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Creditor's Rights Against Estates and Trusts

The probate court denied a petition for formal proceedings. The petition further identifies the petitioner as a "creditor" of the estate and states that "Litigation against the Estate is pending." Appellee is the widow and was designated in the petition as the heir of the estate. In the petition before the probate court, the petitioner sought a formal testacy proceeding as a "creditor."

The probate court found that the record lacked evidence that would support this claim.

In general, to have standing, a party must have a legally protected interest that is in jeopardy of being adversely affected. The party bringing the claim must have some real interest in the cause of action, or a legal or equitable right, title, or interest in the subject matter of the controversy

"Interested person" or "person interested in an estate" includes, but is not limited to, the incumbent fiduciary; an heir, devisee, child, spouse, creditor, and beneficiary and any other person that has a property right in or claim against a trust estate or the estate of a decedent, ward, or protected individual; a person that has priority for appointment as personal representative; and a fiduciary representing an interested person.

As the probate court found, the record is devoid of evidence that would support that claim as a "creditor". However, it is unclear from the record whether appellant could have demonstrated that he was nonetheless an "interested person" or a "person that has a right or cause of action" within the meaning of MCL 700.3401(1) and MCL 700.1105(c). Petitioner contended before the probate court that he had filed an action against the estate in federal court. The record of the hearing reflects that petitioner offered to give the probate court a copy of the complaint filed in the alleged federal action, but the probate court declined to accept it. Had petitioner been permitted to pursue this argument, petitioner may have been successful in demonstrating a "claim against . . . the estate of a decedent" or that he was "a person that has a right or cause of action that cannot be enforced without administration.

Appeal court remanded this matter to the probate court for further proceedings to determine whether -appellant, though not a creditor, is otherwise entitled to a formal testacy proceeding against the estate.

Probate litigation is complex and requires the attention of experienced and knowledgeable counsel. Litigation can be costly and time-consuming. It is important to resolve disputes in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. If you are facing probate litigation, seek the advice of an attorney who has courtroom experience.

REAL ESTATE 2: Property dispute, intent is not required for a trespass.

In instances of trespass where injunctive relief and actual damages are not warranted, a plaintiff nevertheless is entitled to nominal damages. Because a trespass violates a landholder’s right to exclude others from the premises, the landholder could recover at least nominal damages even in the absence of proof of any other injury.

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