Due to the COVID-19 virus many people and businesses will be unable to meet their financial or contractual obligations. As a consequence, we may soon hear the words force majeure. This legal term refers to a situation where living up to your obligations is impossible due to circumstances beyond your control.
In the commercial world, it is common to include force majeure language in contracts. This excuses a lack of performance, when it is impossible or commercially impractical to do so. The provision is typically invoked in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood or earthquake. COVID-19 is a natural disaster.
The question going forward is, will this disaster excuse us from our obligations, be it rent, a car payment, or mortgage obligation? These agreements do not typically include a force majeure provision. However, courts have equitable powers which allow them to impose a fairness standard. In light of the COVID-19 natural disaster, force majeure may become a viable defense in everyday contractual obligations.
Perhaps you’ve heard about PIP or noticed the acronym in the fine print of your auto insurance bill. Now it is very important that you understand how your Personal Insurance Protection works as Michigan’s auto insurance reforms go into effect this summer
Since 1973, all Michigan auto insurance policies had to include Personal Injury Protection which provided unlimited medical benefits for the lifetime of a person injured in an auto accident.
Over time, as health care costs and the frequency of lawsuits rose so did insurance rates. Today Michigan’s auto insurance premiums are the 4th highest in the nation. These high premiums forced 20% of Michigan drivers to go without insurance which placed even more stress on the insurance system. It is because of these challenges that lawmakers recently passed reforms to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance laws.
Auto insurance policies issued or renewed after July 1, 2020 for Michigan drivers will now offer six different options for Personal Injury Protection coverage. Your premium rate will reflect the specific coverage level you select. The more coverage, the higher your premium. Policyholders who do not make a selection will default to unlimited coverage.
When considering changes to your PIP coverage level, there’s more to think about than how much it costs. You will want to factor in your own personal risk tolerance and financial situation. What happens if you’re severely injured in an accident and your medical bills exceed your new coverage limit? Do you have enough health insurance to cover those bills? If you can’t work, do you have disability coverage? If you get sued for the accident, do you have savings or other assets that could be at risk?
This is a good time to review your policy and personal finances. Reach out to your agent for more detail and be prepared when the time comes to make the best PIP coverage choice for you.
Same day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting are the most notable changes to Michigan’s elections laws passed overwhelmingly by a statewide ballot initiative in 2018. The upcoming Presidential Primary on March 10, 2020 will give many voters their first chance to benefit from these changes.
Your absentee ballot needs to be requested no later than 5 p.m. Friday, March 6 if you want it mailed to you. You can also get one up until 4 p.m. on Monday, March 9 in person from your local clerk’s office
Make sure the signature on your return envelope matches your signature on file with the Secretary of State’s office. If someone helped you fill out your ballot, they must also sign the return envelope. The only people you can legally deliver your ballot to the clerk’s office are you, a family member, someone living in your household, a mail carrier or an election official. You can check that your ballot was received by contacting your clerk’s office.
Michigan voters can register to vote by mail on or before the 15th day before an election. It also allows voters to register on Election Day with proof of residency and a valid ID. If can find out if you’re registered to vote and see your ballot click here https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us
When voting in a presidential primary, you can only get a ballot for one political party. You do not need to be a registered Republican or Democrat to vote, but you do need to indicate in writing which party ballot you want for voting. Interesting side note, seven Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates who are no longer running will be on the ballot due to a state deadline late last year designating who would be on the ballot.
According to the U.S. Constitution, voting is a right and a privilege.
Elder Law was born out of need and has become a specialty arm of the legal profession. It’s origins date back to 1965 when the Older Americans Act (OAA) was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Congress declares that, in keeping with the traditional American concept of the inherent dignity of the individual in our democratic society, the older people of our Nation are entitled to…” – OAA Act of 1965
This was the first federal initiative to address and provide a wide range of services for senior citizens. Among those were legal services which ultimately created the practice of elder law.
The American Bar Association recognized the growing need for legal aid for seniors and formed its own Commission of Law andAging in 1978. As the years passed law schools took notice and in 1985, the Association of American Law Schools formed a section on aging and the law. Today law schools across the county offer elder law courses as part of the curriculum.
While most areas of the law focus on a specific discipline, elder law focuses on a specific type of person. The goal is to help aging Americans to legally navigate the issues of life that arise simply because of age.
