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PROBATE 50: Court held that she was not a beneficiary of his will or trust because they were revoked when he and her mother divorced.

Appellant was eight years old at the time her mother and the decedent married and was treated by the decedent as his daughter both during and after the marriage.

WILL

Decedent’s will identified his spouse, and identified his living children as Appellant, who is my step-child. Under the terms of his will, the decedent’s assets were left to “The Family Trust.”

On the same date, the decedent and Sally executed a trust adoption agreement and created a joint revocable trust known as “The Family Trust.” The trust adoption agreement stated that the settlors were married to each other and identified appellant as the only living child of the settlors. The agreement identified the residuary beneficiary of the trust as “The above-named Child.” Under the explicit terms of the trust, upon the death of either spouse, the surviving spouse was entitled to receive all principal and income, and upon the death of the surviving spouse, appellant would receive all principle and income. The agreement also provided a default provision for distribution of the trust estate to D and J (appellees).

DIVORCE

The decedent and spouse divorced on April 3. The decedent died on July 2. Appellant was appointed personal representative of the decedent’s estate. After a will was discovered, the appellant filed a petition in the trust case and a petition for probate in the will case. Appellant also requested an order determining heirs. The court entered a stipulated order in both cases indicating that the sole issue before the court for determination was how the statutory provision of MCL 700.2807(1)(a)(i) and (3) regarding the divorce of the decedent affected the appellant’s interests under the putative will of the decedent and under the trust agreement for The Family Trust.

SUMMARY DISPOSITION

Appellees, D and J, moved for summary disposition.  The court found that appellant was not a beneficiary of the decedent’s will or of the Family Trust because the dispositions to her were revoked under MCL 700.2807(1)(a)(i) when the decedent and spouse divorced.

Appellant contends that the probate court erred in its interpretation and application of MCL 700.2806(e) and MCL 700.2807(1)(a)(i) and improperly granted summary disposition in favor of appellees.

DISPOSITION TO APPELLANT REVOKED

Under the EPIC, absent express terms to the contrary in the governing instrument, when a testator who has executed a will subsequently divorces his spouse, the divorce revokes any disposition or appointment of property to either the former spouse or the former spouse’s relatives. Thus, the probate court properly determined that the decedent’s disposition to appellant was revoked under MCL 700.2807(1)(a)(i), because appellant is a relative of the divorced individual’s former spouse.

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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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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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