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PROBATE 18: Do you have legal standing to file any pleadings?

This case was originally filed in 1994 by the county prosecutor to establish the death of deceased. In 2002, Plaintiff was convicted of her murder.

Plaintiff argues that the probate court erred by denying his motion for relief from judgment because he was entitled to notice of the probate hearing regarding the petition to establish deceased’s death, and therefore, has standing in the matter and could seek relief under MCR 2.612(C)(1)(c).

That motion was premised upon the county prosecutor failing to provide him with notice of the probate proceeding and should have held an evidentiary hearing on whether fraud occurred in the 1994 proceeding.

The Court reviews the legal question whether a party has standing de novo. The purpose of standing is to ensure that a litigant has a sufficient interest in an issue. Whether standing exists depends on whether a litigant is a proper party to request adjudication of a particular issue and not whether the issue itself is justiciable.

The court concluded that Plaintiff did not have standing to file any pleadings in the matter because he had no legal right to be provided notice, and thus was not entitled to be a party in the case.

Under MCL 700.492a, a county prosecutor may file a petition in probate court asking that the court determine the cause and date of death of an individual if an accident or disaster occurs and, as a result, it appears that an individual has died but his or her remains have disappeared or are unidentifiable.  Once the probate court fixes a time and place for a hearing, the petitioner shall give or cause to be given notice of the hearing.

Plaintiff was not entitled to notice of the petition hearing because he does not constitute an interested party within the meaning of MCR 5.205(C)(20). Plaintiff is not deceased’s heir because he was never married to her and was not entitled to her property under the statutes of intestate succession. Plaintiff’s only argument is that he is the father of her daughter. But that does not provide a relation such that he was entitled to notice. Because Plaintiff is not an interested party under MCR 5.205(C)(20), it was not require that he be given notice of the probate proceeding. Therefore, Plaintiff does not have standing to seek relief in this case.

Aldrich Legal Services represents clients in a wide range of probate litigation matters. Given the emotional nature of these disputes and their financial impact on all involved, it is critical that anyone involved in such a dispute retain highly qualified legal counsel.

From our main office in Plymouth, we serve clients throughout southeast Michigan. To schedule your free consultation, contact us today.

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