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Macomb Community College IRAC of Estate of Duane Francis Horton Paper

Macomb Community College

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The IRAC format is

Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion

Issue

In the IRAC method of legal analysis, the "issue" is simply a legal question that must be answered. An issue arises when the facts of a case present a legal ambiguity that must be resolved in a case, and legal researchers (whether paralegals, law students, lawyers, or judges) typically resolve the issue by consulting legal precedent (existing statutes, past cases, court rules, etc.). For example, suppose the law required that a lawsuit had to be filed within one year of an allegedly negligent act. If the 365th day falls on a Sunday, then the issue would be whether or not the law counts weekends as part of its computation of the one-year time limit. Would the plaintiff have to file by the preceding Friday? Would the law excuse the weekend and consider a Monday filing to be timely, even though that would technically be the 366th day? In order to answer the legal question (issue), one would move to the next letter in the IRAC acronym: "R" - which stands for Rule.

Rule

The Rule section of an IRAC follows the statement of the issue at hand. The rule section of an IRAC is the statement of the rules pertinent in deciding the issue stated. Rules in a common law jurisdiction derive from court case precedent and statute. The information included in the rules section depends heavily on the specificity of the question at hand. If the question states a specific jurisdiction then it is proper to include rules specific to that jurisdiction. Another distinction often made in the rule section is a clear delineation of rules that are in holding, and binding based on the authority of the hierarchy of the court, being ratio decidendi, and being the majority ruling, or simply persuasive. There are occasions when rules are adopted on the basis they are the only clearly articulated rules on the issue, in spite of being minority decisions, obiter dicta, and from lower courts, in other jurisdictions, which have never been contradicted.

The rules help make a correct legal analysis of the issue at hand using the facts of the case. The rules section needs to be a legal summary of all the rules used in the analysis and is often written in a manner which paraphrases or otherwise analytically condenses information into applicable rules.

Application[edit]

The Application (or Analysis) section of an IRAC applies the rules developed in the rules section to the specific facts of the issue at hand. This section uses only the rules stated in the rules section of the IRAC and usually utilizes all the rules stated including exceptions as is required by the analysis. It is important in this section to apply the rules to the facts of the case and explain or argue why a particular rule applies or does not apply in the case presented. The application/analysis section is the most important section of an IRAC because it develops the answer to the issue at hand. It is useful to think like a lawyer, arguing the facts of the matter from both sides while sticking to the rules before coming to a decision.

Conclusion[edit]

... or simply making it a close call and identifying whether it is decided by the tribunal of fact or is a matter of law to be decided by the judge. The Conclusion section of an IRAC directly answers the question presented in the issue section of the IRAC. It is important for the methodology of the IRAC that the conclusion section of the IRAC not introduce any new rules or analysis. This section restates the issue and provides the final answer. Conclusion is a vital process where the final calls are distributed upon the previous cases and are redefined by the judge.

Facts[edit]

The facts of a case are central to every step in the IRAC. It is from the facts that the issues are identified. It is the facts that lead to the identification of the most appropriate rules, and the rules which lead to the most useful way of construing the facts. Analysis requires the interpretation of facts and rules. The conclusion is a decision based on the application of the rules to the facts for each issue.



The attachment below is the case, all you have to do is the IRAC for format.

