In Michigan, appointment as conservator legally vests the conservator with title to all of the protected individual’s assets or those assets specified by the court (if less than all assets). The former is a full conservatorship; the latter, a limited conservatorship. Letters of Conservatorship, as generated by the court, are the evidence of transfer of the protected assets. Once the assets are so vested, a ward cannot legally transfer or assign the assets. In many cases, the conservator is restricted from selling real estate without an order of the court.
Letters May be Recorded
In Michigan, title to real estate is conveyed through deeds. Generally, these deeds are recorded with the local register of deeds in the county where the real estate sits, in order to give notice to third parties that the transfer has taken place. This notice can have an important effect on the rights of parties to the real estate and thus it is often advisable to have deeds recorded although recording is not required for legal transfer.
Conservatorship by itself does not evidence a transfer of real estate to the conservatorship estate, and without more, there is no record of the conservatorship “transfer” in the local register of deeds office. However, conservatorship letters may be filed or recorded with the county register of deeds in order to give record notice of title as between the conservator and the protected individual.
Recording is not a Requirement
That being said, the recording of conservatorship letters is not required in Michigan and is, more often than not, not done. This may be because many practitioners and fiduciaries are unaware of the ability and maybe the benefit, of doing so. In the absence of recording, the general public is not put on notice that a fiduciary is in charge of a specific piece of property. This can lead to title issues. In some cases, one with which the writer had direct experience, properties can be sold with any knowledge of a conservator being in charge, leading to sales that have circumvented court restrictions and have occurred without court knowledge or involvement, thereby defeating the purpose of the court restrictions in the first place. GJR
- MCL 700.5420(1).
- MCL 700.5420(2).