Biological dad not entitled to money in son’s death

A Milwaukee County, Michigan judge has denied a biological father a share of the wrongful death proceeds awarded in a suit brought by the mother of a 25 year-old man who died in a mental health facility back in 2012.

 Alicia Johnson, 48, argued that the biological father, 53 year-old Marcus Crumble, her first cousin, didn’t deserve a cent because he raped her when she was 15 and never helped financially with the son who was born as a result of that rape.

Circuit Judge David Borowski agreed with her, writing,

“The Court has seen far too many absent fathers in this community. Out of wedlock births, where a ‘father’ both literally and figuratively abandons a child are a scourge.

“Under the tragic facts and circumstances of this case, including the fact that Mr. Crumble committed both statutory rape and incest, this Court will not allow a six-figure windfall to be awarded to Mr. Crumble.”

However, Crumble was awarded the amount he chipped in for the funeral. Crumble rekindled somewhat of a relationship with his son, Brandon Johnson, after he graduated  college.

 Borowski wrote, that anyone 18 years old could create a will and direct their estate not go to an abandoning parent. But noted that very few unmarried people without children under 30 actually create a will.

He wrote the equitable powers of the probate court allow him to find that allowing Crumble half of the settlement would amount to unjust enrichment.

Borowski ordered the estate’s special administrator to pay Crumble only the amount he spent for Brandon’s funeral, give half of the remaining $837,000 to Alicia Johnson, and keep the balance for 90 days, or longer if Crumble appeals.

 

 

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3 ways to avoid probate

At its best, probate can be a real pain in the butt and time consuming. Property can’t be distributed until probate is completed and probate is paid out of the estate, which means less inheritance for heirs.

With that in mind here ar three ways to avoid probate.

Establish a living trust.

A living trust is a great way to avoid probate. What you do is transfer ownership of the assets you intend to bequeath into the trust. While there are cots an time involved in setting up a trust, it’s much easier than dealing with probate.

Give assets away. 

If you have a bunch of assets just sitting around waiting for you to die, you might want to consider giving them away to friends, relatives or charities.

Name beneficiaries in bank and investment accounts

It may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don’t name beneficiaries on their bank or retirement accounts.

All you need to do to get started is to fill out the payable on death forms that your brokerage company or bank can provide. If you are married, some of these accounts may be partially owned by your spouse. By taking the time to fill out the forms, you can make sure the proceeds are immediately dispersed at death without having to pass through probate, saving your heirs a lot of time and hassle.

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Fighting over Estate issues.

In our new world of multi-marriages, divorces and step-children, Will contests and objections to probate are becoming more and more common

There are ways to deal with these conflicts to resolve differences without going to court. The best advice is for parents to do estate planning, which includes preparing a Last Will and perhaps a Trust document. Preparing a personal letter(s) to heirs explaining one’s intention prior to death is an excellent idea but rarely followed.

A Will challenge can be based on three things:

  1. 1. The will is defective on its face; the will may be missing essential elements.
  2. 2. Incapacity, the deceased did not have testamentary capacity to make a will.
  3. 3. Undue influence.

A valid Will must be witnessed by two disinterested parties. A challenge of incapacity must be based on medical records and medical conditions at the time the Will was executed. Undue influence is difficult to prove unless a new will was created in favor of a non-family member when the decedent was ill or infirm. When a conflict arises between siblings, a cross petition and or an objection to Probate/Administration may be filed. Extensive discovery proceeding may uncover clues to the decedent’s testamentary intentions.

In many cases, a resolution may be reached in a court supervised settlement conference. Our law office has extensive experience reaching out of court settlements, resolutions of disputes between once “close” family members.

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Michigan Probate Court hires attorney under criminal investigation

Last year we wrote about the scandal in Michigan’s probate system; about how some attorneys and real estate brokers were working together to cheat heirs out their inheritances, legally. Now another scandal has emerged with the news that Oakland County Probate Judges in Michigan have hired an attorney who is under criminal investigation.

We posted the WXYZ video story about this scandal last year.  Probate public administrator in Michigan cashes in on other people’s estates…legally

Barbara Andruccioli was one of the lawyers exposed by Detriot’s WXYZ 7 News investigation into collusion between probate attorneys and estate brokers to cheat heirs. She was recently hired by the Oakland County Probate Court at a taxpayer cost of $102,000/year. Channel 7 investigator asked Anruccioli,  “How can the taxpayers have any confidence with you working here?” Andruccioli answered, “Really, I think you probably need to talk to the judges.”

Andruccioli was a partner at Kemp Klein law firm and an Attorney General-appointed Public Administrator:  a public official with the authority to open probate estates after someone dies if there are no heirs available.

WXYZ reports

Andruccioli was a partner at Kemp Klein law firm. She was also an Attorney General-appointed Public Administrator, a public official with the authority to open probate estates after someone dies if there are no heirs available.

Court records show Andruccioli teamed up with real estate broker Ralph Roberts and his companies to open those estates, sell the homes, and cash in.

WXYZ uncovered court filings showing “Andruccioli and one of Roberts’ companies, Probate Asset Recovery, were billing for thousands of dollars, while the actual heirs ended up with very little.”

After the station’s investigation, Attorney General Bill Schuette terminated Andruccioli as a Public Administrator and the FBI and Oakland County Sheriff’s detectives raided Ralph Roberts offices, and launched a criminal probe into the Public Administrators.

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown told the station that her reaction when she first heard of the hiring was “Shock, absolute shock and bewilderment…  So out of having a wonderful pool of applicants, why would you choose this person who has a cloud over them?”

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Estate planning for special needs children

Parents with special-needs children need to take special care when estate planning to insure their child will be provided for not only financially but also physically and emotionally. An article in Forbes by financial planner Christopher Young addresses these issues and suggests 4 financial planning considerations if you have a child with special needs.

“1. Do not make your special-needs child a beneficiary – naming them as a beneficiary in a will, retirement plan, insurance policy or other financial account may seem like the appropriate step to take, but it can have detrimental effects, including preventing the child from qualifying for federal benefits.  Programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) offer financial assistance to people with special-needs. However, to qualify for these programs, a special-needs person must have a limited amount of income and resources to their name. For example, to qualify for SSI, your child must have less than $2,000 in savings.

2. 529 ABLE Accounts – similar to 529 college-savings plans, these accounts will allow tax-free distributions if the dollars are used to pay for qualified expenses; including housing, employment training, assistive technology and personal support.  ABLE accounts can hold up to $100,000 in assets without jeopardizing the beneficiary’s eligibility for federal benefits. Families can contribute up to the maximum gift exclusion each year, $15,000 for 2018. To qualify for an ABLE account, disability must have been occurred prior to your child’s 26th birthday.”

Read the full article: 4 Important Financial Planning Considerations If You Have A Child With Special Needs

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