Tuesday, May 21, 2013
John H. Martin (Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP) recently published an article entitled, Improving Michigan Estate Settlement, 29 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 1 (2012). Provided below is the introduction to his article:
The indictment is short and pointed: probate estate settlement is too expensive, too slow, and lacks privacy. This indictment covers probate in Michigan as well as probate nationwide.
Michigan took a major step toward increasing public acceptance of estate-settlement procedures when it adopted EPIC in 1998. The informal procedures under EPIC permit both the validation of the decedent’s will and the appointment of a personal representative without the delay and expense of an adjudicatory proceeding. Intermediate settlement steps may take place free from a court’s view; and even closing an estate may be accomplished without adjudication. Despite these advances, Michigan estate planners do not commonly recommend probate procedures for estate settlement, and the public still does not embrace probate. Nevertheless, if the legislature adopts a few modest changes, then probate will become a viable, attractive option for estate settlement. Indeed, a few minimal alterations can produce a procedure that is comparable, or even preferable, to settlement under a funded revocable trust.
This Article proposes modest changes to EPIC that will improve the acceptance of probate in Michigan. But first, this Article describes the need for statutory modifications by reviewing briefly the public’s present attitude and the estate planners current preferences. It then reviews and draws pertinent lessons from summary-procedure statutes enacted by other states to facilitate the settlement of smaller estates. Against that backdrop, this Article then explains the need for and describes the specific changes that will improve Michigan estate settlement.