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WILLS/TRUSTS 17: The probate court’s role is to ascertain and give effect to a testator’s intent.

R executed his last will and testament on July 21, 2015. The will contains the following provision at issue in this case:

Upon my death, I direct that all of my personal belongings shall be distributed as follows: G and N shall sort through all of the household goods, antiques, tools, and all other items of personal property and identify those items which shall stay within the family. Those items identified shall be distributed to members of those families.

The remainder of personal property shall be placed for sale at auction and any proceeds therefrom shall be distributed pursuant to a list of persons and charities to which the proceeds should be given.

In February 2016, N met with five other nieces and nephews and distributed personal belongings. N retained a John Deere tractor for herself and later sold it for $2,000. P subsequently moved the probate court for an order requiring Null to return the $2,000 and any other items removed from the home.

According to the motion, Article III only allowed the identification and distribution of heirlooms, not all personal property. P argued that the John Deere tractor and other valuable items were not heirlooms and should not have been distributed to N.

N responded that Article III mandated the identification and distribution of all the personal property and that she had not acted beyond the scope of her authority.

The probate court adopted P’s interpretation of the will, holding that Article III only provided for the identification and distribution of heirlooms.  The probate court ordered Null to return the $2,000 received from the sale of the tractor.

Wills are an essential part of any estate plan. Without a validly executed will, that is clear, you may or may not achieve your goals. A carefully drafted and properly executed will can pass your property to your loved ones in the manner of your choosing. A will can also help ensure that your children and other family members understand your wishes, thus minimizing the risk of disputes and litigation.

Aldrich Legal Services is pleased to assist you with your estate planning needs.

We draft and review wills, trusts and other estate planning documents to help our clients with their estate objectives. Located in Plymouth, Michigan, we assist clients throughout southeast Michigan.

Contact Aldrich Legal Services

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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