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Unambiguous personal guaranty upheld, but where guaranty subject to interpretation, court must examine facts of case

Holding that the Guaranty was ambiguous, the court affirmed the trial court's order insofar as it held that Sable (a plaintiff in one of these consolidated appeals and a defendant in the other) was personally liable for the amount of the Promissory Note and principle sums under the SA that came due on or after 7/30/07. However, it vacated the trial court's order insofar as it determined that Sable was not personally liable on the principle due before that date or for the time-price differential charges on the pre-7/30/07 debt. It remanded for further proceedings as to those determinations. The case arose out of construction projects and contracts between Stonecrest (also a plaintiff in one of the cases and a defendant in the other) and nonparty-Stock. As part of its settlement with Stock, CTIC (the defendant in one of the cases and the plaintiff in the other) was assigned all of Stock's claims against Sable and Stonecrest. The trial court essentially found that the Guaranty unambiguously provided that Sable only assumed personal liability for the amounts that came due on or after 7/30/07. However, the court held that the Guaranty was ambiguous and, thus, reversed and remanded. The question was whether Sable assumed personal liability for those debts incurred under the SA before 7/30/07. The parties each contended that "the Guaranty unambiguously evidences their advocated interpretation." The court found that, particularly in light of the special nature of a guaranty contract, each party presented a reasonable reading of the Guaranty. Thus, the court held that the document was ambiguous as to the scope of Sable's personal liability; "specifically, if that liability extends to all sums owed or only those that came due on or after" 7/30/07. The trial court's grant of summary disposition was inappropriate. The court noted that its "finding of ambiguity extends to the question of whether Sable is a guarantor of the time-price differential (i.e., interest) accruing on" the pre-7/30/07 debt.

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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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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FAMILY LAW 77: Court awarded plaintiff sole legal custody; defendant was unwilling to work with plaintiff.

For joint custody to work, parents must be able to agree with each other on basic issues in child rearing including health care, religion, education, day to day decision making and discipline and they must be willing to cooperate with each other in joint decision making. If two equally capable parents are unable to cooperate and to agree generally concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of their children, the court has no alternative but to determine which parent shall have sole custody of the children.

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