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A Better Partnership
April 25, 2015

MSC to determine where remaining funds donated to help ailing man should go

What happens to funds donated by third party donors to defray a private citizen’s unexpected medical expenses if money remains after the beneficiary dies? That is the question the Michigan Supreme Court will decide in In re Filibeck, No. 149671.
Filibeck was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. The defendant, his daughter, organized a campaign to raise money to pay for his medical expenses. The funds from the campaign were deposited into an account in the daughter’s name. Before Filibeck passed away, he allegedly stated that the funds should be divided equally between his two daughters. Filibeck died intestate and his wife claimed that the money belonged to the estate and should be used solely to pay outstanding medical bills. The probate court imposed a constructive trust on the funds in favor of the estate and the Court of Appeals affirmed (see previous coverage here) concluding that because the funds were donated to alleviate the decedent of his medical expenses, they should be used to effectuate that purpose.
The Supreme Court will consider several issues: 
(1) whether a constructive trust was properly imposed where the daughter raised funds from third party donors to defray a relative’s unexpected medical expenses for a life threatening condition, and those funds were placed in a credit union account in the daughter’s own name, which she later withdrew for her personal benefit before her father’s death;
(2) whether the decedent-beneficiary of the donated funds made a valid inter vivos or causa mortis gift of the funds to his daughter, including delivery of the funds to the daughter; and
(3) if there was no such valid gift, whether the trial court erred in concluding that the remaining balance of donated funds must be paid to the decedent-beneficiary’s estate, citing Matter of Gonzalez, 262 NJ Super 456, 460-463; 621 A 2d 94 (Ch Div 1992) (holding that the remaining balance be paid back to the third party donors on a pro rata basis).

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