If you spend any time researching matters relating to guardianships, conservatorships, wills, trusts, and estate administration in Michigan, you’re bound to come across the phrase “EPIC.” Short for “Estates and Protected Individuals Code,” this refers to the act that governs matters relating to the administration of estates of deceased persons and protected individuals in our state. These are matters over which the probate court has exclusive jurisdiction.
Curious about all things EPIC? Let’s take a look at the history behind this important act — and what it means for Michigan probate matters in 2020 and beyond.
A Brief History of Michigan’s Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC)
The early nineteenth century saw the beginnings of Michigan’s modern legal system. In its early days, Michigan’s legal system consisted of appointed justices, who served on courts including “The Court of Common Pleas” or “The Court of General Quarter Sessions.” The courts continued evolving from there, including the formation of the probate court system.
As the Probate Court of Kent County puts it in a writing, 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.
Throughout its history, Michigan’s probate courts have been governed by several different codes, including the 1939 Probate Code, and the Revised Probate Code (RPC), which was enacted in 1978. Signed into law in 1998 and becoming effective in April of 2000, EPIC was devised to replace the RPC.
In a contemporaneous writing, the State Bar of Michigan heralded EPIC as “the most important piece of legislation affecting probate and trust administration in over 20 years.”
As the State Bar explains, EPIC retained some of the “unique and essential features” of Michigan law, while also serving as a true integration of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) — an act meant to streamline and standardize matters relating to inheritance and decedents’ estates across the United States, which has been adopted in full or in part by 18 states.
Preparation of EPIC took more than seven years, and included input from legal practitioners, probate judges, probate registers, and financial professionals.
What Does The Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) Do?
As described in the act itself, EPIC is intended to:
revise, consolidate, and classify aspects of the law relating to wills and intestacy, relating to the administration and distribution of estates of certain individuals, relating to trusts, and relating to the affairs of certain individuals under legal incapacity.
By extension, EPIC also includes provisions governing many of the transfers, contracts, and deposits relating to these matters, including the facilitation of trusts.
EPIC also provides for the powers and procedures of the probate court, which has jurisdiction over these matters.
More specifically, EPIC’s primary purposes are to:
- Simplify and clarify the law concerning the affairs of decedents, missing individuals, protected individuals, minors, and legally incapacitated individuals.
- Discover and make effective a decedent’s intent in distribution of the decedent’s property.
- Promote a speedy and efficient system for liquidating a decedent’s estate and making distribution to their successors.
- Provide for a uniform law among various jurisdictions, both within and outside of the state.
EPIC applies to the affairs and estates of decedents, missing individuals, and protected individuals living in Michigan; as well as a nonresident’s property located in this state. EPIC also applies with regards to trusts subject to administration in Michigan, as well as survivorship and related accounts.
As the State of Michigan explains in a writing, protected individuals are “persons who by reason of their age or physical impairment cannot manage their own affairs,” including incapacitated individuals and minors.
EPIC and the Michigan Probate Court
Under EPIC, the court is granted “exclusive legal and equitable jurisdiction” of all of the following:
Matters relating to the settlement of a deceased individual’s estate.
This includes both testate and intestate estates subject to administration in Michigan. A testate estate is one that involves the probate of a decedent’s will, while intestate estates are those where there is no will. The court may be involved in proceedings relating to the internal affairs of the estate; estate administration, settlement, and distribution; the construction of a will; determination of heirs; determination of death; and the rights of devisees, heirs and fiduciaries connected to the estate.
Proceedings involving trusts.
EPIC grants the court exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings concerning the validity, settlement, administration, distribution, modification, reformation, or termination of a trust, as well as the rights and obligations of trustees and trust beneficiaries — including appointing or removing a trustee, ascertaining beneficiaries, and resolving questions stemming from the administration of a trust.
Proceedings that concern guardianships, conservatorships, and protective proceedings.
This includes matters relating to the protection of an individual under disability, and his or her property. As the Probate Court of Kent County explains:
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.
Proceedings to require, hear, or settle the accounts of a fiduciary.
This includes ordering instructions or directions to a fiduciary that concern an estate within the court’s jurisdiction, particularly upon the request of an interested person.
Interested In Learning More About Probate In Michigan?
When you have a foot problem, you go to the podiatrist. When you have a heart problem, you go to the cardiologist. When you want to estate plan or are forced into the probate court, you need to go to an established probate and estate planning attorney. That’s where we come in.
Attorney Dean E. Patrick focuses on:
- Estate planning, including wills and trusts
- Estate administration and settlement, including mediation
- Incapacity planning, including powers of attorney for health care and finance
- Guardianships, whether contested or uncontested
- Conservatorships, whether contested or uncontested
- Probate litigation, including will and trust contests
- Fiduciary services, including trusteeships and conservatorships
You and your family can rest assured knowing that our office is handling your matter with professionalism and expertise. Our meeting schedules are flexible in order to accommodate your needs and we work hard to discuss these difficult matters in terms that are easy to comprehend. Our office is conveniently located in Southfield, Michigan and our staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to receive phone calls and help you with your legal matters.
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