You cannot avoid probate with a Will. The only time a Will is ever effective is when it is admitted to probate. If there are assets titled in a decedent's name at the time of death, probate will be necessary. If assets are jointly held, (which is generally not a good idea), have beneficiaries designated, (a much better idea), or are held by a trust (also a good idea), then probate will not be necessary.
Everything else being equal, avoiding probate makes a lot of sense, in most cases....
I agree with my colleagues. I would simply add that, in the absence of a Durable Power of Attorney, you would need to establish guardianship and conservatorship through the probate court. Given the technical nature of these proceedings, (especially conservatorship), you should consult with a probate attorney for assistance, and perhaps representation, as well. The estate would be responsible for the attorney fees.
A Will is not recorded, but you can file it with the county probate court for safe-keeping. Most counties charge a fee for this, and it can be as much as $100. I have never thought that filing the Will is a great idea. I think the original should be kept by the client, with instructions to the nominated personal representative on where the original can be found.
Having to go down to the county just to retrieve the Will from storage is an extra hassle that family members do not really need....
Depending on the amount of money involved, you may be able to use a small estate proceeding for your sister's portion. That would avoid the need for probate. You should visit with a probate lawyer to determine if this will work. If your sister was a resident of NC, then you would want to discuss this with an NC attorney. See here for more information: www.nccourts.org/forms/documents/735.pdf
Practical problems you would have are that the insurance company requires a death certificate and YOU would not be the beneficiary, under any circumstances. It likely has something in the policy that defines "death." Interesting question. But I see no practical way of collecting.
I am very sorry for your situation. Under Michigan law, the wife has the right to possess the cremains. The law can be found, here: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28q4rmanmy3appem55f2ac0kqk%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-700-3206
Under the circumstances, I would think that you have a solid argument, at the very least, that you would be entitled to reimbursement for your costs in securing and protecting the cremains. Perhaps the two of you can work out some kind of...
I agree with my colleagues. A trust seems to be the best option for you, but you need to be careful. The trust should be set up by an attorney to make sure it is done properly. If your son is given too much control, any creditors he has may also be able to reach the trust assets. You also should discuss with your attorney the effect of a bankruptcy, if it occurs. The bankruptcy proceeding may actually wipe out your son's debts.
There appear to be other issues involved, however, (as there...
You do not have enough information to determine how to proceed. It is possible that you may not be able to get the information you need, without re-opening the estate. Since that is expensive and may lead you to nothing, I would suggest that you try the following, first:
1) Obtain a copy of the Will, from the Probate Court. When there is a Trust, there is usually a pour-over Will, transferring any probate assets to the Will.
2) Find out whether or not an Inventory was filed. This will...
These are all excellent questions for the estate planning attorney that you retain to prepare your documents for you. There are too many variables and unknowns in your fact situation, to give you any specific guidance in this forum. An attorney needs to review all of this information with you, especially in light of your objectives, in order to give you confident direction. You are wise to be taking care of this at this point.
You would have the right to get his vehicles, (assuming there is no one else on the title), by presenting a certificate at the Secretary of State. The remaining assets, provided they are worth less than $21k, you can file an affidavit for, provided you will need to wait about a month. If you do not want to wait a month, you can file a petition with the probate court and obtain an order assigning all assets to you. This will be more expensive than waiting the 28 days, because there are some...