How is your home titled?

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Too often we find life circumstances have changed making property titles outdated.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. 

Posted in Beneficiary Designations, Real Estate | Tagged , |

Age Related Legal Needs

Every client’s legal needs are personal and unique. Yet over time we see predictable trends based on a person’s age.  Here are some of the common legal matters we handle listed by age.

Ages 18-34

Home or condo purchase agreements, title work, land contracts, landlord negotiations, credit card debt and debt collection defense, bankruptcy, employment contracts.

Ages 35-50

Refinancing, will preparation and estate planning, foreclosure, business law matters, business incorporation, creating LLC’s, a business sale or consolidation, adoption

Ages 51-69

Tax audits, property sale, identity theft, Elder Law issues, powers of attorney, living wills, Medicaid questions, amendments to existing estate plan documents

Age 70+

Property sale, nursing home/assisted living agreements, leases, deeds, IRA distribution consultation, estate planning, medical powers of attorney

No matter your age or legal issue, it is always best to plan ahead and be prepared.

Posted in Bankruptcy, Business, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Identity Theft, Limited Liability Companies, Real Estate |

Michigan Boater Safety Laws

Boating on any of Lenawee County’s 52 lakes is a great way to recreate. Before you get onboard here’s a few things you should know about boater safety.

Those less than 12 years of age:

  • May operate a boat with a 6 hp engine without restrictions
  • May operate a boat with up to a 35 hp engine if they have a boater safety certificate and are supervised by a person 16 year of age or older
  • May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp under any conditions

Those born on or after July 1, 1996 may legally operate a boat only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board.

Those born before July 1, 1996 may legally operate a boat without restrictions.

Personal Watercraft Regulations

Anyone less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a personal watercraft

(PWC) also known as a jet ski or wave runner.

Those 14 and 15 years of age may legally operate a PWC if they have obtained a boater safety certificate and are riding with or alongside a parent.

Those who are at least 16 years of age and/or born after December 31, 1978 may legally operate a PWC if they have a boater safety certificate.

Those born before December 31, 1978 may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.

You can get take a Michigan boating safety class online at www.boatED.com  When you pass the final exam you’ll be able to print out your boater safety certificate. 

Posted in Boater Safety, Personal Protection |

Force Majeure

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 majeureThis 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.

Posted in Business, Personal Protection | Tagged , , |

Michigan’s PIP – Your Personal Insurance Protection

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.

Posted in Auto Insurance, Personal Protection | Tagged |

Michigan’s New Election Laws: What you need to know

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.

Any eligible voter can vote with an absentee ballot and vote before election day. Visit your local clerk’s office or download the form to request the absentee ballot

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. Constitutionvoting is a right and a privilege.

Posted in Election Law | Tagged , |

How Elder Law Became a Practice

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Older Americans Act

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 and Aging 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

Posted in Elder Law, Estate Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , |

Emily’s Story

“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. 

Posted in Estate Planning | Tagged |

What is a holographic will?

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.

Posted in Beneficiary Designations, Estate Planning | Tagged |

What is an Estate Plan?

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. 

Posted in Estate Planning | Tagged , |

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