Probate Court Public Administrators Difficulties: The Unfortunate Case of Steven Rigby

Pat Gallagher has proudly served the Ingham County Probate Court as a Public Administrator since his appointment in 2008. A Public Administrator is appointed by the probate judge to serve primarily three types of cases:

  • Guardian and/or conservator for mentally disabled persons.
  • Personal representative of deceased estates where there is no family or when an impartial fiduciary is needed.
  • Conservator of minor estates.

When residents of Ingham County die without family or a last will and testament, the probate judge will appoint a Public Administrator as special fiduciary or personal representative. In this capacity, the Public Administrator may handle the disposition of the body and begins a Probate proceeding for those assets, pays the claims of any creditor of the deceased, and distributes any remaining assets to surviving relatives, if any can be located, or to the unclaimed property division.

Serving as Public Administrator can be a challenge. Because there are often no family members who come forward or can be located until much later in the probate process, there are often no living people to give basic information about the deceased. Debt and personal history must be pieced together based on whatever mail, love letters, birthday cards, bills, and other documents the deceased felt were important to store. Depending on the person, this can be every receipt for any purchase made dating back to the 1940s, or it could be next to nothing at all.

The unfortunate case of Steven Rigby is an example of a challenging case for a Public Administrator. Faced with foreclosure and losing his family home, Mr. Rigby told neighbors he would be going out of town and took his life. By the time the neighbors noted his continued absence and investigated, he had already been dead for up to five weeks. The home had been foreclosed on and was no longer in Mr. Rigby's estate, and the power had been shut off for lack of payment.

Unable to locate family and with no one coming forward, the probate court admitted Pat Gallagher as personal representative. Weeks later, Mr. Rigby's estranged cousins appeared to claim the lakefront property, but the Ingham County Treasurer had already owned it for months. It was not an asset in Mr. Rigby's estate. The cousins intend to take over as personal representative from Mr. Gallagher. From there, they will attempt to reclaim the home, but are up against clear statutory law.

The cousins took their plea to the media, resulting in coverage by City Pulse, the City Pulse Live radioshow on Impact 89FM, and Tony Conley's talk radioshow on 1320 WILS. You can hear Pat Gallagher's segment on Tony Conley's podcast.

However, the challenges Pat Gallagher faces as public administrator give him excellent experience in probating estates and serving as guardian and conservator. If you have a need of Mr. Gallagher's services in this realm or law or any other, please contact us.

Categories: General