Unclaimed Property   Is it yours?

Forgotten assets like dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, valuables left in safe deposit boxes or unclaimed stock certificates are turned over to the state as required by law.

The Michigan Department of Treasury is the custodian of these assets and reunites them with their owners — or the owners’ heirs — when they are rightfully claimed.

Might you have a forgotten asset?  Nationwide it is estimated that nearly 1 in every 10 people have a rightful claim to a forgotten asset.  To find out go to Michigan’s Unclaimed Property website.

Individuals are encouraged to search their name, or a maiden name. The search is free. Businesses, corporations, nonprofits, public entities, and other organizations are also encouraged to use the site. Instructions on how to prepare and submit a request are provided.

Michigan’s treasury department reports returning more than $500 million in property claims in the last five years. New unclaimed properties are turned into the state every day, so even if you’ve searched in the past you may want to go treasure hunting again.

Posted in Unclaimed Property | Tagged , |

Essential Legal Documents for Young Adults

Once your child turns 18, they become a legal adult. As a parent you can no longer make medical, legal or financial decisions for them. A few simple legal documents will allow you to help your child in an emergency if needed.

Healthcare proxy
The proxy grants you legal authority to make healthcare decision on behalf of your child should they become incapacitated or unable to make their own decisions.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney
If needed, this would grant you the legal authority to manage your child’s financial affairs, such as paying rent, tuition or applying for loans.

FERPA Waiver
Parents of college students are not privy to academic reports, financial aid accounts or disciplinary records. To gain access your student needs to sign a FERPA waiver which can typically be done online.

Universal HIPAA Release Form
This gives written permission to legally access your child’s medical records. This form is not limited to a single provider. 
Posted in Beneficiary Designations, Legal, Personal Protection | Tagged |

Michigan’s New Distracted Driving Law

Make note, the new distracted driving law is being enforced as of June 30, 2023. Violation of the new law can be ‘the primary or sole reason’ for a police officer to stop and issue you a citation.

The new law states it is illegal to use a hand-held cell phone or mobile electronic device to text, talk, watch videos, or go on social media while driving.

There is a hands-free exception. Phones or mobile electronic devices placed in a mount or used in hands-free or voice-operated mode may be used by drivers while driving.

Penalties for violation of the law include: a fine of $100-$250, 16-24 hours of community service, points on your driving record for repeat offenders, driving school for 3 or more violations in a 3-year period.

Teen drivers should take note. Michigan’s Kelsey’s Law, written in 2013, prohibits teen drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 graduated license from using a cell phone while driving-regardless of whether it hand-held or voice-operated.

Michigan becomes one of 32 states to enforce distracted driving laws. Something to keep in mind while traveling.

To learn more: https://www.michigan.gov/msp/divisions/ohsp/distracted-driving

Posted in Auto Insurance, Legal, Michigan Law | Tagged , |

Michigan’s Clean Slate Law: Automatic Criminal Expungement

Michigan’s Clean Slate legislation allows individuals to have prior convictions set aside.  A process to automatically set aside certain convictions is included in the legislation. The Michigan State Police will now search the Criminal History Record database daily. The new procedure started April 11, 2023.  Eligible convictions will be automatically set aside and every court in the state will be notified on a daily basis.

The criteria for automatic expungement is as follows:

  • Misdemeanors punishable by less than 92 days and imprisonment after 7 years
  • Misdemeanors punishable by 93 days or more and imprisonment after 7 years
  • Felonies after 10 years

Safe & Justice Michigan, a nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group, recommends running a $10 criminal background check on yourself through the Michigan State Police’s ICHAT service.

Assaultive crimes, serious misdemeanors, and offenses punishable by 10 or more years in prison are not eligible for automatic expungement.

Find more information at https://www.michigan.gov/msp/services/chr/conviction-set-aside-public-information/michigan-clean-slate

Posted in Criminal Records |

Bankruptcy: How it Works

Bankruptcy is a federal court process designed to help you either eliminate your debts or begin to repay them under court supervision. Declaring bankruptcy provides an opportunity to get a fresh financial start when you are struggling with an overwhelming amount of bills.

The most common type of personal bankruptcy is called Chapter 7 and the process can take 4-6 months to complete. The first step is to file a petition for bankruptcy. Once creditors are made aware that you have filed, they must immediately cease all collection efforts. The courts will mail them a notice of your petition. You can also contact your creditors directly and provide them with your case number.

A month or more after filing your bankruptcy petition you are required to attend a Federal Court hearing. Unless a creditor or a United States Trustee objects, you will only make one court appearance. These appearances can now be done by Zoom.

