heirs, other devisees and family.
  2. It is less costly and time-consuming than supervised administration.

Informal Probate in Michigan

Informal probate proceedings are less costly and time-consuming than formal proceedings, but there are fewer safeguards than formal proceedings. The informal proceeding involves fewer steps and is completed in front of a probate register, rather than a judge. When the proper forms are filed to choose and authorize a PR, additional forms to identify heirs and devisees will be required.

The PR has several responsibilities in both formal and informal probate proceedings. Informal proceedings can be equally as complicated as formal proceedings, so working with an experienced probate administration lawyer in Michigan is always important.

Our lawyers in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Paw Paw act as PRs to our clients' estates when we are requested to do so. This can relieve you of considerable burdens and stress after a loved one dies, and it is a certain way for you to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest in the probate administration process.

Contact Us For a Free Initial Consultation With One of Our Lawyers

Please call us toll free at (888) 461-7744 or email us to schedule a meeting at any of our office locations. We are prepared to discuss all Michigan estate and probate laws, and we can help you if the decedent did not live in Michigan, but held property in Michigan, or if the PR to the estate resides outside of Michigan.

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