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PROBATE 55: Plaintiffs argue that decedents were subject to coercion and undue influence.

This case arises from disputes between sisters regarding the estates of their deceased parents. The parties are three of four sisters. Plaintiffs believe that starting around the year 2000, defendant planned to take control of decedents’ affairs and turn them against the other sisters.

Estate Planning Documents

Defendant became decedents’ power of attorney in 2002. The same year, decedents executed estate planning documents disinheriting plaintiffs and the fourth daughter, leaving their entire estate, valued over $4,900,000, to defendant.

Claim of Undue Influence

Plaintiffs filed separate actions in the probate court asserting that decedents died without wills. Defendant objected, asserting that each decedent had a 2002 will pouring over all their assets into their trusts. When defendant petitioned to close the estates and admit the wills to probate, plaintiffs objected, arguing that decedents were subject to coercion and undue influence by defendant.

Probate Court

On November 18, 2020, the probate court entered an opinion and order admitting decedents’ wills to probate. The probate court found no issue with decedents’ testamentary capacity and concluded that there was no evidence of coercion or undue influence by defendant. Both decedents’ last will stated that all their assets would pour over into their trusts upon their deaths. Defendant was the only named beneficiary of each trust. The probate court determined that plaintiffs had no interest in decedents’ assets to impart standing or make them real parties in interest because decedents’ wills disinherited plaintiffs.

Do Not Face Probate Litigation on Your Own

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.

  • We represent clients in probate litigation involving:
  • Personal representative and trustee disputes
  • Misuse and misappropriation of trust funds
  • Breach of fiduciary duty claims
  • Will contests
  • Other inheritance disputes

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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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