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WILLS AND TRUST 11: The court held that the probate court abused its discretion by granting appellee-successor trustee’s petitions without providing appellant the opportunity to object in accordance with MCR 5.119(B).

This case arises from the creation of the (Trust) by Decedent.   At the time the Trust was formed, Decedent chose herself as trustee, and named as residuary trust heirs her three children: including appellant.   In addition, the Trust named appellant as first successor trustee.  Decedent died on March 2, 2014, at which time appellant assumed trustee responsibilities. The probate court exercised jurisdiction over the Trust on July 9, 2015. Ultimately, the probate court suspended appellant as trustee, and appointed appellee as the new successor trustee on May 12, 2016. On May 1, 2019, appellee filed a petition to allow first, second, and final accounts. Subsequently, appellee filed a petition for full trust settlement on May 2. Appellant filed written objections on June 13, the same date in which the hearing on the petitions occurred. During the hearing, appellant’s attorney placed objections on the record. In response, the probate court stated that it would not allow Appellant’s objections at the hearing thinking it was another delay tactic. The probate court granted the petition for full trust settlement as well as the petition to allow first, second, and final accounts. Appellant now appeals to this Court.


On appeal, appellant contends that the probate court erred when it refused to hear her objections to appellee’s petition for full trust settlement in accordance with MCR 5.119(B). We agree.  This Court considers an issue of court rule interpretation as a matter of law that is reviewed de novo. Statutory interpretation principles apply to the application and interpretation of court rules. A reviewing court begins its analysis by focusing on the language of the court rule.  At issue in the present appeal is MCR 5.119, which addresses petitions, objections, and hearing practices in probate court. Specifically, MCR 5.119 provides for the following: (B) Objection to Pending Matter. An interested person may object to a pending petition orally at the hearing or by filing and serving a document which conforms with MCR 1.109(D) and MCR 5.113. Through counsel, appellant filed written objections, and presented those objections for consideration by the probate court during the June 13, 2019 hearing, as permitted by MCR 5.119(B). However, the probate court did not allow the objections.  The probate court also noted the age of the case, and alleged that appellant waited until June 13 to file objections for purposes of delay. However, the plain language of MCR 5.119 does not provide discretion to a probate court on whether to accept a party’s objections. MCR 5.119 allows for a petition and any objection to be filed, which provides the framework for a probate court to decide if additional briefing and oral arguments are necessary. In this case, the record and, in particular, the probate judge’s own words show that the probate court dismissed appellant’s June 13, 2019 oral and written objections without proper consideration. Therefore, we hold that the probate court abused its discretion when it granted appellee’s petitions without providing appellant the opportunity to object in accordance with MCR 5.119(B). We vacate the probate court’s June 13, 2019 order and remand for further proceedings. We further note that the court rule does not appear to require an evidentiary hearing on the objections raised. MCR 5.119(B) and (D) make clear that a court “may” adjourn a hearing based on an oral objection, “may” require that briefs be filed before oral argument on a petition or objection, and may “limit” oral argument on the petition or objection. We do not retain jurisdiction.


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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.

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.

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