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MICHIGAN PROBATE 60: The court ruled that the purported marriage between the decedent and petitioner was invalid.

The decedent, LEM, died in 2019, survived by six adult children. His daughter was appointed special personal representative of his estate and filed a petition to determine the decedent’s heirs after appellant SMM claimed to be the decedent’s surviving spouse.

Marriage License

The couple obtained a marriage license from the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, which stated that their marriage must be solemnized in the State of Michigan on or before November 25, 2016. It is undisputed that the couple did not marry by this date. Rather, on November 26, 2016, the couple participated in a wedding ceremony performed by a pastor and attended by various friends and relatives, including at least two of decedent’s children. A date-stamp on the marriage license reveals that it was filed with the Wayne County Clerk on November 28, 2016.

Expired Marriage License

The representative argued that SMM was not the decedent’s surviving spouse because their marriage license expired before the ceremony was held and so any marriage was void as a matter of law. Throughout the evidentiary hearing, conflicting evidence was presented on the parties’ intentions about getting married. The decedent told one of his sons that he and SMM intentionally waited until November 26 to have their ceremony because they knew that the marriage license would expire.

SMM admitted that she and the decedent were aware before the ceremony that the license expired before the scheduled wedding date. But she claimed that she and the decedent went to the clerk’s office to renew the license, and they were told that it was unnecessary and that the license could be approved after the ceremony. SMM testified that she and the decedent returned to the clerk’s office on the Monday after the wedding and the clerk accepted, stamped, and processed the license at that time.

The manager for Wayne County’s Vital Records Department, which oversees marriage records, confirmed that her department did not have the authority to declare a license that contained inaccurate or incomplete information as invalid. If the clerk’s office discovered that a solemnization occurred after a license expired, the office would contact the couple to tell them to purchase another license. She also confirmed that an expired license should not be accepted or should be returned to the individual who submitted it.

Probate Court

In addition, the probate court heard evidence that SMM continued to reside at the property she occupied before the wedding in Detroit. SMM also admitted that she continued to file tax returns in which she identified her status as single or head of a household.

The court ruled that the purported marriage between the decedent and SMM was invalid because the license expired before the wedding ceremony was held, and that acceptance of the completed marriage certificate by the clerk’s office did not create a valid marriage. The court also found that the parties continued to live separate lives after the ceremony and did not hold themselves out to be a married couple. Accordingly, the court determined that SMM was not the decedent’s surviving spouse or an heir to his estate.

Assistance with Probate and Estate Administration

If you have lost a loved one, the last thing you should have to deal with at this time is the confusing and often frustrating process of probate. An experienced attorney can provide guidance throughout the probate process, including the filing of petitions, notices to creditors, distribution of assets to beneficiaries and other services required throughout the probate process.

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MICHIGAN WILLS/TRUSTS 33: Trustees required to provide notice informing recipients that they may challenge the validity of a trust and the period allowed for bringing such a challenge.

The notice sent clearly advised her that if she wanted to contest the validity of the Trust in a judicial proceeding, the law required her to do so within six months from the date of the letter. Nothing in the statute requires a trustee to inform the recipients of the specific legal consequences of not acting during the time allowed.

MICHIGAN REAL ESTATE 97: The court imposed a constructive trust on defendant’s one-half interest in the property in favor of plaintiff.

The trial court found that plaintiff sustained her burden of establishing that a constructive trust was necessary to prevent defendant from being unjustly enriched. Accordingly, the court imposed a constructive trust on defendant’s one-half interest in the property in favor of plaintiff and ordered defendant to convey his interest in the property to plaintiff.

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.

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