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REAL ESTATE 88: Neighbors with adjoining properties clash over two driveways.

In this case, neighbors with adjoining properties clashed over which of two driveways was plaintiff’s easement. Plaintiff’s lot was landlocked. Plaintiff argued his easement to access the highway was a gravel driveway (“the Gravel Drive”). Defendants argued plaintiff’s easement was a two-track dirt trail that wound through the woods on defendants’ property (“the West Drive”).

Easement

In May of 1972, members of defendants’ family were deeded the back half of a parent parcel of land (the M lot). The M lot did not have access to the highway, and so their deed provided an easement over the front half of the parent lot. The deed described the easement as an easement over and across the lands of the grantors in a North and South direction same being an existing roadway from the highway to the lands of the grantees, approximately 20 feet wide to be used for ingress and egress to the lands herein granted.

About 10 years later, defendants’ family created a new lot in the southeast corner of their lot. This would become plaintiff’s lot. The deed provided plaintiff’s lot an easement, and the deed described the easement the same way the 1972 deed described the M lot’s easement.

Lawsuit

When plaintiff first moved into his lot in 2019, he began using the West Drive to access his lot. But eventually, plaintiff came to believe the Gravel Drive was the easement described in his deed. Plaintiff sued defendants for trespass and nuisance, alleging the Gravel Drive was his easement and defendants were interfering with his right to use it.

Bench Trial

At the bench trial, defendant indicated that when the defendants moved onto their lot in 1972, the Gravel Drive did not exist yet only the West Drive did. Specifically, defendant testified his father put in the Gravel Drive a few years after 1972. Also, defendant testified that only the West Drive connected to plaintiff’s lot, as the Gravel Drive never connected to plaintiff’s lot. He testified all his family members who had lived on plaintiff’s lot before plaintiff, used the West Drive to access plaintiff’s lot.

Plaintiff offered no evidence to controvert defendant’s testimony that only the West Drive existed at the time the defendants received the deed to their lot. But plaintiff did offer evidence controverting defendant’s testimony about whether the Gravel Drive connected to plaintiff’s lot.

The trial court concluded the evidence showed the West Drive was the easement described in plaintiff’s deed, and plaintiff failed to prove otherwise. The trial court entered a judgment declaring the West Drive was plaintiff’s easement.

Assistance with Easement Disputes

Are you involved in an easement dispute with your neighbor? If you are facing an easement dispute you should seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate attorney. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced real estate litigation attorneys, contact our law office in Plymouth, Michigan.

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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.

REAL ESTATE 89: RM had not included any language in the deed providing that the property was a joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship, the property instead became a tenancy in common.

RM drafted the deed without seeking counsel and mistakenly believed that, if either she or FK died, the property would fully pass to the surviving tenant. FK’s will provided that if his wife predeceased him—which she did—the personal representative of his estate should sell any residual property that he owned and divide the cash proceeds equally among his surviving children.

FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

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