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WILLS/TRUSTS 20: Language concerning the disposition of certain personal property.

In November 1993, the decedent and his wife executed a will and trust agreement. Under the trust provisions, all assets were to be divided evenly among their descendants after the grantors’ deaths.

At the time of his death, the decedent’s surviving heirs were his five children: E, A, M, F and G.

The decedent executed a codicil on June 17, 2015, purporting to dispose of a parcel of real property to E and A. However, on May 1, 2016, the decedent executed a second Will. The May 2016 Will changed the distribution of the decedent’s estate to his surviving children, by increasing the amount of the estate A received and, in turn, decreasing the remaining four heirs’ distribution of the estate and revoking the June 2015 codicil. The May 2016 Will also appointed A as the estate’s personal representative.

The decedent died on June 11, 2016. At a family meeting on July 16, 2016, E distributed coins in his possession that he and the decedent collected together. Ed believed that he and the decedent were the only joint holders of the coins and that the distribution carried out the decedent’s verbally expressed wishes. According to E’s affidavit, A provided the family with a copy of the May 2016 will at the same meeting. E’s affidavit indicates that he disbelieved the validity of the May 2016 Will, but apparently, he took no further action regarding the will or the coins at that time.

A submitted the May 2016 Will to probate in November 2016. E contested the May 2016 Will, which led to a settlement between E and A. At the time of the settlement, the court appointed an independent attorney as the estate’s personal representative. The court order also required all interested parties to return their portions of the decedent’s estate assets identified in the May 2016 Will to the personal representative. The court granted E’s attorney 120 days to complete discovery regarding the May 2016 Will’s validity.

Pursuant to the court’s order, M returned to the personal representative most of the coins E distributed to her in July 2016. M claimed she had distributed the unreturned coins to her children. She sent the personal representative a check for $4,000 in those coins’ stead. The check was never deposited or cashed, and it eventually expired. A also returned her portion of the coins to the personal representative.

The personal representative later filed a petition to distribute M and A’s coins to E, on the basis E and the decedent were the two joint holders of the coins at the time of the decedent’s death. M objected to this petition. Following a hearing, the probate court found that E’s prior actions of distributing the coins to his siblings and his statements about executing his father’s verbal wishes refuted his contention that he was a joint holder of the coins. The court entered an order that denied the personal representative’s request to disburse the coins, ordered that M could retain any coins in her possession, and ordered the personal representative to return to M any coins she had returned.

Wills are an essential part of any estate plan. Without a validly executed will, your estate will pass by the rules of intestate succession at the time of your passing, which 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.

At Aldrich Legal Services 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.

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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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