A bankruptcy will be listed on your credit report and there are costs to file. The ability to get credit again soon is limited but generally, within two years your credit score can improve dramatically.

Filing for personal bankruptcy can be a difficult decision to make, but it can be the right one for people struggling with burdensome debt. 

Posted in Bankruptcy |

What is probate?

Probate refers to the court supervised distribution of a deceased person’s assets
as described in their will. The probate process starts with a Petition to the Court asking for validation of the will and the naming of a personal representative or executor. The court then issues Letters of Authority for the personal representative giving them legal standing to do the following:

1. Prepare an inventory of the assets
2. Pay all debts and close accounts
3. Prepare and file tax returns for the deceased
4. Provide an accounting to the beneficiaries and the court
5. Distribute the assets as directed in the will

This is a general overview of the requirements to probate an estate. The process can be completed as quickly as 4 months but, in some cases, may take longer. The selling of assets, such as a home, boats or cars may slow the process down. A lack of documentation is another reason probate may take longer.

Proper planning is essential to make the process go smoothly. If you have questions about the probate process please contact our office.

Posted in Estate Planning | Tagged , , , |

What are your riparian property rights?

Riparian is an adjective that describes all things related to riverbanks or shorelines

Property owners who own land that includes the shoreline of a river or lake have riparian property rights.

Property owners with riparian rights may:
• Access the water from their property
• Install a dock from the shore of their property

It’s important to note there are limitations to those riparian rights. Court rulings make clear that riparian property owners may not encroach on another’s property or infringe on others use of the lake.

Riparian property owners may not:
• Install a dock that interferes with the riparian rights of neighboring property owners
• Restrict the use of the lake or stream by members of the public
• Construct a seawall without a DEQ permit
• Alter or modify their riparian shoreline or remove aquatic plants without a DEQ permit

Lake/river access and use can become contentious when property owners are not clear about their riparian rights. Those considering purchasing waterfront property are advised to become familiar with the riparian property rights.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Revoking Your Power of Attorney

After you make a power of attorney, you can revoke it at any time. There are a variety of situations that would require you to do so. For example, the person named in your power of attorney is no longer able to serve. Your name has changed because of marriage or divorce.  You lost the document or have moved to another state.

There are two ways to revoke your power of attorney.  Prepare and sign a document called Notice of Revocation or destroy all existing copies of the document. The first method is preferable, because it creates proof that you really revoked the power of attorney.

The next step is to notify the former attorney-in-fact and all the institutions and people who have dealt or might deal with the former attorney-in-fact. This might include places like banks, Social Security offices, insurance companies and pension fund administrators.

In summary, once you create a power of attorney, the legal burden is on you to be sure everyone knows you have revoked it.

Posted in Estate Planning, Legal, Personal Protection |

Digital tools modernizing civil courts

“The pandemic was not the disruption courts wanted, but it is the disruption the courts needed.”      –National Conference of Chief Justices and State Court Administrators

The outbreak of COVID-19  forced all of us to change our habits, the legal community included. In order to administer justice and advocate for clients remotely, Zoom court hearings and electronic court filings were allowed during the public health emergency. 

Once in place the legal community quickly realized the benefits of these digital tools. The costs of coming to court, i.e., transportation, childcare, lost wages and travel time were no longer a burden to clients. Attorneys benefitted from reduced travel time and long waits in court. Judges saw increased participation and were able to efficiently move through their dockets. The proven success of these digital tools makes them poised to be permanent fixtures of the legal system and this will be another step forward in modernizing our civil courts.

Posted in Digital tools, Legal |

What is title work?

When buying or selling real property, you’ll hear references to title work. This refers to the research undertaken to ensure a property’s title is marketable.

The word marketable, in this case, means no one else has a claim to the property, either by ownership or by a lien put on for unpaid taxes or mortgage payments.  Title work is prepared to ensure the title is marketable.

In a typical real estate transaction, the seller pays a title company to prepare the title work. The title company then prepares an Owner’s Title commitment which is provided to both the seller and purchaser. The parties must then fulfill all requirements before closing the transaction.  When it is determined that the title is marketable, a deed is prepared; this is a legal document that conveys a person’s ownership of the property. The deed is the most important document in a real estate transaction.

After the closing an Owner’s Title Policy is issued to the Purchaser, this policy guarantee’s the title. Furthermore, if any unknown circumstances arise, the title company will be responsible to resolve the issue.  Therefore, research, or title work is done to ensure the transfer of the property from one person to another is without issue.

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , |

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