In the previous four parts of this series, we discussed the basic differences between having a will and not having a will. In this discussion, we will see how the end result takes shape in the form of opening a probate estate in a three part mini series on the matter. There are two forms of probate estates and they are called infirmate and firmate estates. Simply, Infirmate estates are estates not disposed of by a will (MCL 700.2101); whereas Testate estates are disposed of by will. Disposed of by will means that there was no will or firmamentary instrument directing how the estate should be handled.
The rules of infirmate succession govern how to open an “Infirmate Estate”. When opening any estate in probate court, there are two choices for the court’s supervision over the matter: unsupervised and supervised.
Unsupervised means exactly what it sounds like in that the probate court does not have to approve the actions of the appointed personal representative. A personal representative of an estate is the one who will handle all of the estate’s matters, including paying creditors and distributing assets. When an estate is unsupervised, the personal representative can act on their own volition and make decisions about estate affairs. However, if any heir, creditor, or interested party objects to the personal representative’s decision making, then said party can petition the court to intervene in the personal representative’s decision making. Thus, the probate court still retains jurisdiction over an unsupervised matter.
A supervised administration, to the contrary, is a controlled process where most if not all of the decisions of the personal representative have to be approved by the court. A supervised administration can be promulgated by directive of a will, on the volition of the personal representation, or by adversary proceeding of an heir, interested person, or creditor.
Part 6 of Understanding Probate will discuss formal and informal probate and appointments and discuss the similarities and differences, pros and cons, between supervised and unsupervised estates, and formal and informal issues.