Probate Court

  • WE CAN HELP! Informational Meetings for Guardians and Conservators

    On August 5, 2019, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Kent County Probate Court will host informational meetings for guardians and conservators in the multipurpose room on the 3rd floor of the Kent County Courthouse at 180 Ottawa Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

    Additional gatherings are scheduled from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on
    • October 7, 2019
    • December 2, 2019

    Each meeting will begin with an overview of the responsibilities of guardians and conservators including paperwork which must be filed with the Probate Court. Specific court forms will be reviewed and the steps for properly completing and filing the paperwork explained. Following this discussion, individuals are welcome to ask questions related to their specific wards.

SPECIAL HOURS

PROBATE COURT WILL BE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC ON WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26, 2019, to comply with records management and destruction requirements. Pleadings may be filed and will be stamped as received on the date deposited, however, will not be processed until the following business day – THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2019.

Mission Statement

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.

Judges

Honorable David M. Murkowski, Chief Probate Judge, (616) 632-5428

Judge David 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 Western Michigan University’s 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. There, he specialized in criminal defense, juvenile neglect and delinquency, and probate law. He 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 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 served as the President of the Michigan Probate Judges Association (MPJA) in 2017 and is a current member of the Judicial Council of the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Michigan. He has previously served 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 (MJI), ICLE’s Probate and Estate Planning Institute, the American Geriatric Society (AGS), the Michigan Probate Judges Association (MPJA), the Western Michigan Estate Planning Council, and the Grand Rapids Bar Association.

Judge Murkowski 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. He currently serves on the Legislature Drafting Subcommittee of the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force.

Since 2014 Judge Murkowski has received the Judicial Contributions in Law and Aging Award by Elder Law of Michigan, has been selected as a Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly and was elected as a Fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation.

Overview

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.

Strategic Goals

  • Facilitate the provision of professional guardianship services to persons in need
  • Maximize collection of reimbursements
  • Maximize collection of fines and fees (and restitution)
  • Maximize effectiveness of existing staff and reduce staff growth.

Operational Goals

  • To ensure the compliance of Court-appointed fiduciaries with statutes and courts rules, in order to safeguard protected individuals and their property
  • To efficiently process and adjudicate all matters before the Court
  • To provide excellent customer service to all those with business before the Court

Selected Performance Measures (PDF) »