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PROBATE 22: Deed set aside due to constructive trust.

In this case, the probate court removed the son as his mother’s co-guardian because he was blocking then 93-year-old’s interactions with other family members. After the court’s order, the son remained as co-conservator and exerted control over his mother’s real estate as she had previously signed a quitclaim deed naming her son as a joint tenant with full rights of survivorship. The son used this interest to evict other relatives from The mother’s home. He then made repairs and secured paying tenants.

As the mother’s co-conservator, the son was required to file accounts explaining the use of The mother’s assets. Throughout the proceedings, the son did not timely file these accounts, leading to court intervention.

After learning of the son’s interference with his mother’s family relationships, the court scrutinized his later accounts more closely and found them overly generic, lacking in supporting documentation, and mathematically inaccurate. The court therefore denied the son’s request for fees for his services. The court decided to end the conservatorship on October 28, 2016. The court also ordered the son be removed as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy intended to cover the mother’s funeral expenses, an order to which the son agreed. The court also rejected the son’s explanation that he had loaned his mother money to stay afloat and repaid himself by using his mother’s credit to purchase furnishings for his own home.

During these proceedings, several petitions seeking to set aside the deed were filed.

At an evidentiary hearing, the mother testified that she executed the deed because her son was trustworthy and honest. She explained that he had performed various repairs to the home so that it could be rented. The mother further explained that her intent was to have her son split the home among all of her children when she passed away. However, it became apparent during these proceedings that the son intended to keep the home for himself.

The probate court cited three grounds to set aside the quitclaim deed: (1) The mother mistakenly believed that her son would follow her wishes after her death and share the home with all of her children; (2) the equitable remedy of a constructive trust, and (3) the son’s breach of fiduciary duty by accepting the quitclaim deed while he served as the mother’s power of attorney.

A constructive trust is the formula through which the conscience of equity finds expression. When property has been acquired in such circumstances that the holder of the legal title may not, in good conscience, retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee.

The probate court properly imposed a constructive trust and ordered the son to sell the mother’s home after she had deceased.

Aldrich Legal Services represents clients in a wide range of probate litigation matters. Given the emotional nature of these disputes and their financial impact on all involved, it is critical that anyone involved in such a dispute retain highly qualified legal counsel.

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REAL ESTATE 40: Tax Tribunal denied petitioner’s claim of a principal residence exemption (PRE).

MCL 211.7cc(2) provides that an owner of property can claim the PRE by filing an affidavit that must state that the property is owned and occupied as a principal residence by that owner of the property on the date that the affidavit is signed and shall state that the owner has not claimed a substantially similar exemption, deduction, or credit on property in another state.

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REAL ESTATE 38: Plaintiff fails to make land contract payments.

The land contract stated that T Company sold real property to plaintiff. The land contract further stated that if plaintiff failed to make a monthly payment, T Company could execute the quitclaim deed, thereby terminating plaintiff’s rights to the real property under the land contract.

CONTRACTS 6: Do you understand the clauses in your Purchase Agreement?

The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary disposition, concluding that the claims against the realty companies were barred by the valid release contained in the purchase agreement and that the claims against sellers were required to be resolved in arbitration because they fell within the scope of the arbitration clause in the purchase agreement.

DIVORCE 29: Spousal support in gross is non-modifiable, whereas periodic is subject to modification.

As the name implies, periodic spousal support payments are made on a periodic basis. Periodic spousal support payments are subject to any contingency, such as death or remarriage of a spouse, whereas spousal support in gross is paid as a lump sum or a definite sum to be paid in installments. In addition, one major difference between the two types of spousal support is modifiability. Spousal support in gross is non-modifiable, whereas periodic spousal support is subject to modification pursuant to MCL 555.28.1.

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PROBATE 28: Probate court enters a protective order providing support for a community spouse.

A probate court’s consideration of the couple’s circumstances cannot involve an assumption that the institutionalized spouse should receive 100% free medical care under Medicaid or an assumption that a community spouse is entitled to maintain his or her standard of living. Medicaid is a need-based program, and a Medicaid recipient is obligated to contribute to his or her care.

REAL ESTATE 36: Plaintiff argued that her claim was not time-barred because it did not accrue until the grandmother’s death.

Plaintiff’s interest in the subject property is best characterized as a remainder estate, because her right to possession of the property was postponed until the occurrence of a specific contingency, that being the deaths of the grandparents. Plaintiff pursued this action within the 15-year limitation period; accordingly, this action is not barred by MCL 600.5801(4).

LITIGATION 6: The terms of the agreement prevails over the course of performance.

The trial court determined that under the UCC, the express terms of the parties’ agreements prevailed over the course of their performance and course of dealing. Although a course of performance may show that parties have waived a specific contractual term under MCL 440.1303(6), the statute does not similarly provide that a course of dealing may demonstrate waiver.

PROBATE 27: Petitioner filed a petition for mental-health treatment.

In support of the allegations, petitioner attached clinical certificates from a physician and a psychiatrist who observed respondent at the hospital. Both doctors diagnosed respondent with bipolar disorder, determined that she displayed a likelihood of injuring herself and that she did not understand the need for treatment, and recommended a course of treatment that consisted of 60 days of hospitalization and 90 days of outpatient care.

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FAMILY LAW 32: Trial court committed error in failing to address whether there was an established custodial environment.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court failed to make any findings regarding (1) the child’s established custodial environment, (2) the child’s best interests regarding the grant of primary physical custody to defendant, (3) the child’s best interests with respect to parenting time, and (4) the child’s best interests pertaining to the parties’ dispute over daycare.

PROBATE 25: Daughter removed as personal representative of the estate.

the probate court determined that Daughter J had managed the estate in a manner that promoted her own interests as a beneficiary over the interests of the estate. The probate court found that such management demonstrated mismanagement of the estate and that removal of Daughter J was therefore in the best interests of the estate.

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REAL ESTATE 32: Plaintiffs and defendants executed a second easement.

Plaintiffs requested that the trial court, either through reformation of the First Easement or interpretation of the Second Easement, quiet title in favor of plaintiffs and declare them to be the owners of an easement to access Lake Superior through the ravine on defendants’ property, enjoin defendants from interfering with their use of the easement, and order compensation for damages to the stairs.

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