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STATE OF MICHIGAN COURT OF APPEALS In re ESTATE HORTON II. OF DUANE FRANCIS GUARDIANSHIP AND ALTERNATIVES, INC., Appellee, v FOR PUBLICATION July 17, 2018 9:20 a.m. No. 339737 Berrien Probate Court LC No. 2016-000202-DE LANORA JONES, Appellant. Advance Sheets Version Before: HOEKSTRA, P.J., and MURPHY and MARKEY, JJ. PER CURIAM. Will contestant Lanora Jones appeals as of right the order of the Berrien County Probate Court recognizing an electronic document as the valid will of her son, Duane Francis Horton II. Because the trial court did not err by concluding that Guardianship and Alternatives, Inc. (GAI) established by clear and convincing evidence that decedent intended his electronic note to constitute his will, we affirm. The decedent, Duane Francis Horton II, committed suicide in December 2015 at the age of 21. Before he committed suicide, decedent left an undated, handwritten journal entry. There is no dispute that the journal entry is in decedent’s handwriting. The journal entry stated: I am truly sorry about this . . . My final note, my farewell is on my phone. The app should be open. If not look on evernote, “Last Note[.]” The journal entry also provided an e-mail address and password for Evernote. The “farewell” or “last note” referred to in decedent’s journal entry was a typed document that existed only in electronic form. Decedent’s full name was typed at the end of the document. No portion of the document was in decedent’s handwriting. The document contained apologies and personal sentiments directed to specific individuals, religious comments, requests relating to his funeral arrangements, and many self-deprecating comments. The document also contained one full paragraph regarding the distribution of decedent’s property after his death: -1- Have my uncle go through my stuff, pick out the stuff that belonged to my dad and/or grandma, and take it. If there is something he doesn’t want, feel free to keep it and do with it what you will. My guns (aside from the shotgun that belonged to my dad) are your’s to do with what you will. Make sure my car goes to Jody if at all possible. If at all possible, make sure that my trust fund goes to my half-sister Shella, and only her. Not my mother. All of my other stuff is you’re do whatever you want with. I do ask that anything you well, you give 10% of the money to the church, 50% to my sister Shella, and the remaining 40% is your’s to do whatever you want with. In addition, in a paragraph addressed directly to decedent’s uncle, the note contained the following statement: “Anything that I have that belonged to either Dad, or Grandma, is your’s to claim and do whatever you want with. If there is anything that you don’t want, please make sure Shane and Kara McLean get it.” In a paragraph addressed to his half-sister, Shella, decedent also stated that “all” of his “money” was hers. During decedent’s lifetime, he was subject to a conservatorship, and GAI served as his court-appointed conservator. GAI filed a petition for probate and appointment of a personal representative, nominating itself to serve as the personal representative of decedent’s estate. GAI maintained that decedent’s electronic “farewell” note qualified as decedent’s will. Jones filed a competing petition for probate and appointment of a personal representative in which she nominated herself to serve as the personal representative of decedent’s estate. In that petition, Jones alleged that decedent died intestate and that she was decedent’s sole heir. After an evidentiary hearing involving testimony from several witnesses, the probate court concluded that GAI presented clear and convincing evidence that decedent’s electronic note was intended by decedent to constitute his will. Therefore, the probate court recognized the document as a valid will under MCL 700.2503. Jones now appeals as of right. On appeal, Jones argues that the probate court erred by recognizing decedent’s electronic note as a will under MCL 700.2503. Jones characterizes decedent’s note as an attempt to make a holographic will under MCL 700.2502(2), and Jones asserts that, while MCL 700.2503 allows a court to overlook minor, technical deficiencies in a will, it cannot be used to create a will when the document in question meets none of the requirements for a holographic will. Alternatively, as a factual matter, Jones argues that GAI failed to offer clear and convincing evidence that decedent intended the electronic note in this case to constitute his will as required by MCL 700.2503. We disagree. I. STANDARD OF REVIEW AND RULES OF STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION We review de novo the interpretation of statutes. In re Reisman Estate, 266 Mich App 522, 526; 702 NW2d 658 (2005). The interpretation of the language used in a will is also reviewed de novo as a question of law. In re Bem Estate, 247 Mich App 427, 433; 637 NW2d 506 (2001). “We review the probate court’s factual findings for clear error.” In re Koehler Estate, 314 Mich App 667, 673-674; 888 NW2d 432 (2016). “A finding is clearly erroneous when a reviewing court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made, even if there is evidence to support the finding.” Id. at 674 (quotation marks and citation omitted). -2- Regarding issues of statutory construction, our Supreme Court has explained: The paramount rule of statutory interpretation is that we are to effect the intent of the Legislature. To do so, we begin with the statute’s language. If the statute’s language is clear and unambiguous, we assume that the Legislature intended its plain meaning, and we enforce the statute as written. In reviewing the statute’s language, every word should be given meaning, and we should avoid a construction that would render any part of the statute surplusage or nugatory. [Wickens v Oakwood Healthcare Sys, 465 Mich 53, 60; 631 NW2d 686 (2001) (citations omitted).] II. ANALYSIS “The right to make a disposition of property by means of a will is entirely statutory.” In re Flury Estate, 218 Mich App 211, 215; 554 NW2d 39 (1996), mod on other grounds 456 Mich 869 (1997). The Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), MCL 700.1101 et seq., governs wills in Michigan. The provisions in EPIC must “be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes and policies,” MCL 700.1201, including to “discover and make effective a decedent’s intent in distribution of the decedent’s property,” MCL 700.1201(b). In a contested will case, the proponent of a