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WILLS/TRUSTS 21: Plaintiff alleged the University failed to use the funds consistent with the terms of the trust.

In this case, a Professor worked at the University as a full professor until his retirement in 1995.

On August 6, 1998, after his retirement, the Professor executed an estate plan establishing the Trust and a pour-over will which he subsequently amended on several occasions. On August 5, 2011, by operation of the Second Amendment, plaintiff began serving as co-trustee along with the Professor. On September 23, 2011, the Professor executed a Third Amendment, directing the trustee to distribute to the University the amount necessary to endow a full professorship, named after the Grantor.

The professor also directed the distribution of at least $300,000 directly to plaintiff, with any remaining sums split between providing fellowship support for the graduate students studying with the holder of the professorship, as further set forth in any then-existing gift agreement, and a charitable organization.

The professor died on July 21, 2015, at the age of 89. In addition to being the Professor’s colleague, friend, and co-trustee, plaintiff also served as personal representative of the estate.

In February 2016, plaintiff, as trustee, distributed, and the University accepted $2,500,000 from the Trust pursuant to the Gift Agreement, as evidenced by a receipt. The receipt acknowledged that the funds were to endow a “full” professorship. On July 7, 2016, the University acknowledged receipt of an additional distribution of $1,000,000 for funding the graduate student fellowship support for the holder of the professorship.

On December 11, 2017, the University announced the appointment of Professor A to the Professor’s position. Plaintiff maintained that Professor A was not qualified to teach at the University and, in any event, was not a full professor. Plaintiff contended that the University was required to conduct a search for a properly qualified professor to fill the position, which it failed to do.

On April 23, 2018, plaintiff filed suit, alleging (1) breach of contract, namely the University’s failure to use the funds consistent with the terms of the Gift Agreement, and seeking damages or specific performance; (2) breach of fiduciary duty, on account of the University’s failure, as trustee of the charitable trust established by Professor’s gift, to comply with the terms and conditions of the resulting charitable trust; (3) violation of the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, MCL 451.921 et seq.; and (4) the need for injunctive relief prohibiting the dissipation of funds during the pendency of the case.

The court concluded that plaintiff had standing to challenge the charitable distribution to the University when defendants purportedly failed to satisfy the purpose and terms of the Trust and the Gift Agreement. The professor attained international recognition. Consequently, the Professor sought to ensure that his work would continue and deemed his particular field necessary to a world-class university program. In conjunction with that belief, he created a trust and pour-over will to effectuate the continuation of his work. Indeed, his charitable contribution expressed his wishes as reflected in the Gift Agreement to fund a full professorship in his field as well as student fellowship.

The Michigan Trust Code (MTC) was created to foster certainty that settlors of trusts will have confidence that their instructions will be carried out as expressed in the terms of the trust.

Aldrich Legal Services is pleased to assist you with your estate planning needs. A carefully drafted and properly executed will can pass your property to your loved ones in the manner of your choosing.

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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