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Michigan Probate Litigation Cases & News
BlogsPublications | May 22, 2023
2 minute read
Michigan Probate Litigation Cases & News

A Reminder of a Fiduciary’s Duty to Use Forms Approved by the State Court Administrative Office

This week, the Michigan Court of Appeals released its decision in In re Estate of Joel Solomon Weingrad, Docket No 360247, 2023 WL 3397437 (Mich Ct App May 11 2023) (unpublished), which stands for three principles in estate administration and litigation.

First, if the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) has approved a form to use for a particular purpose (e.g., an annual estate accounting), then the personal representative should use that form.

MCL 600.855 provides: “For the sake of achieving uniformity of forms throughout this state in the probate court, effective July 1, 1979, only forms approved by the supreme court or the state court administrator shall be used.” Similarly, Michigan Court Rule 5.113(A) provides in relevant part that “[i]f the State Court Administrative Office has approved a form for a particular purpose, it must be used when preparing that particular document for filing with the court.” If a form is available and the personal representative fails to use it, then the probate court errs by approving the form. “Therefore, to the extent a SCAO form was available and not used for a particular filing, that was error[.]” Id at *2. (With an accounting, it may be necessary to use attachments to provide additional detail, but the SCAO accounting form should at least be used as a cover sheet.)

Second, if the filings by the personal representative contain the same information called for by the SCAO forms, and the probate court approves the filings, then the probate court’s error is harmless and will likely not be reversed on appeal.

Third, if the estate incurs expenses solely because of a beneficiary’s baseless litigation, then the personal representative may ask the probate court to assess these costs against the share of the beneficiary at fault, in order to protect the beneficiaries who did not participate in the litigation. In this case, the estate incurred expenses responding to one beneficiary’s baseless appeals (the same beneficiary who appealed approval of the accountings based on non-use of the SCAO forms). The personal representative asked the probate court to award the remaining assets to the non-litigant beneficiaries in order to charge the legal fees against the litigant beneficiary’s share. The probate court agreed, and the appellate court affirmed this ruling.

If you have questions about an estate administration or dispute, please contact David Skidmore at or 616-752-2491, or contact a member of Warner’s Probate Litigation Sub-practice Group.