FAQ's

What is difference between a Will and a Trust?

-A Will clarifies where you would like assets to go upon death, who you would like appointed as the guardian/conservator for any minor children and a few other basic estate planning needs. The Will itself does not help convey title to assets from the estate to the beneficiaries and without a trust could result in a probate case. A Trust is a legal entity that can hold title to assets and is used as the actual beneficiary of assets upon death in order to avoid probate court and possibly hold/manage assets after death for the support of a beneficiary. They are very different tools used within estate planning.

When is a party in a lawsuit entitled to attorney fees from the other side?

-Michigan adheres to the American rule which states that a prevailing party in a lawsuit can be awarded actual attorney fees if there is a contract between the parties that sets that out or if there is a direct statute on point. Examples of Michigan statutes that award attorney fees are lemon law for new vehicles; eminent domain where private property is being taken by a municipality; conversion where someone takes property from another and converts it to their own use; consumer protection act where businesses engage in deceptive practices towards consumers. Without an express contract or direct Michigan statute a party to a lawsuit, even if they win, cannot be awarded actual attorney fees.

What is a ladybird deed?

-It is a type of deed where title is transferred from someone back to themselves while reserving an unrestricted life estate. This means that as long as the owner is alive they can do whatever they want with the property but then upon their death title to the property automatically transfers to the named beneficiary, which for estate planning purposes would be the owner’s Trust that was created for them.

What is the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?

-A contested divorce is where the parties are unable to come to an agreement on the issues in the divorce. If there are minor children there are typically 5 main issues: property settlement (the fair division of assets/debts obtained in the marriage), spousal support (used to be called alimony), custody of minor children (physical and legal), parenting time (what specific times/days will the minor children spend with each parent) and child support. In a divorce with no minor children the issues are typically just property settlement and spousal support. In a contested divorce the attorneys fees will be higher because there is simply more time being spent by everyone moving through the divorce process. Mediation is mandatory and there could be a trial if Mediation does not resolve all of the issues. In an uncontested divorce the parties are able to work out there issues and just need an attorney to help them through the legal process of getting divorced.

What is the difference between a divorce and legal separation?

-A legal separation mimics a divorce in all aspects (property settlement, spousal support and if there are minor children then custody, parenting time and child support) but at the end of the process the parties are still married. This process has to be agreed upon by both parties and is usually done to allow one party to remain on the other parties’ health insurance. Most employers do not see legal separation as a triggering event to remove the spouse from insurance benefits.

What determines whether an attorney can help to get points reduced on traffic tickets?

-I tell clients that prosecutors typically look at 3 main factors: First, what is your driving record like? The more previous tickets you have had the harder it is to get a reduction now. Second, was there an accident involved? If there was an accident, especially if someone was hurt, this might influence the prosecutor’s decision. Finally, how was your interaction with the police officer on the scene? If you were polite and respectful to the officer they are most likely willing to allow the prosecutor to reduce the ticket.

Does a passenger have to show id in Michigan?

-Whether or not a passenger must show ID in Michigan depends on the situation. If the officer asks for ID in pursuit of the original traffic violation or connection with an investigation, then yes, the passenger must produce their ID. But in other cases, the officer may ask to see a passenger’s ID, but the passenger does not need to provide identification.

Do you have to show id to police in Michigan?

-If you are driving or taking a trip on a plane, you will need to carry an identifying document. Michigan does not have a “stop and ID law” so an officer will need to have reasonable suspicion to demand that you produce ID. Without reasonable suspicion, an officer can ask you to identify yourself, but you can do so verbally.

A good check of whether an officer has reasonable suspicion is if you are clear to leave. Ask the officer “Excuse me, officer. Are you detaining me, or am I free to go?” If the officer detains you, you will need to produce identification.

Can I get a DUI for Driving High on Marijuana?

-The short answer is yes - you can get a driver under the influence (DUI) charge for driving while impaired by marijuana. Proposal 1 passed a ballot initiative in November 2018 allowing the consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes by adults over 21 years of age. However, there was a section prohibiting consuming marijuana before or while driving and in the passenger area of a vehicle. In most cases, Michigan remains a zero-tolerance state for driving with marijuana in your system.

