Terms & Definitions:
How is a person picked to be the responsible person for a deceased person’s assests?
A deceased person’s(decedent) assets become their Estate. By law, if the person has not transferred those assets in their lifetime (i.e., either by trust, gifting, or joint tenancy, among several other options). The responsible person is either designated in the Will or has priority under the law, (the spouse first, if no spouse, then the child or children of the deceased); or by agreement between the interested parties. If the parties can’t agree, a judge will appoint. A decedent’s Estate must be probated in Court, if it is over a certain value, and holds assets. A trust is a mechanism which Estate Planners utilize to avoid probating assets in Court.
Can a person use a power of attorney to take control of person’s assets before or after they have died?
No, a power of attorney is used to assist and help a person with their financial affairs, not to take assets to benefit the individual who holds the power. Moreover, a power of attorney becomes invalid once the person who gave it dies.
What is a will?
A written document that controls the division of an estate for a decedent advising the court once a person has died who should receive certain assets. A will can either be typed and signed by two witnesses or holographic. A holographic will is handwritten by the person who died and dated.
What happens when a person dies without a will, but leaves property in their name?
The probate court follows the state law which gives priority on who gets what. A spouse has first priority, subject to statutory limitations, and then the children share in a portion of the estate. If there is no spouse or children, the law divides the estate under the intestacy statute. Intestacy is an estate not controlled by a will.
What is probate?
A process where the assets of someone who has died are administrated through a court and overseen by a judge, both for people who died with a will or without a will. It includes gathering the assets, paying the creditors, and eventually distributing money to heirs.
What are jointly held assets?
Assets (property) that is owned by more than one person. Merely holding something “joint” does not always mean the property will belong to the survivor. When titling something “joint”, it should also say “joint tenants with rights of survivorship”, to insure that the survivor owns 100% of the asset.
What is “tenants in common”?
It is a form of ownership that allows the share of the person who dies, to be passed on to his or her estate.
What is a trust and who is a trustee?
A legal document created by a “settlor” that manages property on behalf of one or more persons, whether living or deceased. A trustee is a person or persons appointed by the settlor of the trust to manage the affairs of the trust as decided and specified in the trust by the settlor.
Oakland County Probate Court
Livingston County Probate Court
Genesee County Probate Court