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 , |

New Michigan Legislation Allows Expungement of First-Offense OWI

What Has Changed with the New Law?
● First-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI) convictions are now eligible for expungement. Expungement is a process that allows prior convictions to be removed from an individual’s public record. Expunging a prior conviction can mitigate negative consequences of an OWI such as increased insurance costs and loss of employment opportunities. The new law goes into effect on February 19, 2022, at which point those with a prior conviction may petition to have their offenses expunged.

Who Is Eligible?

● The amended law, MCL 780.621(d), allows those with a first-offense OWI to have that conviction expunged. Those with a previous OWI conviction will not be eligible. An OWI that causes death or serious impairment of a body function of another person will not be eligible for expungement regardless of the offender’s prior record. A person becomes eligible to expunge their first-offense OWI when 5 years have passed since either: (a) their conviction for that offense, or (b) the completion of any sentence handed out for that conviction, whichever comes later.

How Can I Have My First-Offense OWI Expunged?

● The new law requires that any eligible individual must apply to have their conviction expunged under MCL 780.621 and .621d. The offenses will not be eligible for automatic expungement. A court reviewing an application for expungement will not be bound by prior court records, such as at the previous sentencing, and may consider whether the petitioner has participated in rehabilitative or education programs. Our office can help guide you or someone you know through the application and expungement process once it becomes available in February 2022.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , |

New Clean Slate Legislation Expands Expungement of Criminal Records

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!
Posted in Criminal Records, Legal, Personal Protection | Tagged , , |

What is a medical directive?

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.

Posted in Estate Planning |

A Lawyer’s Oath

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.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm):

I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan;

I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;

I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;

I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;

I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client, and will accept no compensation in connection with my client’s business except with my client’s knowledge and approval;

I will abstain from all offensive personality, and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;

I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any cause for lucre or malice;

I will in all other respects conduct myself personally and professionally in conformity with the high standards of conduct imposed upon members of the bar as conditions for the privilege to practice law in this State.

Michigan State Bar Lawyer’s Oath

Posted in Michigan State Bar |

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 |

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