In the cases released by the Michigan Court of Appeals this week, I find two cases that combined provide just enough meat for one juicy nut (aka, blog post). Both cases are unpublished.
Siddell and the Six Month SOL on Trusts
In Re Ralph A. Siddell Living Trust is a lengthy opinion involving a contorted set of facts that ultimately results in a rough justice outcome that the COA wisely decides not to disrupt. (Click on the name to read this decision.)
The only noteworthy takeaway I find in Siddell is that part of the opinion that holds that in order to trigger the six-month statute of limitations for contesting a trust, it is not necessary to give the potential contestant a copy of any prior versions of the trust or to otherwise notify them of how their interests were altered by the final version.
In this case, a trust restatement reduced Smith’s share of the trust. After the settlor died, Smith received a copy of this (the final) version of the trust along with notice per MCL 700.7604. Smith did not contest the trust within the six-month time period as allowed by the statute.
Later Smith learned that the prior version of the trust gave her a larger share. Smith sought to contest the trust, and lost on summary based on having failed to bring the action within the six-month time period allowed by the statute. In response, Smith argued that the statute of limitations imposed by MCL 700.7604 was not triggered in her case because, by only giving her the final version of the trust, and not notifying her that she would have received more under the prior version, she received something less than a “copy of relevant portions of the terms of the trust that describe or affect the person’s interest in the trust, if any” as set forth in MCL 700.7604(b)(iv).
Smith’s argument failed.
Weingard and the SCAO Form Requirement
Most of us know that when filing things in the probate court, you have to use an SCAO form when one is available. See MCL 600.855 and MCR 5.113(A).
In In Re Estate of Joel Solomon Weingard, the petitioner filed all sorts of pleadings for which there were SCAO forms available, and did not use the forms. When the trial court granted the relief requested, the Respondent (aka, aggrieved party) appealed for, among other reasons, the fact that the required forms were not used. (Click on the name to read this decision.)
In Weingard, the COA holds that while the trial court erred in allowing the pleadings to be filed in violation of the statute and court rule, because the information provided in the nonconforming pleadings more or less covered the same bases, it was harmless error, and therefore reversal was not justified.