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Schuette, lawmakers call for cleaning up probate abuses

Sep 7, 2017

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is backing changes to how counties deal with the property of people who’ve died. That's after news reports outlined how some attorneys appointed by the attorney general’s office to deal with unclaimed property have abused the process. They’ve taken control of property before families have filed with the local probate court, and charge large fees to sell and administer the property.

Andrea Bitely is with the attorney general’s office. She says the legislation would make it harder to abuse the system.

“It allows for more time following the death of an individual to claim the property, and to move through the probate process. It requires public administrators to get in touch with the heirs, and if they fail to do that, they can be charged with a misdemeanor.”

Bitely says three of the attorneys have lost their appointments. 

Legislation in the state House Judiciary Committee would extend how long families have to file with probate courts, require lawyers and real estate agents who want to take over a property to make a good faith effort to reach families, and limit the fees they can charge.   

“It’s a 40-year-old law," said committee Chairman Jim Runested, R-White Lake. "There are loopholes that have been taken advantage of that have devastated people’s lives, and so there was a crying need for this fix.”