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REAL ESTATE 32: Plaintiffs and defendants executed a second easement.

In December 2000, defendants, a married couple, conveyed to plaintiffs a parcel of real property with approximately 300 feet of Lake Superior frontage. The property had been part of a larger property owned by defendants, who continued to own the non-conveyed portion. The easement attached to the deed (the First Easement) provided in pertinent part as follows:

Further the parties hereto also realize the best access to the shores of Lake Superior is by a ravine located slightly to the west of the property being conveyed to second parties, and which is the creek bed. Both parties desire to have access to Lake Superior, and accordingly first parties grant to second parties and retain unto themselves, access rights in the form of a mutual easement to reach the Lake by use of the ravine area which shall extend fifty feet (50’) either side of the said creek bed and two hundred fifty feet (250’) back from the shores of said Lake Superior.

Sometime after taking possession of the property, plaintiffs had it surveyed and realized that there was a triangular gap, 30 feet at its widest point, between their property line and the boundary of the easement as described in the First Easement. In an attempt resolve the issue, plaintiffs and defendants executed a second easement in November 2001, approximately 11 months after the 2000 deed was executed.

Plaintiffs made use of the easement to access Lake Superior. In 2008, plaintiffs built a stairway on the easement after the idea was discussed. Plaintiffs testified that they used the stairway until 2014, when defendant placed barricades and no trespassing signs on it. Plaintiffs testified that defendants later said that they had barricaded the stairway because it was unsafe. A year later, defendants removed several treads from the stairway.

Plaintiffs requested that the trial court, either through reformation of the First Easement or interpretation of the Second Easement, quiet title in favor of plaintiffs and declare them to be the owners of an easement to access Lake Superior through the ravine on defendants’ property, enjoin defendants from interfering with their use of the easement, and order compensation for damages to the stairs.

Subsequently, trial court issued a written opinion and order quieting title, enjoining defendants, and awarding money damages. The opinion concluded that the First Easement was ambiguous and stated that the parties’ expressed intention to provide each parcel of land access to Lake Superior through the ravine.

The trial court declined to decide the effect of the Second Easement, stating that it was not necessary given the trial court’s interpretation of the First Easement.  The trial court awarded $4,000 in damages to plaintiffs for the cost of restoring the stairway.

The trial court further found that the stairway was a valid and reasonable means of plaintiffs’ right to exercise their access easement and permanently enjoined defendants from interfering in any way with the full and unfettered exercise by plaintiffs, their heirs or assigns, of their rights under the First Easement.

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REAL ESTATE 40: Tax Tribunal denied petitioner’s claim of a principal residence exemption (PRE).

MCL 211.7cc(2) provides that an owner of property can claim the PRE by filing an affidavit that must state that the property is owned and occupied as a principal residence by that owner of the property on the date that the affidavit is signed and shall state that the owner has not claimed a substantially similar exemption, deduction, or credit on property in another state.

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REAL ESTATE 38: Plaintiff fails to make land contract payments.

The land contract stated that T Company sold real property to plaintiff. The land contract further stated that if plaintiff failed to make a monthly payment, T Company could execute the quitclaim deed, thereby terminating plaintiff’s rights to the real property under the land contract.

CONTRACTS 6: Do you understand the clauses in your Purchase Agreement?

The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary disposition, concluding that the claims against the realty companies were barred by the valid release contained in the purchase agreement and that the claims against sellers were required to be resolved in arbitration because they fell within the scope of the arbitration clause in the purchase agreement.

DIVORCE 29: Spousal support in gross is non-modifiable, whereas periodic is subject to modification.

As the name implies, periodic spousal support payments are made on a periodic basis. Periodic spousal support payments are subject to any contingency, such as death or remarriage of a spouse, whereas spousal support in gross is paid as a lump sum or a definite sum to be paid in installments. In addition, one major difference between the two types of spousal support is modifiability. Spousal support in gross is non-modifiable, whereas periodic spousal support is subject to modification pursuant to MCL 555.28.1.

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PROBATE 28: Probate court enters a protective order providing support for a community spouse.

A probate court’s consideration of the couple’s circumstances cannot involve an assumption that the institutionalized spouse should receive 100% free medical care under Medicaid or an assumption that a community spouse is entitled to maintain his or her standard of living. Medicaid is a need-based program, and a Medicaid recipient is obligated to contribute to his or her care.

REAL ESTATE 36: Plaintiff argued that her claim was not time-barred because it did not accrue until the grandmother’s death.

Plaintiff’s interest in the subject property is best characterized as a remainder estate, because her right to possession of the property was postponed until the occurrence of a specific contingency, that being the deaths of the grandparents. Plaintiff pursued this action within the 15-year limitation period; accordingly, this action is not barred by MCL 600.5801(4).

LITIGATION 6: The terms of the agreement prevails over the course of performance.

The trial court determined that under the UCC, the express terms of the parties’ agreements prevailed over the course of their performance and course of dealing. Although a course of performance may show that parties have waived a specific contractual term under MCL 440.1303(6), the statute does not similarly provide that a course of dealing may demonstrate waiver.

PROBATE 27: Petitioner filed a petition for mental-health treatment.

In support of the allegations, petitioner attached clinical certificates from a physician and a psychiatrist who observed respondent at the hospital. Both doctors diagnosed respondent with bipolar disorder, determined that she displayed a likelihood of injuring herself and that she did not understand the need for treatment, and recommended a course of treatment that consisted of 60 days of hospitalization and 90 days of outpatient care.

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FAMILY LAW 32: Trial court committed error in failing to address whether there was an established custodial environment.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court failed to make any findings regarding (1) the child’s established custodial environment, (2) the child’s best interests regarding the grant of primary physical custody to defendant, (3) the child’s best interests with respect to parenting time, and (4) the child’s best interests pertaining to the parties’ dispute over daycare.

PROBATE 25: Daughter removed as personal representative of the estate.

the probate court determined that Daughter J had managed the estate in a manner that promoted her own interests as a beneficiary over the interests of the estate. The probate court found that such management demonstrated mismanagement of the estate and that removal of Daughter J was therefore in the best interests of the estate.

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