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Fowlerville Michigan Family Law Blog

When court appointed guardians highlight issues with elder law

Many families choose to establish a guardianship to protect vulnerable individuals who are no longer able to care for themselves. Guardianships can help keep a minor child, aging adult, disabled loved one or incapacitated adult safe from abuse. A guardian can be appointed to manage another individual’s financial and health care matters.

Unfortunately, issues can and do arise when guardianships are established. Let’s take a look at some of those potential issues.

Will postnuptial agreement affect Matt Lauer's divorce?

In an explosion of revelations about sexual harassment involving famous and powerful men, perhaps one of the most shocking for many in Michigan was the revelation that NBC's "Today Show" host Matt Lauer had allegedly assaulted numerous women on the NBC staff. Overnight, Lauer was released from his multi-million dollar contract and fired from his job, even as more women came forward to accuse him of wrongdoing. Now, Lauer's wife, Annette Roque, is reportedly seeking a divorce, and many wonder how the couple's postnuptial agreement will affect the outcome.

Married nearly 20 years, Lauer and Roque have three children, ages 16, 13 and 11. Apparently, the couple had some difficulties in 2006 when Roque filed for divorce, claiming her husband behaved cruelly and inhumanely toward her. She withdrew the petition, and it is believed that the couple subsequently signed a postnuptial agreement.

Numerous fiduciaries are involved in estate administration

For those in Michigan with little experience in matters of estate planning, the terminology associated with it may be intimidating enough to repel some from investigating the benefits. Nevertheless, because planning one's estate is important, it is worth gaining an understanding of some of the most common terms involved. For example, a fiduciary is someone entrusted with interests of another person, such as someone's stockbroker or attorney. In estate planning, there may be numerous fiduciaries.

Perhaps the most familiar fiduciary is the estate executor, sometimes referred to as the personal representative. This is the person appointed to see the estate through probate, following the instructions a testator leaves in a will. If someone isn't specifically named by the deceased, the court appoints a person for these duties. An estate that involves trusts will likely have successor trustees to manage the trusts after the primary trustee dies or becomes incapacitated.

Criminal defense protects the rights of the accused

Police may spend a large portion of their time attending to drug-related activity in Michigan neighborhoods. Without question, the fight against dangerous and addictive substances is a difficult one, and law enforcement may feel overwhelmed at times. Out of zeal, poor training or unethical reasons, some officers may deny the rights of those they accuse of dealing drugs. This is why building a strong criminal defense is important for those facing drug-related charges.

On a recent Thursday, police officers arrested a man in a residential area sometime before 11 p.m. Authorities claim to have received a call complaining of a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood. When police arrived, they discovered a 45-year-old man allegedly selling drugs. Police say the man was in possession of various quantities of methamphetamines, crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Reports did not disclose the exact amounts of these substances.

For estate plans, start with focusing on yourself

There are two main misconceptions when it comes to estate planning. The biggest one is that estate plans are only for the wealthy, or those whose assets are in the high six figures to seven figures and upwards. The second biggest misconception is probably even more pervasive: that estate plans are more for your loved ones than for yourself.

While estate plans certainly exist to better divide your assets among your loved ones after your passing, there are several important steps that can be taken to make sure that you're setting yourself up for the future that you want, as well.

Wills and trusts carry legal protections

Aaron Hernandez died under a cloud of dishonor, committing suicide after one court convicted him of murder and leaving his estate in debt to the tune of at least $1 million. However, there is evidence that some of his final acts may have been to protect his 5-year-old daughter. As many Michigan parents use wills and trusts to establish a secure future for their children, it seems Hernandez may have attempted the same, although his motives are in question.

The former NFL player had earned just $9 million of his $40 million Patriots contract when he was arrested and convicted of murder. Soon after, he took his own life in prison. The special representative of the athlete's estate says that, despite that paycheck, Hernandez's debts exceed his assets by nearly $2 million. However, Hernandez created an irrevocable trust for his daughter, the contents of which are confidential by law.

Getting started with an estate plan

Too many people get caught up in the idea that an estate plan is only for the obscenely wealthy, those who have multiple homes and millions of assets that they need to protect. The reality is, anyone with assets can benefit from developing an estate plan.

Whether you have a 401(k), a home, or even just a simple savings account, you should be thinking about how your assets will be distributed should an unexpected tragedy occur.

Michigan child custody seeks stability for child

Divorcing parents have many worries and concerns. These may be especially pronounced when it comes to child custody issues. As commendable as it is for Michigan laws to consider the best interests of the child, this somewhat vague term can include various factors, any of which can greatly influence the outcome of a case.

The court will likely consider the behavior of the parents when determining custody, including evidence of domestic abuse and/or mental health issues. For example, is one parent unwilling to cooperate with the other for the sake of the child? Does the lifestyle of one parent suggest questionable morality? Will one parent have difficulty providing for the basic needs of the child?

Who pays shared debts after a divorce?

After marriage, couples often build a life together that may include taking on shared debt. If they help each other through college, buy a home, purchase cars and raise children, they likely amass thousands in debt. It may seem like this is just another part of married life until the marriage begins to falter. What happens to all that debt when a couple files for divorce?

Most people understand that assets are divided according to some formula. For example, the state of Michigan has laws which may be different from other states, but their purpose is to protect spouses with a theoretically equal distribution of assets and debts. Individual debts typically remain the responsibility of the spouse who incurred them, especially if the spouse took on those debts before the wedding. However, if a couple has shared debts, these are not as easy to divide.

Accessing online assets during probate

In 2007, Microsoft completed a study revealing that people who used the internet had an average of 25 digital accounts. These included online banking, social networks and a variety of others. This study took place a decade ago, and in that time, technology has dramatically increased the ability to conduct many personal transactions digitally. Unfortunately, most people in Michigan still do not understand the importance of those digital assets when it comes to estate administration and probate.

It may be easy to inventory one's physical assets, such as real property, jewelry, investment accounts and cash. However, it is apparently not as easy to recognize digital assets which may be overlooked during estate planning. Many people have data stored in cloud computing, photo collections, blogs and social media accounts. Fortunately, technology is growing, allowing internet users to prepare their online accounts for after they pass away.

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