What is an estate and estate planning?

An estate is the property that you own which may include real estate, bank accounts, investments, insurance benefits, annuities, retirement plans, and other assets. Determining what this all includes is part of your estate planning, which is coming up with a plan for how your estate will be handled on the account of your death so that the State does not decide or control this for you. Gifts, wills, and trusts are all part of this process.

What is probate?

This is the legal process that occurs after someone dies, including proving a will is legal and identifying the deceased person’s property.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a written, legal document that states an individual has legal power to act on behalf of another person in the case that that person’s health prevents them from making decisions.

What is the difference between filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 and under Chapter 13?

Chapter 7 includes the possibility of liquidation of assets to cover your debt, while leaving you with enough property to make a fresh start. Chapter 13 means that your debts will be reorganized, and you will be allowed 3 to 5 years to pay them off.

I was in a car accident, but I do not have no-fault insurance on my vehicle. Is there anything I can do?

Michigan law requires that all vehicles have no-fault coverage. You are not able to collect certain types of damages such as pain and suffering, but you might be able to recover certain damages such as wage loss. Contact us for more information.

What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based benefit based on the assets and income of your household while Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on the amount of money you paid into Social Security by working. It has nothing to do with your current assets or income.

What is the difference between circuit court, district court, and probate court in Michigan?

There are 3 trial courts in Michigan: circuit court, district court, and probate court. The differences have to do with jurisdiction, which is the ability of a court to hear certain types of legal matters and the authority to issue binding decisions/orders in those types of matters. The jurisdiction of these courts is defined by statute.

Circuit Court

Circuit court in Michigan is a court of general jurisdiction, which means it has the broadest powers of the three trial courts in Michigan. The circuit court handles civil cases where the amount in controversary is over $25,000 and felony criminal cases. The circuit court also has a family division that hears cases regarding: divorce, adoptions, paternity, personal protection orders, emancipation of minors, name changes, juvenile offenses, delinquency, child abuse/neglect, child support, child custody, parenting time, treatment and testing of infectious diseases, and delivery of newborns. The friend of the court

The circuit court also has limited appellate powers. The court can hear appeals from lower courts, such as the district court or an administrative agency like the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The judges in circuit courts are elected to six-year terms.

Here is a list containing some of the Southwest Michigan circuit courts:

District Court

District court in Michigan is a court of limited jurisdiction, which means its jurisdiction isn’t as broad as that of the circuit court. The district court hears all misdemeanor criminal offenses, landlord tenant matters, civil cases where the amount in controversy is above $5,000 and up to $25,000, some ordinance violations, small claims cases where the amount in controversy is less than $5,000, arraignments and preliminary examinations or probable cause hearings for felonies before  they are bound over (sent to) circuit court, and the bulk of traffic offenses.

Some counties, including Kent County, have multiple district courts.

District court judges are also elected to six-year terms.

Here is a list containing some of the Southwest Michigan district courts:

Probate Court

The probate courts in Michigan handle the administration of estates, wills, trusts, the appointment of a guardian or conservator, some adoption related matters, treatment for the mentally ill, and registration of foreign births.

Probate judges are also elected to six-year terms.   

Where can I find online legal resources?

Please follow the links below for online legal resources:

What is bankruptcy?

This is a federal law allowing the discharge of unsecured debt and stops collection to make a fresh start.

I just got served with divorce papers. What do I do now?

Please give us a call to set up a consultation so that we can take control of the process and advise you for your particular situation. The important thing is to not ignore your divorce papers. You spouse can proceed with divorce even if you do not want to. You have a limited window of time to file your answer with the court.

How do I start the divorce process?

The first person to file for divorce will be labeled the plaintiff (in most cases there is no advantage or disadvantage to this). The plaintiff fills out a Complaint for Divorce.

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