will bears “the burden of establishing prima facie proof of due execution . . . .” MCL 700.3407(1)(b). Generally, to be valid, a will must be executed in compliance with MCL 700.2502, which provides: (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) and in sections 2503, 2506, and 2513, a will is valid only if it is all of the following: (a) In writing. (b) Signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction. (c) Signed by at least 2 individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after he or she witnessed either the signing of the will as described in subdivision (b) or the testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will. (2) A will that does not comply with subsection (1) is valid as a holographic will, whether or not witnessed, if it is dated, and if the testator’s signature and the document’s material portions are in the testator’s handwriting. (3) Intent that the document constitutes a testator’s will can be established by extrinsic evidence, including, for a holographic will, portions of the document that are not in the testator’s handwriting. As set forth in MCL 700.2502(1), there are specific formalities that are generally required to execute a valid will. However, as expressly stated in MCL 700.2502(1), there are several -3- exceptions to these formalities, including less formal holographic wills allowed under MCL 700.2502(2) and the exception created by MCL 700.2503. 1 MCL 700.2503 states: Although a document or writing added upon a document was not executed in compliance with section 2502, the document or writing is treated as if it had been executed in compliance with that section if the proponent of the document or writing establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document or writing to constitute any of the following: (a) The decedent’s will. (b) A partial or complete revocation of the decedent’s will. (c) An addition to or an alteration of the decedent’s will. (d) A partial or complete revival of the decedent’s formerly revoked will or of a formerly revoked portion of the decedent’s will. “The plain language of MCL 700.2503 establishes that it permits the probate of a will that does not meet the requirements of MCL 700.2502.” In re Attia Estate, 317 Mich App 705, 711; 895 NW2d 564 (2016). Indeed, other than requiring “a document or writing added upon a document,” there are no particular formalities necessary to create a valid will under MCL 700.2503. 2 Essentially, under MCL 700.2503, any document or writing can constitute a valid will provided that “the proponent of the document or writing establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document or writing to constitute” the decedent’s will. MCL 700.2503. In considering the decedent’s intent, “EPIC permits the admission of extrinsic evidence in order to determine whether the decedent intended a document to constitute his or her will.” In re Attia Estate, 317 Mich App at 709. See also MCL 700.2502(3). In this case, it is undisputed that decedent’s typed, electronic note, which was unwitnessed and undated, does not meet either the formal requirements for a will under MCL 700.2502(1) or the requirements of a holographic will under MCL 700.2502(2). Instead, the validity of the will in this case turns on the applicability of MCL 700.2503 and whether the trial court erred by concluding that GAI presented clear and convincing evidence that decedent intended the electronic document to constitute his will. To properly analyze this question, we 1 MCL 700.2502(1) also recognizes exceptions as set forth in MCL 700.2506 and MCL 700.2513. These provisions do not apply in this case. 2 That is not to say that formalities, or lack thereof, are irrelevant in a will contest involving MCL 700.2503. Formalities are considered indicative of intent. 1 Restatement Property, 3d, Wills and Other Donative Transfers, § 3.3, comment a. Consequently, an adherence to some formalities, or conversely the extent of the departure from formalities, can be considered when determining whether a document was intended to be a will. See Uniform Probate Code, § 2-503, comment (1997) (“The larger the departure from Section 2-502 formality, the harder it will be to satisfy the court that the instrument reflects the testator’s intent.”). -4- must first briefly address Jones’s characterization of decedent’s note as a failed holographic will. In particular, contrary to Jones’s attempt to conflate MCL 700.2503 and the holographic-will provision, MCL 700.2503 is an independent exception to the formalities required under MCL 700.2502(1), and MCL 700.2503 does not require a decedent to satisfy—or attempt to satisfy—any of the requirements for a holographic will under MCL 700.2502(2). 3 To require a testator to meet any specific formalities notwithstanding MCL 700.2503 “would render MCL 700.2503 inapplicable to the testamentary formalities in MCL 700.2502, which is contrary to the plain language of the statute.” In re Attia Estate, 317 Mich App at 711. Instead, under MCL 700.2503, while the proposed will must be a document or writing, there are no specific formalities required for execution of the document, and any document or writing can constitute a will, provided that the proponent of the will presents clear and convincing evidence to establish that the decedent intended the document to constitute his or her will. See MCL 700.2503(a). Turning to the facts of this case, we find no error in the probate court’s determination that decedent intended for the electronic document in question to constitute his will. See MCL 700.2503(a). In basic terms, “[a] will is said to be a declaration of a man’s mind as to the manner in which he would have his property or estate disposed of after his death.” Byrne v Hume, 84 Mich 185, 192; 47 NW 679 (1890). A will need not be written in a particular form or use any particular words; for example, a letter or other document, such as a deed, can constitute a will. See, e.g., In re Merritt’s Estate, 286 Mich 83, 89; 281 NW 546 (1938); In re Dowell’s Estate, 152 Mich 194, 196; 115 NW 972 (1908); In re High, 2 Doug 515, 521 (1847). However, in order for a document to be considered a will it must evince testamentary intent, meaning that it must operate to transfer property “only upon and by reason of the death of the maker . . . .” In re Boucher’s Estate, 329 Mich 569, 571; 46 NW2d 577 (1951). Moreover, the document must be final in nature; that is, “[m]ere drafts” or “a mere unexecuted intention to leave by will is of no effect.” In re Cosgrove’s Estate, 290 Mich 258, 262; 287 NW 456 (1939) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Ultimately, in deciding whether a person intends a document to constitute a will, the question is whether the person intended the document to govern the posthumous distribution of his or her property. See In re Fowle’s Estate, 292 Mich 500, 504; 290 NW 883 (1940). As noted, whether the decedent intended a document to constitute a will may be shown by extrinsic evidence. In re Attia Estate, 317 Mich App at 709; MCL 700.2502(3). 