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MICHIGAN PROBATE 58: Lady Bird deed did not restrict the grantor’s ability to execute another deed.

At the center of this case is a dispute concerning the home that belonged to a married couple (D and B) who are both now deceased.

L met the D and B when she was a child, and they eventually became akin to parents to her. Eventually, B developed dementia while D developed various physical ailments. The couple moved into a rehabilitation home. Thereafter, the couple became concerned with the costs of the facility and missed living in their home. L claimed that she reached an agreement with D and B; she would move into their home and provide them with around-the-clock care. In return, D and B would deed their home in Michigan to L.

Ladybird Deed

D executed a Lady Bird deed on behalf of himself and B that provided for the transfer of the home to L upon their deaths. In this deed, the couple conveyed the property to themselves for their lifetime. It further stated that if D and B have not previously conveyed the property prior to their death or the survivor of them has not previously conveyed the property prior to the survivor’s death then it was conveyed to L.

Although L alleged that the property was conveyed in exchange for 24/7 caregiving services, the deed expressly provided that the consideration was $0.00.

Appointment of Conservator

D and B were released to L, and she allegedly began providing them with around-the-clock care. Shortly after the return home, B’s mental condition deteriorated, and she allegedly made threats of physical harm. B was returned to the medical facility. Shortly after, D died unexpectedly.

B was unable to make healthcare and financial decisions previously handled by D. The probate court found that B was an incapacitated individual and lacked sufficient capacity to make informed decisions. The probate court appointed RPC as conservator. The probate court advised that it typically required an inventory of assets within 56 days. RPC executed a new Lady Bird deed that would pass the house to the D & B’s trust instead of L. B died a year later.

Probate Petition

L filed a petition to set aside the second Lady Bird deed, to surcharge RPC as the conservator, and to add the trust as a party. RPC moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8), alleging that the first Lady Bird deed only gave the grantor a life tenancy and did not restrict the grantor’s ability to sell or mortgage the property. Therefore, RPC was entitled to divest the remainderman beneficiary before the death of the grantor. RPC alleged that any interest by L was divested prior to B’s death, and therefore, L did not have an interest or standing in the action, warranting summary disposition.

The probate court granted summary disposition in favor of RPC. The trial court concluded that the first Lady Bird deed did not convey any interest to L until the death of both grantors, and RPC, as the conservator, did not violate any statutory duties but was entitled to execute a Lady Bird deed in fulfilling its fiduciary obligations to the protected individual, B.

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MICHIGAN REAL ESTATE 95: Property owners did not place a condition upon the delivery of the deed; rather, they delivered the deed to themselves.

When the delivery of a deed is contingent upon the happening of some future event, title to the subject property will not transfer to the grantee until the event has occurred. However, in this case A and J did not place a condition upon the delivery of the deed; rather, they delivered the deed to themselves, then deposited the deed with their attorney with the instruction to record the deed only upon the happening of a future event, thereby placing a condition only upon the recording of the deed.

MICHIGAN PROBATE 57: Brother granted permanent guardianship of siblings.

At a multiday hearing to address the extension of the guardianship, the eldest children, the mother’s relatives and friends, and school personnel testified regarding the mother’s care of the children, appellant’s treatment of and interaction with the children, and the eldest siblings’ role in aiding the mother to raise the children.

FAMILY LAW 88: The trial court found that the children did not have an established custodial environment with defendant because, before the separation, he did not have a large role in the children’s lives.

The trial court credited plaintiff’s testimony that, before the parties’ separation, defendant spent minimal time helping to care for the children, so its finding that the children would not have looked to defendant for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort during that time was not against the great weight of the evidence.

REAL ESTATE 89: RM had not included any language in the deed providing that the property was a joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship, the property instead became a tenancy in common.

RM drafted the deed without seeking counsel and mistakenly believed that, if either she or FK died, the property would fully pass to the surviving tenant. FK’s will provided that if his wife predeceased him—which she did—the personal representative of his estate should sell any residual property that he owned and divide the cash proceeds equally among his surviving children.

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.

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