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Contested Cases

The personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate "as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate" and "except as otherwise specified or ordered in regard to a supervised personal representative, without adjudication, order or direction of the court." Essentially, the personal representative engages in unsupervised administration until the estate is completed. If everything goes smoothly, the estate will proceed to closing with little or no court involvement. The default administration under the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) is unsupervised administration.

 

Unfortunately things sometimes do not go smoothly during estate administration. Also, there may be times when a party wants the added conclusiveness of a court order. At such times EPIC provides for the court to settle issues of estate administration through formal proceedings. Formal proceedings are defined as proceedings conducted before a judge with notice to interested parties. Formal proceedings were discussed in an earlier note as one of the methods which can be used to start an estate by formal testacy or formal appointment. Pursuant to MCL 700.3415 EPIC also provides for independent requests to the court. This provision provides that any interested person at any time may petition the court for an answer to any question that arises in the administration of an estate. The petition is independent in that it does not result in continued court involvement in any other matter.

Such a formal proceeding is initiated by filing a petition. A filing fee of $15 would be required. There is not a specific form for such formal proceedings since each proceeding will be different depending on the question raised. The general form Petition and Order (PC 586) may be used in many cases. If it is insufficient to adequately state all of the facts, an original petition may need to be drafted. Once the petition is filed, the court will set a hearing date. It is then the responsibility of the petitioner to serve a copy of the petition and notice of hearing upon the interested persons pursuant to MCR 5.102. A proof of service must also be filed with the court pursuant to MCR 5.104(A)(1). The interested persons will differ slightly depending upon the question raised or the requested relief. MCR 5.125(C) lists the interested persons for many specific proceedings. It should be consulted. At a minimum, the devisees of an testate estate and the heirs in an intestate estate would be interested persons. If all interested persons consent, an order may be entered immediately without a hearing pursuant to MCR 5.104(B). If a petition is unopposed, after the time expires for any required notice and after proof of service is filed, the court may either grant a hearing or grant the petition based on the recitations in the petition. If any matters are contested, a hearing will be held and an order will be issued based upon the results of the hearing. Pursuant to MCR 5.107(A) the person who obtains an order from the court must serve a copy of the order on interested persons.

Once an order is entered and the issue is resolved, the personal representative would proceed to administer the estate as before. In other words, the personal representative would continue unsupervised administration until the estate is closed or another independent petition is filed.

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