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A Better Partnership


Feb 2020
February 25, 2020

Probate Litigation - Winter 2020

Trial Attorneys | Inheritance Disputes | Elder Law Issues

What We Do

We handle all issues relating to inheritance disputes and vulnerable people:
  • Charitable gift disputes
  • Trust disputes
  • Will disputes
  • Power of attorney disputes
  • Life insurance disputes
  • Joint account disputes
  • Sibling disputes
  • Blended family disputes
  • Guardianship disputes
  • Conservatorship disputes
  • Trust/estate creditor issues
  • Seeking to remove a trustee or executor
  • Getting more information from a trustee or executor
  • Defending a trustee or executor
  • Protecting an elderly person from financial abuse
  • Obtaining judgments against a person who took advantage of an elderly person
  • Challenges to a will or trust’s validity
  • Challenges to a property transfer’s validity
  • Forgery issues
  • Claims of mental incapacity
  • Claims of undue influence
  • Appointment of guardians (adult and children)
  • Appointment of conservators (adult and children)
  • Seeking to remove a guardian or conservator
  • Modifying an existing guardianship or conservatorship
  • Modifying a trust
  • Obtaining court clarification of a trust’s terms
  • Memorializing a family agreement

Big Wins

Laura—Appellate Win & Charitable Gift Law 

Laura filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan (U of M) on behalf of a trust that distributed 3.5 million dollars to U of M to fund a specific type of professorship. In the complaint, the trust alleged U of M did not use the funds for the promised professorship. The probate court dismissed the complaint, contended the trust did not have standing to sue U of M. On appeal, the Court of Appeals recently unanimously reversed, holding the trustee could pursue a lawsuit against U of M for misuse of the funds. Laura looks forward to vigorously advocating on behalf of the trust back at the probate court to ensure U of M is required to use the millions in funds as promised. The Court of Appeals case is particularly important because it is published, and so, creates new law in Michigan on who can challenge the misuse of a charitable gift made to a nonprofit or university.  

David—$310,000 Recovered in Undue Influence Case 

David represented “Anna” (names changed for client’s privacy) in an undue influence case. Anna’s brother, “Bob,” named her as joint owner of his bank account for many years. During his last illness, Bob needed help paying his bills. Another sister, “Connie,” told Bob that in order for her to help him, he needed to open a new bank account with her and another brother, “Dale,” as joint owners. Bob followed Connie’s instructions and moved $310,000 from the original account to the new account, then died. David represented Anna in her lawsuit against Connie and Dale. David prepared Anna’s summary disposition motion, arguing that there was no factual dispute and that Bob’s new account was invalid due to undue influence. The Ionia County Probate Court agreed that Anna had established a presumption of undue influence (based on fiduciary relationship, opportunity to influence and benefit to influencer), which Connie and Dale had failed to rebut. The Probate Court ruled for Anna without the need for a trial and ordered Connie and Dale to pay $310,000 to Anna.

Community Involvement

Probate Council 

David was elected Vice-Chair of the Probate and Estate Planning Council, the governing body of the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the Michigan State Bar committed to improving the practice of law in this area.

Probate Institute

David gave the fiduciary litigation case law update at ICLE’s 2019 Probate Institute in both Acme and Plymouth, and he is scheduled to give this update in 2020 as well.

GRCF Scholarship

Each year, Warner sponsors an annual Diversity Law Scholarship Program that awards $5,000 to a law school student, $2,000 to a paralegal student and $1,000 to a legal secretarial student. The winner is selected by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Laura will represent Warner as part of the 2020 selection committee. 

Family Promise of Grand Rapids

Laura is a board member of Family Promise of Grand Rapids, a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and affordable housing or families. Laura is a lead on the committee planning the annual Dreams Dinner (to be held on March 12, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. at the Goei Center). This event raises critical funds for local families in need.

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