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Schuette, lawmakers call for cleaning up probate abuses

Flickr user: oatsy40

Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette and state lawmakers are calling for an overhaul of how the property of recently deceased people is dealt with.

News reports have outlined how some lawyers 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 charged large fees to sell and administer the property. Three of the administrators have been removed.

Andrea Bitely is with the attorney general’s office.

“It’s really about trying to make sure that if you have a loved one that passes away, you’re able to maintain control of their property.”

Bills before the Legislature would give families more time to claim the property of their relatives. Administrators would also have to make a good faith effort to reach families before they file a claim.

The bills to overhaul the system are before the state House Judiciary Committee.

The bills would extend how long families have to file with probate courts. They would also require lawyers and real estate agents who want to take over a property to make a good faith effort to reach families. And the legislation would limit the fees they can charge.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.