Michigan has some nifty methods that can be used as shortcuts through the probate process. This blog is about one that we call the Affidavit Method.
You can use the Affidavit Method if:
- There is no real estate to be transferred through the probate process.
- The estate value, minus liens does not exceed $27,000 (for 2023).
- More than 28 days have passed since the owner's death.
- Nobody's filed a petition or application for probate in connection with your decedent.
- The signer is entitled to the property as an heir or as a beneficiary in the Will.
How to do it
To use the Affidavit Method, you'll have to fill out Form 598. The references in the form to $15,000 are out-of-date -- these amounts are adjusted annually for inflation and the amount for 2023 is $27,000.
Describe the property to be paid or delivered, such as:
- "All funds on deposit in First Bank of Bedrock, Account No. 00988776" or
- "All contents of First Bank of Bedrock safe deposit box No. 555".
List the names and addresses of everyone "entitled to a share of the property". How do you know who these people are? First, look at the Will if there is one. If there's no Will or the Will doesn't give direction that applies to the property in question, then identify the decedent's heirs. Usually that's easy. In a qualifying estate, that'll most likely be the surviving spouse if there is one. If not, then list the decedent's legal children -- biological or adopted (not stepchildren). If any of the decedent's children died already, then that child's children are entitled to their deceased parent's share. If you have to go past that point, consult a lawyer.
Once you're all filled out, take the form and your photo ID to a notary public, sign the form and get it notarized. Take note of the wording about perjury here. You are under oath and a false statement may subject you to prosecution for perjury.
Grab a certified copy of the death certificate. Print out a copy of this Michigan statute. Print out a copy of this Michigan Treasury Report. Write a letter to the person or company that has the property you want turned over to you (yes, a real letter on actual paper with an envelope and a stamp). In the letter, say something like:
"This is a request for payment or delivery of property of [decedent's full name] who resided at [decedent's address]. Enclosed are the following documents:
- Affidavit of Decedent's Successor for Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by Decedent
- A certified copy of [decedent's full name]'s Death Certificate
- A copy of Section 3983 of the Michigan Estates and Protected Individuals Code and
- A copy of the 2023 Michigan Treasury Report entitled Estates and Protected Individuals Code Cost-of-Living Adjustments to Specific Dollar Amounts, showing that the 2023 adjusted amount for payment or delivery under Section 3983 is up to $27,000.
Please pay or deliver the following property to me as required by Section 3983 of EPIC: [describe the property]. A check can be mailed to me at [address] or I can arrange to come and pick up the property at a mutually convenient time and place. If you require me to supply additional documentation, such as a Form W-9 or another form of request, please send that to me at [address] or you can email me at [email address].
Please note that there are no letters of authority, letters of administration, letters testamentary or other probate court documentation, as no such proceedings are anticipated or required by Michigan law in this case. Thank you for your prompt attention to my request."
Make a copy of everything you send. Use USPS Priority Mail if you want tracking. Don't bother with certified mail. Don't just show up at the bank in your flip flops and expect to pick up a check. Follow up by telephone in 10 days or so, if you haven't heard anything. Remember that you are asking someone to hand over another person's property to you. They have every right to be cautious and to make sure the proper process is being followed. Also, not everyone will do their job exactly right, so sometimes it just won't work. Watch this space for more options.