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Probate court retains jurisdiction during pendency of appeal

The probate court was not divested of jurisdiction to remove appellant-Crystal Waller as PR and to appoint appellee-Fraser as successor PR while an appeal was pending, because these actions related to its management of the estate property. Thus, the court affirmed the probate court decisions related to the administration of Crystal's father's estate. The decedent died intestate in 2008. At the time of his death, he was separated from his wife, petitioner-Sharon Waller, but no judgment of divorce was entered. The probate court appointed Crystal (the decedent's daughter from a previous marriage) as PR. She argued that the probate court lacked jurisdiction to impose a surcharge because a civil action as to the occupation of the decedent's former home was pending in district court. Crystal also raised arguments as to the probate court's authority to appoint Fraser as successor PR while Sharon's prior appeal was pending in the court, and the district court's jurisdiction over the eviction proceeding. She argued that Fraser's appointment as successor PR was a "legal nullity" because the probate court had no authority to remove her as PR and appoint Fraser in her place while Sharon's prior appeal was pending in the court. The substance of her argument was that the probate court was divested of jurisdiction between the time that the claim of appeal was filed and the time the court issued its decision remanding the case to the probate court. However, MCR 7.208(A) "only restricts the trial court's authority to modify the judgment or order under appeal while an appeal is pending." The restriction did not apply here as the order appealed from had no connection to the appointment of a successor PR. The orders removing Crystal as PR and appointing Fraser as successor PR "did not purport to set aside or amend the order at issue in the prior appeal, which involved the enforceability of the premarital agreement between Sharon and the decedent." Further, "MCR 7.208(D) generally allows a trial court to continue to exercise its jurisdiction over property during the pendency of an appeal" in the court. The court also rejected Crystal's claim that the premarital agreement was a valid and enforceable holographic will, finding that it lacked "the evidence of testamentary intent required to serve as a will." Further, "Sharon's entitlement to the proceeds of the decedent's retirement plan was established by ERISA."


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