Richland Animal Rescue Forever

By Doug Chalgian on March 30, 2024

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Mega-wealthy business person dies leaving a Trust that primarily benefits a charity: the Richland Animal Rescue.

If you don’t know, Richland is a tiny town north of Kalamazoo.  I know, because I happen to have family in that area.

Anyhow, the issues in these three consolidated cases on appeal have to do with the authority of a Michigan probate court to hear and decide matters after the situs of the trust has been moved to another state – in this case Illinois.

After relocating the Trust situs to Illinois, the Trustee resigns.  The Michigan probate court that had been handling extensive litigation involving this Trust prior to its relocation to Illinois, entertains various petitions and in doing so appoints a professional fiduciary as Trustee, rather than the person nominated in the Trust instrument to serve as the successor.    That nominated successor appeals based on the grounds that (1) the Michigan court lacked jurisdiction and (2) even if the Michigan court had jurisdiction, it was improper to bypass a named successor trustee without an evidentiary hearing.

In In Re Michael Eyde Trust the Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s orders.   Click on the name to read the case.  The case is unpublished.

The COA says that facts of this case fall within the broad scope of MCL 700.7205(1)(b) which allows a Michigan Court to decide issues related to a “foreign” trust if it correctly concludes that a failure to so do would result in the “interests of justice” being “seriously impaired.”  Here, the COA agrees with the Trial Court’s conclusion that, with all of the property and all of the beneficiaries situated in Michigan, having to litigate these matters in Illinois would result in just such an impairment of justice.

With respect to the trial court’s sua sponte decision to bypass the nominated successor trustee, the COA notes that the appointment of the professional fiduciary was temporary pending a full hearing, and that pursuant to MCL 700.7901(2)(e) a trial court may remove a fiduciary based on an anticipated breach.   Here, the COA notes that the trial court had been enmeshed in the matters leading up to these hearings for an extended period, and in that context had a been sufficiently educated to have formed a reasonable basis to expect that the appointment of the complaining bypassed successor trustee would only lead to further mischief.

Hence, the Trial Court’s orders are affirmed.



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mm By: Doug Chalgian
Doug Chalgian

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