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WILL/TRUST 27: Unsuitable Personal Representative

R executed a will that left the entirety of his estate to his son, C, who was a minor at the time. The will designated J to serve as the personal representative of the estate. After R’s death, C filed a petition for formal administration seeking, in relevant part, an order admitting R’s will to probate and appointing his mother, B, to serve as the personal representative of the estate.

Petition Hearing

At the hearing on C’s petition, his counsel presented several arguments regarding J’s unsuitability to serve as personal representative and B’ suitability. C’s counsel explained that R’s estate consisted solely of two pieces of real estate. Both parcels were residences and were encumbered by large loans that R had taken out shortly before he died. C had lived on one of the properties with R before his death, and C wished to continue living there. To do so, however, he would have to refinance the loans. B had already begun negotiating the refinancing of the loans with the bank, and she was willing to serve as personal representative without compensation.

Unsuitable Personal Representative

By contrast, J’s appointment as personal representative would create administrative fees that almost certainly would require the sale of at least one of the estate’s properties. J’s counsel argued that the probate court should honor R’s intent, as expressed in his will, and emphasized J’s priority of appointment under MCL 700.3203.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the probate court found J unsuitable and B suitable; and thus, it appointed B as personal representative of R’s estate.

Priority of Appointment

An individual designated as personal representative in a decedent’s will has priority of appointment unless he or she is disqualified or subject to a specified exception.

Formal Proceeding

J is correct that she would generally have priority under MCL 700.3203(1)(a) because in 2007, R designated her as personal representative in his will. She is incorrect, however, to the extent she argues that the probate court departed from the statute by considering her suitability for the appointment. An individual may be disqualified from serving as personal representative if a probate court finds that individual is unsuitable in formal proceedings.

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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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