Q: What are the hours of the Probate Court office?
A: Court business hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, with the exception of holidays. Genealogy research can be done on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only, from 9:00 am to 12 noon and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Q: What is the cost for copies of documents?
A: Photo copies are 50 cents per page. Microfilm copies are $1.00 per page. Certified copies are $10.00 for the certifications fee, then an additional $1.00 for each page. The Court accepts payments by cash, money order, or personal check made payable to St. Joseph County Probate Court.
Q: I would like to file my original will with the Probate Court for safekeeping. How do I do it? What is the cost?
A: The cost is $25.00 You bring the will to the Probate Court office and then you will receive a written receipt in the mail which lists your will number.
Q: My original will is on file with Probate Court. I would like to withdraw the will. How would I do so?
A: You must withdraw your will in person. Bring your will receipt with you to the Probate Court office. If you have misplaced your will receipt, we have another form that can be completed. If you are unable to withdraw your will in person, you must complete an Authorization to Release Will Held for Safekeeping form to authorize a different person to remove your will. Call the Probate Court office at (269) 467-5538 to receive the form.
Q: A relative has just passed away. Can I find out if the relative had a will on file with the Probate Court office?
A: The Probate Court office can only release that information when you have provided the Court with verification of the person's date of death by supplying a copy of the death certificate or an obituary notice. You can then be told if we have a will on file.
Q: I am named as Personal Representative in my relative's will. The relative has recently passed away and was a resident of St. Joseph County. What should I do?
A: If you are in possession of the original will, you must deposit the will with the Probate Court within 30 days of the date of death. There is no charge to deposit the will. You cannot act as Personal Representative until an estate is opened in Probate Court and you are appointed Personal Representative by the Court. You must retain an attorney to complete the paperwork to open the estate.
Q: My relative has just died. We are unable to find his original will, and believe it is in his safe deposit box. Is there a procedure to have the safe deposit box opened?
A: There is a Petition to Open Safe Deposit Box form which can be obtained from the Probate Court office. This Petition is to be used to open the safe deposit box and examine the contents for a will and/or burial plot deed only. The total cost for this procedure, including filing fee of $10.00 and certified copy fee of $11.00, is $21.00.
Q: My deceased relative's only assets were a small bank account and an automobile. Is there a simple way to have the assets assigned by the Court, without going through an attorney?
A: You can request a Petition and Order for Assignment form and instructions from the Probate Court office. This method is applicable for simple estates when the assets total $20,000 or less after the cost of the funeral and burial expenses are subtracted. This procedure does not follow provisions of a will, but has a set priority of how the assets must be assigned. You will need to provide copies of funeral bill and receipts if the funeral bill has been paid.
Q: How do I file for guardianship?
A: To file for a guardianship over a minor child, you should see an attorney. For guardianship of an adult, you can pick up a guardianship packet from the Probate Court office or request to have a packet mailed to you. This packet has a list of instructions and the necessary forms. It is not an easy process and requires service of papers by you and court hearings.
Q: I believe a relative is mentally ill and needs treatment. What is my first stop in seeking help for this individual?
A: Probate Court holds the mental hearings, but can't start a case. The first step is to contact the St. Joseph County Community Mental Health Agency at (269) 467-1000. The address of the agency is 677A E. Main St., Centreville.
Q: I have remarried, and my new spouse would like to adopt my child from a previous marriage. What should we do?
A: You should contact an attorney. You should wait until you have been married at least nine months before starting the proceedings, as the adoption will not be confirmed until you have been married at least one year.
Q: I was adopted in St. Joseph County several years ago, and would now like to find out information about my birth parents. What should I do?
A: Adoption files are confidential. You can contact the Probate Court office and request a Release of Information pamphlet. The pamphlet outlines the procedures for obtaining non-identifying or identifying information.
Q: What types of files are open to the public? Which are confidential?
A: Public files include decedent estates, guardianships, and conservatorships. Adoptions and mentally ill files are confidential. Also, some documents in guardianship files involving developmentally disabled individuals are confidential. As mention previously, information regarding wills is confidential until the testator is deceased.
Q: Can I find Probate forms on-line?
A: Yes. SCAO-approved court forms can be accessed at http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/courtforms (Michigan Courts Website).