Passing Title to Michigan Real Estate without Probate

When an individual who owns real estate dies, many attorneys assume that it is necessary to open a probate estate to pass title to family members. However, title to Michigan real estate passes immediately on death and probate may not be necessary if the decedent died intestate. An individual entitled to property by intestacy may establish title to the property by proving the decedent’s ownership, the decedent’s death, and the individual’s relationship to the decedent, although the individual may be liable for costs of administration, creditors’ claims and the surviving spouse’s and dependent children’s allowances. MCLA 700.3901. That liability lasts for one year from the time of the property’s distribution. MCLA 700.3957.

These principles give rise to interesting repercussions related to liability for real estate taxes, property insurance and the claims of creditors, including Medicaid estate recovery. If property passes outside of probate and there is only one year to pursue a claim, that makes it difficult for claimants to pursue the property.

Where the intestate decedent owned a parcel of land and no other assets requiring probate, the execution of an affidavit may pass title to the heirs. The affidavit should set forth the decedent’s ownership, the legal description of the real estate, the date and place of the decedent’s death, and the identities and relationships of the heirs to the decedent. The affidavit should be executed by a disinterested third party with knowledge of the salient facts. A specimen affidavit follows:


AFFIANT, JEREMIAH JOHNSON, Attorney, of 22312 Garrison Street, Dearborn, MI 48124, having made proper inquiry into the facts stated below, makes this statement under MCLA 700.3901 and says:

1. SAMUEL PRINCETON, died intestate on February 9, 2017, with a residence address of 448 Tannahill Street, Dearborn, MI 48124.
2. The death certificate of SAMUEL PRINCETON is attached as Exhibit A.
3. At the time of his death, SAMUEL PRINCETON was the owner in fee of the following-described real estate in City of Dearborn, Wayne County, Michigan:

Lot 67 Fort Dearborn Manor, L49, P67;

448 Tannahill Street;

82 09 154 67 035.

4. The heirs at law of SAMUEL PRINCETON, at the time of death were:
a. PERSEPHONE PRINCETON, of 13087 Agnes Street, Southgate, MI 48195, daughter,
b. GARFIELD PRINCETON, of 141 Harrison Street, Trenton, Mi 48183, son.

5.  SAMUEL PRINCETON was not survived by a spouse and there were no other intestate heirs.

6. PERSEPHONE PRINCETON and GARFIELD PRINCETON claim title to the real estate described in § 3, above, as of February 9, 2017.

Executed June 25, 2017 by:                                                                                        JEREMIAH JOHNSON

In Wayne County, Michigan, this instrument was acknowledged before me June 25, 2017, by JEREMIAH JOHNSON as a free act and deed.

My commission expires
May 18, 2019                                                                                                                 CAMELLIA MONTI, Notary Public

When recorded return to drafter. Send tax bills to PERSEPHONE PRINCETON, of 13087 Agnes Street, Southgate, MI 48195.

Drafted by JEREMIAH JOHNSON, Attorney, of 22312 Garrison Street, Dearborn, MI 48124.

In most cases, the affidavit will be recorded as an exhibit to a deed conveying all of the interests to one heir or to a third party, signed by all of the heirs.  However, recording the affidavit in the chain of title for the property should start the one year waiting period.

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200

©2017 John B. Payne, Attorney

What Happens to VA Aid & Attendance Funds after Death of the Veteran

When a veteran who has been receiving an improved pension, otherwise referred to as “Aid and Attendance,” dies, the question of what to do with the balance in the fiduciary bank account comes up.  Fortunately, in most cases, the family can keep that money.  My wise and wonderful colleague, Jack Rosenkrantz, in Florida, explains how that works in “No Probate for VA Fiduciary Accounts.”  If you have that situation, he has the answer.

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, P.C.
1800 Grindley Park Street, Suite 6
Dearborn, Michigan 48124

Pittsburgh Office:
9853 Old Perry Highway
Wexford, Pennsylvania 15090
800 220 7200

Restrict “Choose Life” License Plates to Considerate Drivers

The Michigan Senate and House have both passed bills to create “Choose Life” automobile license plates. This would involve a $35.00 surcharge that would go to a subsidiary of Right to Life of Michigan. I would not pay an extra dime for a special license plate, whether a vanity plate, a college identifier, or just a prettier image. Furthermore, the state should not endorse a religious or political position without allowing equal consideration for the opposite viewpoint. Aside from all that, if the state is going to issue “Choose Life” license plates, it should also require purchasers to sign a vow of consistent humanitarian values.

A few years ago, I saw a skateboarder going south in the right northbound lane of Military Street in Dearborn. He was being approached by a motorist going north, in the same lane. There were no other cars close to the motorist and he could have moved over to avoid hitting the skateboarder. He did not. He did not slow down; his brake lights did not flash. He bore down on the skateboarder, who swerved to the curb to save his life.

The skateboarder was in the wrong. He should not have been in a traffic lane, but such a minor infraction does not authorize a motorist to impose the death penalty.

I am relating this story because the car in question displayed a Right to Life bumper sticker. It also had a plate number that I noted. Since I had access to motor vehicle records at the time, I wrote the motorist a letter condemning his behavior. To be fair, I must mention that I received a reply several years later. He stated that he appreciated my bringing the matter to his attention and he regretted acting in a way that he characterized as “unchristian.”

Some people who would buy a “Choose Life” license plate have a consistent humanitarian ethic and would identify equally with a “Choose Love” license plate (if any organization with a philanthropic ax to grind could convince the state to issue one). They would support food, medical and housing assistance programs for those who need assistance. They would support foreign aid that is not military hardware for despots. They would support rehabilitation instead of incarceration for nonviolent offenses. They would support public education, including free public education from pre-school through at least two years of post-secondary education. Unfortunately, I think they are the minority.

Too many who display Right to Life bumper stickers are only concerned with preventing abortions. They are not concerned with women’s and children’s health except during gestation – and there the concern is exclusively directed at the welfare of the fœtus. They support capital punishment, stand-your-ground, and giving the Pentagon a blank check. They oppose social programs to help the less fortunate, particularly the Affordable Care Act, and contraception in general.

If “Choose Life” plates become available and you are considering making the purchase, look into your philosophy and beliefs. Are you a truly compassionate person with a consistent humanitarian ethic or a Right-to-Lifer who is only concerned with the welfare of the unborn?

What statement are you making if you put “Choose Life” on your car? Does it include a commitment to becoming a more considerate driver? If you are advertising a commitment to value life, take that gun out of your glove box and, if necessary, sign up for an anger-management class so you won’t be susceptible to road rage. Selling “Choose Life” license plates might not be such a bad thing if when you choose to purchase and display one, you also choose love and consideration.

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200