The Constitution of Michigan provides that "The jurisdiction, powers and duties of the Probate Court and of the Judges thereof shall be provided by law". The legislature, through the enactment of various statutes, has defined the specific work of the Probate Court.
One of the many areas of jurisdiction of the Court is the settlement of estates of deceased persons. If a person dies with assets that do not pass by survivorship to another person or by other means, such as a trust, that person's estate must be "probated", a process clearing title of assets for the persons entitled to them.
The Court also has jurisdiction to appoint a guardian for an adult person who is alleged to be legally incapacitated or developmentally disabled. In addition, an adult person might need a conservator to handle their financial affairs if they are unable to do so because of mental illness, mental incompetency, physical illness or disability, or some other reason that would cause their property to be wasted or dissipated without proper management.
The Court can also appoint guardians and conservators for minors. The custodial parent or parents can consent to the appointment of a limited guardian of a minor. Or, a guardian may be appointed for a minor if the parent or parents have permitted the minor to reside with another person without providing that person with legal authority for the care and maintenance of the minor. A guardian may also be appointed for a minor whose parents have disappeared, are deceased or are confined in a place of detention. If a minor has property, such as a settlement of a personal injury case or as a beneficiary of an estate or insurance policy, a conservator must be appointed to administer this estate until the minor reaches the age of 18.
The Court also has jurisdiction to determine whether or not an adult person is in need of treatment for a mental illness. The basis for the ability of the Court to order treatment is outlined in the Mental Health Code which, along with the court rules, outlines the procedure leading up to the decision of the Court. The treatment of the person could take place in a public institution or private hospital or in the community in an alternative treatment program.There are many other areas of Probate Court jurisdiction, which have been defined by the legislature through the enactment of statutes.