My dad's binder for estate planning, has a copy of his will, not the original. We have been told that an attorney has to go to probate court to get the copy admitted, that it usually takes 3-4 hours, most of the time waiting for the case to be called, and we will be billed $400 an hour for this. Is this something I can do on my own. There's just me and my sister and no one will be contesting the will. We're in Wayne county Michigan.
You may be able to do it on your own. Did the court tell you that you need an attorney?
The process will be easier if you're able to locate the original signed will. You can check with the probate court for the county in which he resided at the time of death to see if they have the original will in their vault or, if you know the attorney that drafted the will, you can check there. With regard to going through the probate process, you do not need to use a lawyer, however, lawyers are trained to handle these types of matters and can get you through the process efficiently and effectively and without the potential pitfalls of doing it yourself.
I'm sorry for the loss of your father. It is not uncommon to locate a copy but not the original will and courts are familiar with this situation. You simply have to file a petition to admit the will copy, which should be straightforward if no one contests the copy. Unfortunately, this will require a hearing before the Judge to admit the copy. You certainly do not require legal counsel who charges $400.00 per hour to do this for you. I do recommend an attorney to guide you but many attorneys, including attorneys on this website charge a far more reasonable rate for such a straightforward matter. Good luck
I agree with my colleagues. I would also agree that $400 per hour is a steep fee for probate work in Wayne County. Whether you need an attorney or not is a much tougher question. While probate work is not brain surgery, it can be confusing and frustrating for someone who has not done it before. Judges and Probate Court personnel are unable to provide you with legal advice. There are not enough facts provided to determine whether or not legal counsel is really necessary in your case.
One thing to consider is whether the Court will waive a hearing, if all interested parties sign waiver and consent forms. This is certainly something to consider. If everyone agrees to admit the copy, maybe the judge will not require a hearing at all.
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There are three places for the original is likely to be:
1. With the probate registrar in the county where your dad lived at the time the estate planning was done.
2. In some place that he thought was secure. This would frequently translate to being a safe deposit box.
3. With the lawyer who drafted the estate planning documents.
The Oakland County probate court website is particularly good in telling you what forms are necessary. I like Mr. Frederick's idea of using waivers to see if this will not allow a copy of the will to be accepted without a hearing.
I am licensed to practice law in Michigan and Virginia and regularly handle cases of this sort. My answering your question does not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should consult a lawyer so you can tell the lawyer the entire situation and get legal advice that is precisely tailored to your case.
You may be able to do most of the work on your own without an attorney representing you in Court. Sometimes the probate court clerk will have a package of forms for a nominal fee ($10 or so) that you can purchase to fill out on your own and file. I would agree that it might be helpful to at least have an attorney help you in fill out the forms so that they are done properly. A hearing may not be required.
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