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Wills and Trusts

Originally posted on: 02/14/2014

A will and trust document is front and center with legal notes beside it.Aldrich Legal Service provides legal advice and representation for residents in Plymouth, Ann Arbor, and Southeast Michigan. We also review recent legal cases to examine what took place and what we can learn from them.

Keep reading to review a case with us on wills and trusts

The Will and Trust Case in General

The Michigan Court of Appeals held, among other things, that the respondent-Trustee breached his fiduciary duties by failing to administer the RS Trust and the DS Trust in accordance with their terms when he conditioned distribution to some beneficiaries on the signing of a release and indemnification in his favor "because neither trust provided for such conditions on distributions." It also held that the probate court clearly erred in finding that some of the breaches of fiduciary duties alleged by the petitioners-beneficiaries did not cause them harm.

Exploring the Opinions of the Case

Thus, the court reversed part B of the probate court's opinion and directed the probate court on remand to determine the appropriate remedy for these breaches pursuant to MCL 700.7901 and MCL 700.7902.

The case involved three trusts. Petitioners filed a petition to remove the trustee, for surcharge of the trustee, trust supervision, and appointment of a successor trustee, alleging that respondent breached various fiduciary duties owed to petitioners that resulted in damages.

On appeal, petitioners argued that respondent breached various fiduciary duties, and the probate court clearly erred in concluding that the only breach of a fiduciary duty that occurred was when respondent attempted to sell a parcel of property known as the River Property. "Nowhere in the probate court's opinion and order did the court find that only one breach of fiduciary duties occurred."

The Probate Court's Findings

The probate court found that respondent breached his fiduciary duties when he listed the River Property for sale, and it discussed other alleged breaches - "respondent moving $60,000 out of and back into the trusts' bank account and a mistaken deposit of $9,000 into the trusts' account - and concluded that petitioners and the trusts were not harmed by these incidences."

The probate court took into consideration other alleged breaches of fiduciary duties, and nothing from the language of the order suggested that it concluded there were no other breaches. Rather, it found, "both explicitly and implicitly, that there were no other breaches of fiduciary duties that harmed petitioners and warranted a remedy from the court." However, the court concluded that the respondent breached his fiduciary duty to keep petitioners reasonably informed about the administration of the trust in regard to his intent to begin collecting trustee compensation, and given that the probate court awarded him trustee fees, petitioners were harmed by this breach.

Further, because additional breaches of fiduciary duties existed that were not found by the probate court, the court held that the probate court clearly erred in finding that petitioners' action, aside from the River Property issue, was frivolous. Thus, the court vacated the $59,398 sanction against one of the petitioners. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

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This is just one of the many cases we have reviewed for you. If you need legal representation for criminal defense, divorce, or many other legal needs, consider Aldrich Legal Services. Give us a call today to chat through your situation.

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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