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PROBATE 5: Estate was not entitled to a principal residence exemption (PRE).

Petitioner, as personal representative for the Estate, appeals as of right the Tax Tribunal order determining that the Estate was not entitled to a principal residence exemption (PRE).

The subject property is a residential property located in Michigan.  Deceased and her husband purchased the property in 1977. According to petitioner, deceased first filed an affidavit claiming a PRE for the property in 1994, and it was granted at that time. It appears that from 1994 until 2013, she continued to claim and receive a PRE on the property. However, around August 2013, the Department began an audit on the property. And, on November 14, 2013, the PRE was denied for the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 tax years after the Department determined that it was not owned and occupied as deceased’s principal residence.

Her son explained at the conference that she seasonally resided in Florida, Arizona, Midland, and Ludington, but that she spent most of the year at the Ludington property. He maintained that she only kept an apartment in Midland for convenience. In the summer of 2012, she moved into a rehabilitation center, where she stayed until September or October 2012. She then returned to the subject property. In the fall of 2013, she entered a different rehabilitation facility, where she remained until her death in 2014.

Despite the facts presented by petitioner, the Department maintained that its denial of the PRE was proper for a number of reasons.

  • First, it questioned whether she was an “owner” as defined by MCL 211.7dd(a).
  • Second, it contended that there was no evidence that she occupied the property as her principal residence during the 2010 through 2013 tax years.
  • Third, the Department asserted that in 2012 and 2013, when she was at the rehabilitation facilities, she did not maintain an intent to return to the subject property and she did not meet the requirements to retain the exemption under MCL 211.7cc(5)(a), (b), or (c).

The informal conference referee found that she was an owner of the property because she was a grantor who had placed her property in a revocable trust.  The referee, however, determined that petitioner had failed to present any documentation showing that the property was the deceased’s principal residence, whereas the Department presented a number of documents to show that the deceased’s principal residence was her Midland apartment. The referee further stated that because there was no evidence that the property was the deceased’s principal residence during the 2010 through 2012 tax years, petitioner could not establish that she was entitled to retain the exemption.

If you have lost a loved one, the last thing you should have to deal with at this time is the confusing and often frustrating process of probate. Let an experienced probate lawyer from Aldrich Legal Services focus on your legal needs so you can focus on your friends and family at this difficult time.

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