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Michigan Probate Litigation Cases & News
BlogsPublications | June 27, 2023
1 minute read
Michigan Probate Litigation Cases & News

Are Oral Instructions for Real Estate Transfers Enforceable in Probate Court?

A person receives real estate with oral instructions to transfer it to another person. Is that transfer enforceable when the instructions are not in writing?

No, it is not enforceable according to In re Estate of Finney, Docket No 361305 (Mich Ct App June 15, 2023) (unpublished). 

Clisson Finney deeded his real estate to the defendant. After Clisson’s death, a lawsuit was filed to invalidate the deed. In response, the defendant acknowledged that Clisson had instructed her to transfer the real estate to another person. The court held that because there was nothing in writing from Clisson reflecting he transferred the property to the defendant to transfer to another person, it was not enforceable under the statute of frauds. While most oral agreements are enforceable, the statute of frauds requires agreements regarding real estate to be in writing. MCL 566.106.

While there may have been other ways to enforce the understanding between Clisson and the defendant beyond what was argued in Finney, this case highlights the importance of putting agreements and intentions in writing — especially when real estate is involved.

If you have questions about real estate transfers or other probate legal matters, please contact Laura Morris at or 616.752.2407 or a member of the Probate Litigation Practice Group.