Can a trustee sell trust property?

-In short, yes, a trustee can sell trust property. The trustee must always act in the beneficiary’s best interests, so a sale depends on the circumstances. Let’s take the example of a falling housing market. If the property begins to lose value, the trustee may sell the home to ensure the beneficiary has the most return possible. A trustee should carefully review the trust document’s specifics to establish the boundaries of the agreement.

Can trustee sell property without all beneficiaries approving?

-Before anyone can sell any property named in a trust, a court must appoint a trustee or executor. After that, the trustee typically has the power to sell real estate without anyone’s approval. But getting consent by all stipulated parties can make for a smoother transition. In the case of all named parties not agreeing, the trustee can petition the probate court for approval.

What is the penalty for falsifying quit claim deed?

-Quitclaim deed falsification or forgery often involves several crimes, most of which are felonies. Forging your name to a property owner’s signature is typically a felony. Another crime enters when a defendant files the forged document. Each offense could translate to up to a $10,000 fine and three years in prison.

What is an express contract in real estate?

-For a contract in real estate to be an express contract, parties need to state the terms either orally or in writing. Each party can contribute different ideas, but the whole contract needs to reflect the interests and intentions of all sides. No implications after the fact based on actions will factor into the specific nature of the deal.

What is adverse possession Michigan?

-Adverse possession is the occupation of land that another person technically owns. The trespasser intends to gain ownership of the disputed area. There could be a fence or garage that crosses onto a neighbor’s land. Strangers may also advantage of adverse possession laws in Michigan.

How to win a change of domicile in Michigan?

-A change in domicile case depends on the distance and whether the move will cross state lines out of Michigan. Cases change in nature when the distance passes the 100-mile mark from the place where your family law case began. When moving less than 100 miles, there is typically no problem.

When moving over 100 miles, a parent must:

  • Obtain approval from the other parent
  • File a court motion providing evidence that the move will provide a benefit for both the child. The more positive changes the move will bring, the more  likely your case is to succeed.

If moving outside the state of Michigan, the judge will consider the situation with a more critical eye. The judge will use the test of which circumstances are in the best interests of the child.

What is the statute of limitations of a marital settlement agreement?

-After a divorce case closes, be aware that there is a set statute of limitations on the discovery of hidden assets. In Michigan, you can go back up to six years in civil court to amend an agreement. This six-year limitation changes to 18 months if you merge your agreement with your judgment.

Does it matter who files for divorce first?

-In some cases, it may matter who begins the divorce proceedings. It is often advantageous to be the one to file for divorce. Some reasons include the filing party:

  • controls the pace of the procedure
  • sets the allegations.
  • may outline fee payments.
  • gets the first argument at trial

Who has legal right over a child?

-Child custody is shared between a married opposite or same-sex couple. When parents are unmarried, deciding legal rights over the child become complicated, more so when the parents have disagreements.

Courts typically agree to the covenant created by parents if it is in the best interests of the child. If not, the court will decide

  • Custody order including physical custody (living location of the child) and legal custody (which parent makes important decisions)
  • Sole custody (one parent has complete custody) or joint custody (shared custody)
  • Visitation times (parenting time) is established for the parent who does not have physical custody

Do fathers have the same rights as mothers?

-When married, the father is assumed to be the partner in the marital agreement. If unmarried, fathers must take extra steps to gain parental rights as custody goes to unmarried mothers until and if a biological father obtains a court order. Unmarried fathers:

  • Can claim paternity before or after a child is born
  • Have no right to support or visitation if the mother was married before the birth of the child
  • Can go through adoption or court order process to gain legal custody of their child

How do I dispute an insurance claim?

-When you disagree with an insurance claim or settlement, first go back to your policy to understand the written agreement thoroughly. If you have a claim dispute, seek an independent appraiser to establish the cost of damages. If the insurance agency does not adjust the claim amount, third-party mediation is the next step in coming to an agreement. But mediation is non- binding so you may need to enter arbitration or a lawsuit for an official contract.


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