3 Jones argues on appeal that the holographic-will statute will be rendered meaningless if MCL 700.2503 can be used to circumvent the necessity of all requirements for a formal will under MCL 700.2502(1) as well as all requirements for a holographic will under MCL 700.2502(2). Contrary to this argument, the requirements for a holographic will under MCL 700.2502(2), like the more formal requirements for a will under MCL 700.2502(1), remain a viable—and perhaps more straightforward—means for expressing intent to create a will. See Restatement, § 3.3, comment a. MCL 700.2503 simply makes plain that other evidence clearly and convincingly demonstrating intent to adopt a will should not be ignored simply because the decedent failed to comply with formalities. See Restatement, § 3.3, comment b. -5- In this case, to determine whether decedent intended his farewell note to constitute a will, the probate court considered the contents of the electronic document 4 as well as extrinsic evidence relating to the circumstances surrounding decedent’s death and the discovery of his suicide note as described by witnesses at the evidentiary hearing. After detailing the evidence presented and assessing witness credibility, the probate court concluded that the evidence “was unrebutted that the deceased hand wrote a note directing the reader to his cell phone with specific instructions as to how to access a document he had written electronically in anticipation of his imminent death by his own hands.” 5 Regarding the language of the document itself, the probate court determined that the document unequivocally set forth decedent’s wishes regarding the disposition of his property. Finding that decedent clearly and unambiguously expressed his testamentary intent in the electronic document in anticipation of his impending death, the probate court concluded that decedent intended the electronic document to constitute his will. Reviewing the language of the document de novo, In re Bem Estate, 247 Mich App at 433, we agree with the trial court’s conclusion that the document expresses decedent’s testamentary intent. On the face of the document, it is apparent that the document was written with decedent’s death in mind; indeed, the document is clearly intended to be read after decedent’s death. The note contains apologies and explanations for his suicide, comments relating to decedent’s views on God and the afterlife, final farewells and advice to loved ones and friends, and it contains requests regarding his funeral. In what is clearly a final note to be read upon decedent’s death, the document then clearly dictates the distribution of his property after his death. Cf. In re High, 2 Doug at 517-519, 521 (finding that a letter offering parting words to family members, discussing 4 On appeal, Jones argues that the probate court erred when it accepted a copy of the purported will into evidence as opposed to requiring an original of the document. However, Jones waived this argument in the probate court by expressly stating that she had no objections to the admission of the copy of the document into evidence. See Landin v Healthsource Saginaw, Inc, 305 Mich App 519, 545; 854 NW2d 152 (2014). “A party who waives a right is precluded from seeking appellate review based on a denial of that right because waiver eliminates any error.” The Cadle Co v Kentwood, 285 Mich App 240, 255; 776 NW2d 145 (2009). Therefore, we decline to address this issue. 5 Jones argues that GAI did not present testimony that anyone saw decedent type the suicide note and that, because it was merely in electronic form, someone else could have typed or altered the suicide note. The probate court rejected Jones’s argument that the document had been written or altered by someone other than decedent as mere speculation without supporting evidence. Jones does not dispute that the handwritten journal entry was in decedent’s handwriting. That journal entry directed its finder to decedent’s cell phone. One of the individuals who found and read the electronic note on decedent’s cell phone identified the contents of the note at the hearing. She indicated that she “know[s]” what the notes “says” and that she would “[a]bsolutely” recognize if the note had been changed. The probate court expressly found this witness’s testimony to be credible. Deferring to the trial court’s assessment of credibility, In re Erickson Estate, 202 Mich App 329, 331; 508 NW2d 181 (1993), we conclude that the evidence shows that decedent wrote the electronic note and that it was not altered by anyone else. Contrary to Jones’s arguments, the probate court did not clearly err by concluding that the electronic note was written by decedent. -6- hopes for salvation, and disposing of property after death was a will); In re Fowle’s Estate, 292 Mich at 504 (concluding that an instrument disposing of property and making provision for burial was a will). Specifically, decedent was clear that he did not want his mother to receive the remains of the trust fund. Decedent stated that the money in his trust fund was for his half-sister and that he wanted his uncle to receive any of his personal belongings that came from his father and grandmother. He left his car to “Jody.” All of decedent’s “other stuff” was left to the couple with whom decedent had been living. 6 In short, the note is “distinctly testamentary in character,” In re Fowle’s Estate, 292 Mich at 503, and the document itself provides support for the conclusion that decedent intended for the note to constitute his will. 7 Extrinsic evidence may also be used to discern a decedent’s intent, In re Attia Estate, 317 Mich App at 709, and considering the evidence presented at the hearing, we see no clear error in the probate court’s findings of fact regarding the circumstances surrounding decedent’s death and decedent’s intent for the electronic note to constitute his will. In this regard, as detailed by th ...
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Surname 1
Name
Instructor
Course
Date

