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Non-lawyer Personal Representative's fiduciary duty does not extend to accurately explaining the law to Interested Person

Step-siblings Julie Ann Schaffer and James Patrick Moore became embroiled in a dispute over their father's Estate.  In short, the father had mortgaged a home where Moore lived, and then deeded a survivorship interest in the home to Moore.  When Dad died, Schaffer, a non-lawyer, was made the Personal Representative of the Estate.  She (incorrectly) told Moore that he was obligated to pay the mortgage on the home, even though he had not signed the mortgage or promissory note.  When he fell into arrears and lost the home, he sued Schaffer for not accurately explaining his rights to the property and the Estate's duty to pay the mortgage debt. 

The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that Schaffer had not committed a fraud on Moore and that the statute of limitations had expired on his claim.  The Court also upheld an award of sanctions against Moore and his attorney.  It explained that since Moore knew all of the operative facts and also knew that Schaffer was not a lawyer, he could not argue that he had been defrauded by her mistaken judgment about whether the Estate should pay the mortgage debt.  Not knowing of her error, it could not be said that Schaffer had knowingly concealed it, such that the statute of limitations would be tolled.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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