‘To strengthen and secure the legal autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of elders’ –The American Bar Association
“Doug and I created our first estate plan when our daughter was born. We are opposites when it comes to finances; I’m a spender and he’s a saver. However, the one thing we always agree upon is having a blueprint for our finances and children.
As our family grew, so did our expenditures and assets. For us, it just made sense to then take some time and a little effort to put the measures in place to protect our children and assets.
Chuck’s office made our estate planning seamless and stress free from start to finish. After our first consultation, we were able to complete the paperwork via email and fax.
We’ve come to realize the people we talk with, in our age group, have not thought about guardianship for their children or estate planning. We feel relief and peace of mind having a plan in place and can’t thank Chuck and his staff enough for their professionalism and expertise!”
Life is busy for all of us, but you have to devote time to protect the ones you love.
Emily was 26 and her husband Doug, 31 when they started their estate planning. They have continued to work with our office to make changes as needed with a simple phone call, email or quick visit.
This is a will that is handwritten by the testator (the person creating the will) and is not witnessed. Michigan is one of several states that recognizes and accepts holographic wills. For a holographic will to be recognized it must meet the following requirements;
The holographic will must be dated The testator must sign the will The will must be in the testator’s handwriting The will addresses issues of guardianship, personal representatives and property distribution It must be evident that the document was intended to serve as the testator’s will.
A court will look at other documentation, some that is not handwritten by the testator to determine the validity of the will.
Forgery, contesting content and previously written wills make holographic wills ripe for contention. Due to the potential for uncertainty, one should be very careful in relying on a holographic will.
Think of a game plan or making travel plans. Both involve organizing the details for a big event. Coaches create strategies and organize a team. Travelers arrange transportation and make itineraries and packing lists.
Your estate plan details what will happen when you pass away. The plan spells out how your assets will be managed and distributed. Estate planning documents include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, deeds and beneficiary designations.
When we die or become incapacitated we want our assets administered as efficiently as possible. We want our belongings and assets in the right hands and we want to avoid extra expenses such as capital gains or estate taxes.
By using the correct combination and coordination of estate plan documents your hard earned assets go to your beneficiaries with a minimum of time and expense.
A fiduciary is a person appointed to manage the property of another person. A digital asset fiduciary can manage digital property like computer files, web domains and virtual currency.
Current law restricts fiduciary access to electronic communications such as email, text messages and social media accounts unless the original user consented in a will, trust or power of attorney.
Digital assets have value and need to be managed much like your property and possessions. Start by taking stock of your online universe. Create a digital asset inventory, including user ids, passwords and ‘secret questions’. Consider these digital accounts making the list;
File sharing and storage
Medical, insurance and utility websites
When you have completed your inventory, write down where you’ve stored the information and put that in your safe deposit box or store it in a secure location. Then consider adding the appropriate verbiage that names your digital asset fiduciary in your powers of attorney, will or trust.
Recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan as of November 2018. Yet many questions remain about usage. Here are a few answers.
Who can use marijuana? Under Michigan law, anyone 21 or older can use marijuana and travel with up to 2.5 oz. anywhere except on school property, a school bus or a correctional facility.
Where can I buy it? At this time you cannot legally purchase recreational marijuana. The state is still working on the structure of issuing licenses. Best guess is you will see recreational marijuana stores open by early 2020.
Where can I legally consume marijuana? By law, it is illegal to consume marijuana in a public space, punishable by a civil infraction.
What about drug testing? Michigan is an at-will employment state, so that means employees can be hired or fired because of marijuana use.
How does Federal law affect my use? Even though Michigan has legalized recreational marijuana, you are committing a Federal crime by possessing, buying or selling marijuana. Federal law treats marijuana as a controlled substance, just like cocaine or heroin. While you can be charged with a Federal crime for legal use of marijuana in Michigan, law enforcement agencies are generally reluctant to do so.
One claim of a good lawyer is they don’t let their clients end up in court. With proper planning that claim is often true. Let me remind you of a few legal housekeeping tips, that if ignored, might lead to bigger problems only solved by a trip to the courthouse.
Does your estate plan avoid probate?
Will your assets pass on to your beneficiaries?
Is your real estate titled properly?
Do you have a will?
Are you avoiding unnecessary estate taxes and fees?
How are you protected from personal or financial liability?
Have you named a power of attorney, should you become incapacitated?
Does your business have a buy/sell agreement?
If any of these issues are a concern, I suggest a consultation to review your circumstances. Proper planning is the secret to avoiding legal problems that the court might have to resolve for you.