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152655 - In re Mardigian Estate

In re Mardigian Estate
Mark S. Papazian, Executor for the Estate of Robert Douglas Mardigian,
Rodger D. Young
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals) (Charlevoix PC – Mulhauser, F.)
Melissa Goldberg, Susan V. Lucken, Nancy Varbedian, Edward Mardigian, Grant Mardigian, and Matthew Mardigian,  
 Paul D. Hudson
Joseph A. Ahern
Marc E. Thomas
JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA,


Appellee Mark Papazian, a lawyer, prepared the will and trust documents that left the bulk of decedent Robert D. Mardigian’s estate to Papazian and his children. Appellants are the decedent’s relatives, who challenged the will and trust. The probate court granted summary disposition to appellants, finding that the testamentary documents drafted by appellee that benefitted appellee and his children violated the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 1.8(c) and would not be enforced. Appellee appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed in a split published opinion. The majority applied In re Powers Estate, 375 Mich 150 (1965), holding that the drafter of a will or trust is not disqualified from inheriting under the instrument, but there is a presumption of undue influence. The majority remanded the case to the probate court for further proceedings under that standard. The dissent would have affirmed on the basis that In re Powers has been superseded by MRPC 1.8(c), which expressly prohibits a lawyer from preparing an instrument for a client that gives the lawyer or an immediate relative of the lawyer any substantial testamentary gift. Appellants sought leave to appeal in this Court. Following oral argument on the application for leave to appeal, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the rebuttable presumption of undue influence set forth in In re Powers, when used as a means to determine the testator’s intent, is a workable rule that sufficiently protects the testator when the testator’s lawyer violates MRPC 1.8(c); (2) whether this Court’s adoption of MRPC 1.8(c) warrants overruling In re Powers; and (3) if In re Powers is overruled, whether a violation of MRPC 1.8(c) should bear on the validity of the gift provided to the testator’s lawyer under the testamentary instrument; and if so, how?