Many people simply think of wills and trusts when they hear the term probate law, but this field of law deals with a lot more than dividing up assets and wrapping up people’s affairs after they have passed away. Probate law allows for the appointment of guardians and conservators to protect the personal and financial well-being of minors and adults who aren’t capable of making their own competent decisions. [CLICK HERE for more information on Guardianships/Conservatorships] It allows for concerned individuals to demand through legal action that people with mental illness participate in medical treatment to ensure that they aren’t a danger to themselves or others, but also provides an opportunity for mentally ill people who have been involuntarily committed to treatment facilities by the government to have their day in Court to protect their rights and freedoms. [CLICK HERE for more information on mental health advocacy] Probate law also allows you to have the final say in regard to medical treatment and end-of-life decisions rather than having the government, a hospital or doctor, religious order, political advocacy group, family members, or other third parties force their demands or desires upon you. [CLICK HERE for more information on Estate Planning & Other Legal Protections]
Attorney Tim Burns provides clients with experience counsel and personalized service that will provide you with peace of mind that you and your loved ones best interests are being protected not just at the end of your lifetime, but throughout it.
ESTATE PLANNING (BASIC FAMILY PROTECTION PACKAGE)
There are a lot of attorneys, law firms, and other businesses that are selling high-priced trusts and estate planning packages, but unless you are in a high-wealth income bracket, are looking to ensure the proper care for a special needs/disabled family member, or are trying to keep a business, home, or vacation property under family ownership, it may not be a good return on the money you are investing in legal fees and expenses to purchase one of these. Attorney Tim Burns will visit you at your home and discuss your needs with you at your kitchen table. Our office will draft a customized package of the three essential probate documents that every individual should have and provide them for you as a reasonably priced package: a will, durable power of attorney, and patient’s advocate designation for medical decisions. Upon completion of drafting and formating these documents to meet your needs and wishes, they will be notarized and executed to become legally binding during a brief meeting that can take place in the comfort of your own home. If our office believes that a more complicated estate plan is needed for your specific situation, we have excellent relationships with several reputable firms that have attorneys who are also CPAs, financial planning, and tax law specialists that we can refer you to.
WILL: If you have minor children this legal document will ensure the people you want to care for them in the unfortunate circumstance that you can no longer be there have the authority to serve as guardians. A proper will also designates who you want to serve as the personal representative for your estate and provides the instructions to ensure that your assets are distributed and your affairs are concluded after your death in the manner that you desire.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A will does not provide anyone the power to act on your behalf while you are alive. What happens if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to communicate, make decisions on your own, or care for yourself? If you haven’t created a legal durable power of attorney, a medical condition such as a coma, dementia, or stroke could force family members to petition a Judge to grant them Guardianship or Conservatorship over you, and if necessary any minor children or disabled adults under your care. In some cases where a person becomes incapacitiated and does not have a valid durable power of attorney in place, a Judge will appoint a third-party attorney, guardianship/care giver company, or government agency to make decisions for your well-being. Having a valid durable power of attorney in place can assure you that someone YOU have selected and trust is empowered to act on your behalf if you cannot.
PATIENT ADVOCATE: Michigan law prohibits individuals from creating documents that provide medical instructions for doctors and hospitals to follow in regard to your own care, also known as living wills. A Patient Advocate Designation allows you to express your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life decisions through designating a trusted personal representative who is authorized to make medical decisions when you are unable to communicate yourself. Durable Powers of Attorney do not authorize others to make medical decision on your behalf so it is important to additionally have a Patient Advocate Designation in your toolbox of probate law documents. A Patient Advocate Designation will also allow your representative access to your medical records and grant your doctors and other medical staff permission to discuss privileged information and care instructions that they may otherwise be prevented from doing under state and federal privacy laws.
In a case where a power of attorney has not been created and an individual is in need of someone to be appointed to protect his or her health or personal interests, our office can be retained to file the petition and be an advocate in Court for a Judge to make the decision to appoint our clients as a Guardian/Conservator in the matter.
Additionally, there may be situations when parents or family members need to petition the Court for guardianship/conservatorship for special needs individuals determined to be developmentally disabled by a Judge. Our office can assist you with filing and appearing in Court on such petitions as well. CLICK HERE for the definition of DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY.
MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCACY
A mentally ill individual who does not comply with his or her treatment plan can deteriorate, lose the ability to make rational decisions, and become a danger to themselves or others in the future. Michigan’s “Kevin’s Law” allows a government agency, family member, or any other interested party to petition the probate court to require an individual with a mental illness to participate in Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). Failure to comply with a Judge’s AOT order can lead to an involuntary commitment at a mental hospital or other sanctions. Attorney Tim Burns can assist you with filing this petition and appearing in Court to advocate on this matter to help make sure your loved one suffering gets the help they need. In some cases, you, or your loved one, may want to contest a Kevin’s Law petition because you believe it is unnecessary or an infringement of your personal rights. The probate court will appoint an attorney to represent you in the matter, or you can retain our office to be your advocate. Tim Burns has extensive experience in representing individuals in both hearings and jury trials on these matters and has relationships with psychiatrists who can provide unbiased professional evaluations and testimony. For more information about Kevin’s Law, please CLICK HERE.
In some situations, a mentally ill individual can become involuntarily incarcerated in a government mental institution because they commited a crime while mentally impaired by their illness, refused Court ordered treatment for their illness, or have been deemed too much of a risk to release from a hospital’s care. Examples of such institutions that can indefinitely detain people with mental illnesses in Michigan are the State Forensic Center in Saline, The Caro Center in mid-Michigan, and the Walter Reuther Mental Hospital in Westland. Such confined individuals have the right to contest their confinement through a hearing before a Judge or via a jury trial. Individuals have the right to a court appointed attorney or can retain their own counsel in these matters. Attorney Tim Burns has extensive experience in representing individuals in both hearings and jury trials on these matters and has relationships with psychiatrists who can provide unbiased professional evaluations and testimony. Our office’s experienced representation can often make the difference on freedom or a continuing order for continued confinement for someone committed to one of these institutions.