I heard yesterday from a client who discovered that uncashed checks made payable to her deceased father were turned over to the state of Michigan as having been abandoned. In order to claim the funds, she must reopen dad’s probate estate and get new papers from the court showing that she has authority to claim the funds. Her dilemma? It takes money to reopen an estate, and the lost funds may not be worth much more than the cost of recovering them.
This situation pops up far too often, and it can involve just about any kind of asset: A timeshare, money owed to a decedent, even stock that has declined in value. Last week, it was children asking me what to do with the Arizona property their deceased parents purchased decades ago for a few thousand dollars, and which sits in a subdivision that was never developed.
Fortunately, Michigan law allows the personal representative of an estate or the trustee of a trust to abandon assets when, in the personal representative’s or trustee’s opinion, the asset is worthless or so encumbered or in such a condition that it would not benefit the estate or trust. It is sometimes wise to get the court’s permission to abandon an asset, but usually getting the written consent of the beneficiaries is sufficient.
Always, it’s prudent to consult with an attorney before walking away from an asset. Please feel free to call us for guidance at (248) 477-6300.