The Death Certificate contains much of the information (i.e., complete name of the decedent, social security no., last address, date and time of death, etc.) the attorney will need to know in order to prepare the initial paperwork. Also, Michigan Probate Courts require a Death Certificate or other proof of death before opening an estate.
The original Last Will and Testament of the decedent, together with any Codicils (Amendments), and a list of beneficiaries and their addresses.
A person who dies testate (with a Will) has designated who will receive his or her solely owned property. It is important for the attorney to be advised of addresses for the beneficiaries, as this information is needed for the initial paperwork, and these people are entitled to a copy of the paperwork that is filed with the court.
A list of heirs and their addresses.
This is important in both testate (the decedent has a Will) and intestate (the decedent does not have a Will) estates. It is important for the attorney to be advised of addresses for the heirs, as this information is needed for the initial paperwork, and these people are entitled to a copy of the paperwork that is filed with the court. If there is a Will, the heirs may or may not receive a distribution from the estate (depending on the language of the Will). The heirs, in any event, are entitled to all of the initial paperwork including a copy of the Will, so they can determine whether or not to contest the estate. For example, the decedent may not have been of sound mind at the time of the execution of the Will, or some other person may have exercised undue influence on the decedent in order to get favorable treatment in the Will.
List of Assets, their location and estimated value.
The attorney must know the nature and extent of all the assets in order to determine what, if any, estate is necessary. The only assets that are subject to probate are those that are solely in the name of the decedent. Depending upon the estimated value of the assets, a Small Estate proceeding may be available. This is much faster and less expensive that a full probate estate. The attorney should also be advised of any property (such as insurance policies and IRA's) that has a beneficiary designation. These are generally not subject to probate. Also, jointly owned property is not subject to probate, however, the attorney must be advised of all property, as there may be tax consequences, etc. If the complete nature and extent of the property is not known at the initial meeting, it can be supplied at a later date.
List of Debts together with the names and addresses of the creditors.
Creditors of the decedent are entitled to notice of the estate proceedings. When they receive notice from the estate, they must file a Claim with the Court, so they can be paid (assuming the estate has sufficient assets to pay them. If the complete list of creditors is not known at the initial meeting, it can be supplied at a later date.
A copy of the funeral bill with a paid receipt if it has been paid.
The funeral and burial expenses are a priority claim, which must be paid before final distribution to the beneficiaries can be made.