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.
Probate refers to the court supervised distribution of a deceased person’s assets
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.
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.
“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.
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.
What is an expungement?
- Having a past criminal conviction can negatively affect an individual’s ability to access housing, employment, or insurance coverage. An expungement is the practice of converting a criminal conviction or traffic citation into a nonpublic record. Setting aside, or expunging, a conviction does not completely erase the conviction in the eyes of the criminal justice system, but it will make it so that most entities will not be able to see the conviction when they run a criminal record check. This can make a huge difference to individuals who are trying to move on from their past mistakes.
What has changed with the Clean Slate legislation?
- On April 12, 2021, the bipartisan Clean Slate Bill went into effect. The legislation makes it easier for individuals to have certain felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic offenses removed from their record. The bill expanded the list of which offenses may be expunged, and adjusted the timeline for when an expungement may take place. This chart compares the prior expungement scheme with the new Clean Slate legislation.
How can I have my record expunged?
- The current changes apply to expungement through the petition process. That’s when someone applies for expungement and it is decided by a judge in the court where the conviction occurred. (The new legislation also provides for automatic expungement of certain offenses, but that provision does not go into effect until 2023.) Michigan Legal Help provides guidance on how to petition to have a past conviction expunged. Our office can also assist with this process and help individuals determine whether they are eligible for expungement. Hopefully this new legislation helps more Michiganders move on from past mistakes and build better lives!
Also known as an advanced directive, or patient advocate form, this document allows you to name someone you trust (your advocate) to make your medical decisions if you are rendered incapable of making your own. The document allows your advocate to both request and refuse treatment when invoked and can include a provision allowing your advocate to sign a “do not resuscitate order” or as it’s commonly known “pull the plug.”
Medical authorities will ask if you have an advance directive and honor your wishes if you do. By providing your doctor with a copy of your medical directive it can be added to your electronic medical records and thus made accessible to all medical personnel.
A medical directive is different from a will or power of attorney. A will states who receives your assets when you die. A power of attorney names the person, or persons, you trust to handle your financial affairs while you’re alive. When getting your “affairs in order” these are some of the legal documents that should be created.
Upon graduation from law school and after passing the bar, the last step to becoming a lawyer is the ‘swearing in ceremony’. One must be presented to a local judge by another attorney for the administering of this oath.
How you hold title to your home determines who inherits your interest upon death. You likely have not thought about this since purchasing your home. Here’s why it’s important to review your title work.
If you have ‘sole ownership‘ of the property, you need additional documentation stating who gets your interest in the property. This could be a will or what is called a ladybird deed.
If you and your spouse are on the title, it is called ‘Tenants by Entirety‘. Upon the death of a spouse, full ownership goes to the survivor. Are plans in place to convey the property’s interest upon the death of both parties?
If you and a third party hold title, it is typically as ‘Tenants in Common‘. Either partner can sell their interest at any time. If the selling partner has unknown financial or legal problems, it can result in liens on the property affecting the value of your interest or ability to sell it.
Too often we find life circumstances have changed making property titles outdated. An important part of any review of assets includes a closer look at how you hold title to your property.
An ounce of prevention can go a long way when it comes to real estate matters.