Effective immediately, in determining whether an estate is small enough (currently $22,000 after payment of funeral and burial) to utilize the Petition and Order for Assignment procedure (rather than filing a regular decedent’s estate), liens on real estate may NOT be deducted. Liens on real estate will continue to be deducted in computing the Inventory Fee on Small Estate cases, but not in deciding whether the case may be filed as a Small Estate. MCLA 700.3982, which authorizes the Small Estate procedure, provides as follows: “Upon a showing of evidence, satisfactory to the court, of payment of the expenses for the decedent's funeral and burial and if the balance of a decedent's gross estate consists of property of the value of $15,000.00 or less, the court may order that the property be turned over to the surviving spouse or, if there is not a spouse, to the decedent's heirs.” The term “gross estate” means before the deduction of any liens, encumbrances, or other charges, so that is the test for deciding whether the estate is small enough to be filed as a Small Estate.
All new and reissued letters of guardianships and conservatorships expire annually on the date which is 8 weeks beyond the anniversary date of the appointment. Please note that letters will not be renewed until all annual filing requirements have been completed. There will not be a charge for issuance of letters with a new expiration date; however, the charge for certified copies of letters is $12.00.
The mission of the Kent County Probate Court is to secure the sound and efficient resolution of matters within an accessible and person-centered venue where every individual is treated with dignity and respect.
Honorable David M. Murkowski, Chief Probate Judge, (616) 632-5428
Judge David M. Murkowski was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1979 he graduated cum laude from Marquette University, where he was awarded the university’s Outstanding Student Service Award and the Polanki College Achievement Scholarship. In 1979 Judge Murkowski was also inducted into the National Jesuit Honor Society. He attended Thomas M. Cooley Law School and was an honor roll graduate in 1983. Judge Murkowski served as law clerk to the Michigan House of Representatives Civil Rights Committee and worked as a solo practitioner in Grand Rapids until 1993, when he joined the law firm of Dilley & Dilley. He specialized in criminal defense, juvenile neglect and delinquency and probate law, and served as managing partner of Dilley, Dilley, Murkowski & Goller until 2006 when he was appointed to the Kent County Probate bench to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the Honorable Janet A. Haynes. In December of 2007, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed Judge Murkowski to serve as the Chief Judge of the Kent County Probate Court commencing January 1, 2008. Judge Murkowski currently serves on the Executive Board of the Michigan Probate Judges Association and as a member of the Judicial Council of the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Michigan. He previously served as council member of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Kent County Family and Children's Coordinating Council.
Judge Murkowski has lectured for the Michigan Judicial Institute, ICLE's Probate and Estate Planning Institute, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, and the Grand Rapids Bar Association. He is a chapter author of Michigan Probate Litigation: A Guide to Contested Litigation, 2nd Ed., a contributor to the Michigan Probate Benchbook, associate editor of Inter-Com, a journal publication of the Michigan Probate Judges Association and was a contributor to the drafting of the Michigan Trust Code.
In 2014, Judge Murkowski was the recipient of the Judicial Contributions in Law and Aging Award by Elder Law of Michigan and was elected as a Fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation. In 2015 he was selected as a Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
The Probate Court is a Court of statutory jurisdiction, primarily concerned with the protection of incapacitated or mentally ill individuals and their assets, and the proper transfer of assets at death.
Protection of Incapacitated Individuals.The Probate Court is a Court of statutory jurisdiction, primarily concerned with the protection of incapacitated or mentally ill individuals and their assets, and the proper transfer of assets at death.
Hospitalization of Mentally Ill Individuals.The Probate Court hears petitions for hospitalization for mentally ill individuals alleged to be a significant danger to themselves or others. Hearings take place on a tight time frame: they are normally required to be held within seven days of involuntary hospitalization. The Court is also required to oversee and hold hearings for commitment of individuals from other counties hospitalized in Kent County, and other counties do the same when Kent County residents are hospitalized in other counties. In 2011, other counties oversaw 178 cases involving Kent residents hospitalized elsewhere, and conducted 142 hearings on those cases. In 2011, Kent County Probate Court oversaw 839 cases involving residents of other counties hospitalized here, and conducted 247 hearings on those cases, none of which is reflected in Kent's SCAO case load statistics.
Protection of Property of Incapacitated Individuals.Proceedings concerning the protection of the property of incapacitated individuals involve conservatorships for legally incapacitated adults, conservatorships for minors, and guardianships of the estate for developmentally disabled individuals. If a conservator or guardian of the estate is appointed, the Court must then monitor the continuing proceedings to ensure that the required annual accounts are filed and approved, showing that the assets are being held and used for the benefit of the ward. The Court also conducts hearings regarding disputes that arise concerning conservatorships and petitions to terminate or modify conservatorships.
Transfer of Assets.The Probate Court has exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings regarding the transfer of assets at death or transfers where property is held in trust. Transfers at death may involve probate of a Will (testate estates) or estates where there is no Will (intestate estates), the only difference being whether the Will or state statute governs distribution of the property. The Court may also be called upon to interpret Wills or Trusts in the event of uncertainty or conflict over the document's meaning. Proceedings in decedent's estates may be unsupervised or supervised by the Court, depending on the situation.
Other Matters.The Probate Court also hears a variety of other types of matters. These include Petitions for Protective Orders, which are typically one-time requests for the Court to allow or approve some action, such as approval of a settlement or a Trust. They also include various civil actions, where one party is suing another party. These cases are just like cases in circuit or district court, except usually a trust, estate, or fiduciary is one of the parties, so the proceedings have some relation to the regular business of the Probate Court. Finally, the Probate Court holds Wills for safekeeping and hears proceedings for change of name, drain appeals and secret marriages.
Kent County Courthouse
180 Ottawa Avenue NW, Suite 2500
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Monday - Friday
8:00am - 5:00pm
Filings are accepted until 4:30pm
Judge David M. Murkowski
Chief Judge Probate Court
Susan B. Flakne, Register