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PROBATE 45: A claim is abandoned when a party fails to address the issue in its brief on appeal.

This case arises out of a dispute among the T siblings regarding the administration of their mother’s trust. The trust was executed on August 19, 2010. At that time, the mother was the trust’s settlor and sole trustee.

Trust

The mother transferred all her personal property as well as her house to the trust. After the mother’s death the trust’s assets were to be divided into six substantially equal shares to the surviving children. Finally, the trust appointed S as the successor trustee and T as the alternate successor trustee.

After the mother’s death, S initially promised to sell the house to SR, M, and T (the buyers). S failed sell the house to that group of his siblings, however, and he became hostile to them and to M. The issue of how to distribute the trust’s assets, and specifically what to do with the mother’s house, eventually led to litigation. The hostility between the siblings caused the trial court to order S to sell the house to the buyers; it appointed a special fiduciary to oversee that process due to the hostility between the siblings. The buyers eventually purchased the house over a year later.

Settlement Agreement

Samuel argues that the trial court erred by failing to enforce a settlement agreement he alleges the parties reached at the February 3, 2016, hearing, pursuant to which S would sell the house to the buyers.

Claim Abandoned

S fails to actually state the terms of the alleged settlement the parties agreed to at the February 3, 2016 hearing. He similarly fails to state the legal requirements for a valid settlement agreement. Instead, the only legal argument in the brief is citation to three sections of the Michigan trust code, establishing that a trustee generally can administer a trust without judicial supervision, he or she may settle claims against the trust, and the trustee can be removed only if he or she commits a serious breach of his or her duties as a trustee.

S never provided a sustained argument or authority for his position.  A claim is abandoned when a party fails to adequately address the issue in its brief on appeal. Because S failed to address this issue on the merits, it is abandoned. It is unusual for the court to decide a case without addressing any of the issues on the merits. But S presented the court with an unusual situation because he failed to present any substantive legal argument in this case

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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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