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WILLS/TRUSTS 31: Petitioner disputes transfers to trust and filed petitions to have the funds and property returned to her.

Decedent created a noncharitable, irrevocable trust (the Trust) to provide for the benefit and welfare of himself and his wife, appellant EC. The trust named respondent as trustee and provided that he would have the sole discretion to distribute any trust income or principal to the beneficiaries. EC was the primary beneficiary, and upon her death, her son, appellant DLC, would become the sole beneficiary. On DLC’s death, if the trust had not been completely distributed, the remainder would be distributed to respondent. Decedent died and the probate court removed respondent from his position as trustee to avoid a conflict of interest.

Bank/Real Estate Transfers

During the decedent’s life and after the Trust’s creation, funds from two jointly held PNC bank accounts were transferred into the Trust. Additionally, EC met with the decedent’s lawyer and signed deeds transferring real property into the Trust. EC disputes these transfers and filed petitions to have the funds and property returned to her, arguing that she did not understand what she was doing when she transferred the real property and that respondent improperly transferred the PNC accounts for his own benefit.

Probate Court

The probate court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the decedent desired that the funds to pass to EC upon his death or whether he desired for those funds to be placed within the Trust and paid out to EC to care for her after his death. Additionally, after an evidentiary hearing held on the same day, the trial court found that EC had failed to show that the transfers—of real property and the funds in the PNC accounts—should be voided, so it denied the petition to return real property and the petition to return the funds from the PNC accounts.

Undue Influence or Interference

The court found no basis to void the transfers based on EC’s evidence. Based on her testimony, the probate court had evidence to support the finding that EC did know what she had signed and the effects of it but simply did not remember. There was no evidence of undue influence or interference from others, and there is no indication that respondent was present or involved to exert undue influence. Furthermore, petitioner’s poor memory and testimony supported the finding that petitioner did not meet her burden to show why the transfers should be voided.

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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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