Following a recent investigation by Detroit TV channel WXYZ, changes to real estate in probate proceedings are working through committee. The proposed changes alter how real estate is treated in probate proceedings. Current practice allows heirs 42 days to open a probate estate. After that time period, a Public Administrator can open an estate in the heir’s name.
As exposed by WXYZ, “As we’ve been reporting, some Attorney General-appointed lawyers called Public Administrators teamed up with Macomb County real estate broker Ralph Roberts to open probate estates after a loved one dies. Then Roberts and his company, Probate Asset Recovery, used that power from the court to sell the homes and take thousands of dollars from the probate estate.” Following the investigation, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stopped this practice.
This practice allowed the Public Administrators to sell real estate after the 42 day period passes, and collect profits from the sale of that property. This effectively eliminates the rights of the proper heirs, whom likely would have opened a probate estate had they known they were an heir to that property. This heir would then have several options- sell the property, take over the property, and generally treat the property as their own after the probate proceedings. The Public Administrators and Ralph Roberts would find property that falls outside the 42 day period, and then use the probate court to obtain the property and then sell it. Often, heirs would not even know they had a right to that property.
The proposed law makes several changes. First, it extends the period where an heir can open a probate estate from 42 days to 63 days. Second, it requires better notice to heirs, and imposes criminal penalties for those who disobey the law.