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PROBATE 30: Trial court abused its discretion in appointing co-personal representatives.

P and S divorced in 2000. Their daughter died in January 2019 after her moped was struck by a snowplow. Both parents sought individual appointment as personal representative of the estate. P filed an initial petition to be appointed personal representative, but S filed an objection to this petition and requested that he be appointed personal representative or, alternatively, that the two parents be appointed co-personal representatives or a neutral third party be appointed.

The Estates and Protected Individuals Code (“EPIC”), MCL 700.1101 et seq., governs the administration of estates in Michigan. Under the code, interested persons may petition the trial court for a formal determination of the priority or qualification of a prospective personal representative.

Generally, personal representatives are appointed in the following order of priority:

(a) The person with priority as determined by a probated will including a person nominated by a power conferred in a will.

(b) The decedent’s surviving spouse if the spouse is a devisee of the decedent.

(c) Other devisees of the decedent.

(d) The decedent’s surviving spouse.

(e) Other heirs of the decedent. [MCL 700.3203(1).]

An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court chooses an outcome outside the range of reasonable and principled outcomes.

The parties agree that, as heirs to their daughter’s estate, MCL 700.3203(1)(e), neither party held priority to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate. The trial court found, however, that each party was unsuited in their individual capacity to serve as personal representative because neither party could be trusted to reliably represent the interests of the other. The trial court attempted to remedy this problem by appointing the parties as co-personal representatives, meaning that they would have to agree on decisions affecting the estate.

Trial courts may, however, only appoint co-personal representatives if the intended parties agree to the shared status.

Here, neither party agreed to renounce their priority and at least P did not agree to serve in a shared capacity with Seville. Accordingly, the trial court was precluded from appointing P and S as co-personal representatives.

Accordingly, because no other person with priority stepped forward to seek appointment, the trial court was obligated to appoint a third person to serve as the personal representative of the estate.

Aldrich Legal Services represents clients in a wide range of probate litigation matters. Probate litigation is complex and requires the attention of experienced and knowledgeable counsel. Aldrich Legal Services attorneys have the experience and legal know-how to protect your rights and interests.

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