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Court allows attorney the opportunity to prove that his family should inherit client's estate

In the Charlevoix Probate case arising out of the Estate of Robert Mardigian, the Court of Appeals majority reversed the trial judge and sent the action back to the Circuit Court for further proceedings.  The trial judge had previously ruled that an attorney, Mark S. Papazian, could not benefit from the will that he had drafted for Mr. Mardigian because he had violated the Michigan Canons of Ethics by naming himself and his family as the primary beneficiaries of the Estate.  Papazian appealed this decision.

Two of the three appellate judges concluded that Papazian, despite his breach of ethics, should be allowed to overcome the presumption of undue influence if he can do so, and thereby restore the majority of the estate to Papazian and his two children.  The family of Mr. Mardigian had argued that Papazian's acts of naming himself the Executor of the Estate and drafting a document that awarded the majority of the Estate to himself and his own family was a breach of ethics that should render the instrument void.  The dissenting appellate judge agreed with the decedent's family's argument and the trial judge's decision.

The majority concluded that "the proper remedy for the rule violation may be to follow the normal procedures intended to effectuate the grantor's intent, but to also view the devises to the drafting attorney and his family with suspicion..."

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