George Strander's Annual Ingham County Probate Court Update

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Roberta M. Gubbins, 
Legal News
 
George Strander, Court Administrator and Probate Register, Ingham County Probate Court, who has been bringing his annual Probate Court Update to the ICBA Probate Section since 2004, again brought his expertise to the meeting of 2013 on November 19th. 
 
Covering the changes relevant to practitioners, Strander began with rule changes. Of interest was the change under MCR 5.402 (E), which requires, in showing good cause not to transfer a minor guardianship case to an Indian tribe, a finding by clear and convincing evidence either that the tribe does not have a court or that the transfer would cause undue hardships on parties or witnesses. 
 
Form Changes:
 
The following Estate forms have been modified:
 
PC 577 (Inventory (Decedent Estate) now allows for reduction of value of real estate by the outstanding liens and encumbrances
 
PC 556 (Petition and Order for Assignment) follows the change in PC577 and allows real estate value  to  be reduced by outstanding liens. 
 
Adult Guardianship form PC 634 now requires that additional cash/property be reported in the annual report; and in form PC 632, there must be a “showing” rather than a “finding” of incapacity in the order requesting appointment of a temporary guardian. 
 
Out-of-State Guardian/conservator forms (PC 683, 684 and 685) are forms for the new laws allowing foreign fiduciaries to be appointed temporarily immediately and without hearing later if there are no objections. Strander expressed concern that “functional files in two different states could lead to conflicting orders.” 
 
Legislation:
 
The legislation taking immediate affect (PA 155/HB 4382; PA 157/HB 4384) gives a guardian authority to execute a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order under certain conditions. The proper must be used and if the Probate Court finds that a DNR order has been executed contrary to the person (even if no guardianship) the court can issue an injunction voiding the order’s effectiveness and prohibiting compliance with it. 
 
Other matters being considered:
? A developmental disabled petition for adults filed when a disabled minor is 17-and-a half to take effect when minor is 18,
? Uniform Adult Guardianship Act (SB 465/6), which would give a Michigan Probate Court jurisdiction to appoint a guardian if the respondent’s home is Michigan, if Michigan is a “significant-connection state” and other factors apply, if Michigan is an “appropriate forum,” or if special jurisdiction applies and transfers are allowed. 
? Under SB293, the Personal Representative in an estate would have control over the decedent’s social networking, blogging or e-mail.
? Allow digital court records and electronic filing (HB 4064, Passed House) Strander sees this legislation as a step to bring the court into the 21st Century. Courts must keep records permanently; Strander is concerned that files on CD (Compact Disk) would not be accessible in the future—“I’m not sure I would recommend that we do away with microfilm (the current method) altogether.”
? Mental Health Court Package (HB 4694/5/6/7) is a comprehensive set of bills laying out the standards for the new mental health courts. The idea behind mental health courts, which are district or circuit courts, is that the person pleads guilty and is willing to get treatment, “at the end of the day, the offense is removed from their official record and they will have gotten the treatment they need.”
 
Ingham County Probate Court changes:
 
Effective January 1, 2014, the new Chief Judge is Hon.   Garcia. A Chief Judge is the chief administrative officer of the court. 
 
Strander hopes that the Probate Court will be able to accept credit card payments by the end of the year. 
 
An interpreter services plan for those in need of such services must be submitted by the court by December 11th. Since probate does not have a simple plaintiff-defendant model, it means “if we have a material interested party (petitioner, respondent) in need of an interpreter, we will pro-actively get an interpreter for that person.” The court is also required to have cards with the names of different languages so the person can indicate which they speak and other documents describing the forms in their language. Pleadings, however, must be in English. The court will pay for the interpreter fees. If interpreters are not registered or certified, the judge can question the interpreter to determine if acceptable. 
Strander’s general tips for practitioners include: notify all interested parties of adjournments and stipulations; there are two dockets—contested and uncontested—let the court know if additional time will be needed for a hearing; provide a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) when requesting true copy stamp on documents and remember that all accounts (guardianships and conservatorships) must be allowed every single year. They are scheduled for a Monday afternoon.  
 
The next probate section meeting will be a social event held on December 17th at Kelly’s Downtown, 220 S. Washington, Lansing. Reservations must be sent to Rosemary Buhl (rhbuhl@lawrhb.com) by December 13th with the order for lunch. Payment for lunch will be at the restaurant.   
 
 
 
 

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