ISSUE

This case raises two questions
A) Did the probate court determination that the electronic document in question to be valid
will correct?
B) Do the language of the decedent note and its content be admissible as a holographic will
or otherwise?
RULE
Rule 1: MLC 700.2502 provides that
1. a will is only valid if
a) In writing
b) Signed or has testators name and in testators conscious present and by his or her
direction.
c) Signed by at least two individuals; the two individuals must sign within a reasonable
time before they witness the signing of the will
2. A will that does not comply with the above requirement is only valid as a holographic
will and if it is the date and the testator signature of the material in the document are part
of the testators' handwriting.
3. The intent of the document must be established by extrinsic evidence.

Surname 2
Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2502 (“MCL 700.2502 (1998), Act 386, Eff. Apr. 1, 2000 .”)
Rule 2. MLC. 700. 2503 provides the exception of rule MLC.700, 2502
The document or writing can be considered a valid will of the evidence is clear that the
decedent intended the document and writing in question to be a will, partial revocation of the
will, the addition of the will or the partial or complete revival of the formerly revoked will or
portion of the will.
Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2503 (“MCL 700.25031998, Act 386, Eff. Apr. 1, 2000 .”)
Application
In this case, it is evident that the decedent typed the electronic note, however, the note was
undated unsigned and did not meet any of the formal requirements that validate a will as
provided under MLC 700.2502. The rule provides that for a will to qualify as valid, it must be in
writing, signed, dated and the decedent has to have a clear intention of the evermore document to
be his will. Jones claims that the document did not meet any of the MLC 700.2502 requirement
thus is an attempt to create a holographic will and harmless err cannot be used to validate the will
where none of the requirements meets the holographic will.
The appellant argues that anyone could have altered the Evernote document, however,
such claims have to be substantiated with evidence. No evidence was found to determine that
the note document was changed by someone other than the decedent. The formality of the MLC
700. 2503 indicates t...

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