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158408 - In re Robert E Whitton Revocable Trust

In re Robert E. Whitton Revocable Trust

 

 

_____________________________

 

 

 

Molly Michaluk,

 

Robert Zawideh

 

Petitioner-Appellant,

 

v

(Appeal From Ct of Appeals)

(Oakland PC – Hallmark,L.)

 

Eddie Whitton and Richard Whitton, Successor Trustees of the Robert E. Whitton Revocable Trust,

 

Michael Latiff

 

Respondents-Appellees.

 

Summary

Petitioner is a beneficiary of her deceased father’s trust. The trust contains an in terrorem clause providing that any beneficiary who contests the trust forfeits his or her interest under the trust, unless probable cause for the challenge exists. Petitioner sought a declaratory ruling on whether an action to modify the trust, to give her a greater share of the trust assets, would violate the in terrorem clause, and if so, whether she has probable cause. The probate court denied the petition, ruling that the proposed action would violate the in terrorem clause and would not be supported by probable cause. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the petition on the basis that any challenge to the trust was purely hypothetical and therefore the case was not ripe for judicial resolution. The court held that McLeod v McLeod, 365 Mich 25 (1961), was dispositive, and it vacated the probate court’s ruling on the probable cause issue. The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on petitioner’s application for leave to appeal to address whether the Oakland Probate Court had jurisdiction to entertain the request for declaratory relief in light of McLeod. ​