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DIVORCE 25: Judgement of divorce ordered children as beneficiary on life insurance policies presently outstanding.

During their marriage, decedent and wife had two children. In 2012, the circuit court for Muskegon County entered a divorce judgment which, in pertinent part, required decedent to make monthly child support payments to wife.

In order to provide security for the payment of his support obligations in the event of his death, the judgment also ordered decedent to irrevocably designate the minor children of the parties as the beneficiary on any and all life insurance policies presently outstanding upon his life, until his duty to support shall cease. At the time, decedent had a group life insurance policy which provided for payment of death benefits in the amount of $400,000 upon his death.

Following decedent’s death in 2016, both children and wife asserted entitlement to the insurance benefits. The insurance company initiated an interpleader action in the federal district court for the western district of Michigan seeking a determination as to who was entitled to the insurance proceeds.

The federal court ordered each to receive approximately one-third of the insurance proceeds.

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FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

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PROBATE 51: Trust filed a petition to determine title to credit union account.

The probate court explained that the owners of the account are S and J. When S passes, J becomes the owner of the account. J is the one who had the authority to make the designation. Nowhere in any documents is there a designation by J that SJ be the owner -- or the beneficiary of the account. The designation made by his father was no longer binding because he was no longer the owner at the time J passed away.

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FAMILY LAW 77: Court awarded plaintiff sole legal custody; defendant was unwilling to work with plaintiff.

For joint custody to work, parents must be able to agree with each other on basic issues in child rearing including health care, religion, education, day to day decision making and discipline and they must be willing to cooperate with each other in joint decision making. If two equally capable parents are unable to cooperate and to agree generally concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of their children, the court has no alternative but to determine which parent shall have sole custody of the children.

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