George Strander's Annual Probate Court update

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By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

George Strander, Court Administrator and Probate Register, Ingham County Probate Court, who has been bringing his annual Ingham County Probate Court Update to the ICBA Probate Section since 2004, again brought his expertise to the meeting of 2011 on November 15th.

Covering the changes relevant to practitioners, Strander began with a rule change. Under MCR 5.208 Notice to creditors, it is no longer necessary to include the last known address of the decedent. "This change was probably to insure privacy of the surviving family," he said.

Supreme Court Administrative Orders

"These are orders that the Supreme Court issues in their role as overseeing the judicial system in Michigan. The one that seems relevant to what we do is the change in the Caseflow Management Guidelines," which has to do with timeliness--how fast matters flow through the court.

* In contested matters in estates, trusts, guardianships and conservatorships, the clock starts ticking when the objection is filed. Seventy-five percent must be adjudicated within 182 days and 100% within 364 days. The 90% goal has been removed.

* For civil suits, 75% must still be completed in 364 days and 100% within 728 days. When matters fall outside the guidelines, review hearings are set to determine any problems. Those notices will probably go out in December.

There is pressure on the judges since the caseload report includes a section tracking how their court is doing under the guidelines.

Form Changes:

To get the latest forms, Stander recommended that lawyers visit the Supreme Court's website (http//courts. michigan.gov/scao/court forms/probate/ gindex.htm). The site has the up-to-date form that should be used by practitioners.

The following forms have been modified:

PC 591 (Sworn Statement to Close Unsupervised Administration) There is part of the form "that talks about inheritance tax and estate tax situations and most of the people who close estates are in pro per and they have no idea what those terms mean. Now there are three boxes--the first will indicate the decedent died before Oct 1, 1993--that person is subject to inheritance tax. If the person died after "05, there is no estate tax."

PC 618 (Personal Representative Notice to the Friend of the Court) lines have been added to include name and addresses for Personal Representative and the attorney.

Legislation:

The legislation taking immediate affect is PA 22 & 23 (Rule Against Perpetuities) which amends the Personal Property Trust Perpetuities Act and Uniform Statutory Rules Against Perpetuities to prevent trust arrangements where personal property's period for vesting goes too long and thereby subjects the transfer to Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax.

Some bills have passed the Senate and are in the House including, SB92 & HB 4344, additional requirements for attorney in fact under a power of attorney, SB 192, allows deduction of liens/encumbrances from the fair market value of assets when calculating the inventory fee in an estate administration and SB 461, person convicted of abuse/neglect loses intestate/testate rights.

A bill allowing a funeral home to follow the written choice of a service member regarding the disposition of the service member's remains after death has been passed in the House.

Ingham County Probate Court changes:

"We instituted a procedure that each annual account in conservatorships and guardianships where a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed, is now set for an allowance." Because a number of cases would go on for years without a hearing and then the account is closed, it "was a nightmare. A lot of damage can be done." Now the accounts are reviewed every year. "We think every single one of our cases will be reviewed by September 2012."

The probate court will have a new scanning system in 2012. When that is done, there can be e-mail service if the parties agree. Both Probate courts have the equipment for video conferencing. He reminded the group that stipulations require the consent of all "interested parties."

Strander recommended those scheduling hearings with witness testimony set the hearing on the contested docket so there will be adequate time. He noted that the website (www.ingham.org/PR) has been updated, which he recommended be visited if questions arise.

The next probate section meeting will be held on January 17th at the Michael Franck Bldg in Lansing at noon.

Published: Thu, Nov 24, 2011