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Excel File Was Evidence of Advancement

Gregory Hall created a trust for his children. He also made gifts to his children prior to his death, including a $500,000 house to his son, Kenneth. Gregory’s trust provided that, following his death, the trust remainder would be divided equally among his three children. But Kenneth argued that the $500,000 should not be included as part of his share. His other siblings argued it was an advancement against his share.

Gregory created an Excel spreadsheet more than three weeks before he died which included a section entitled “distribution.” Among the distributions listed was the home to Kenneth. Ultimately, this was deemed sufficient evidence to show that the conveyance was intended as an advancement to Kenneth.

Much of this case concerns discovery abuse, which is less important than the lesson concerning trusts. The more important lesson here is this: Gregory failed to indicate in his trust how modifications could and should be made. That’s why an unsigned spreadsheet became evidence of a trust modification. Grantors should consider limiting trust modifications to those which are written and signed, and in some cases, should require one or more witnesses and a notary.


McGuire v. Hall (Mich. App. 2023)

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