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Jeffrey W. Hartkop Lawyer

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Estate, Real Estate, Business Organization, Wills & Probate, Tax

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Criminal, Estate Planning, Tax, Family Law

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LEGAL TERMS

INCOMPETENCE

The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one's own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at ... (more...)
The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one's own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at which the person is present and/or represented by an attorney. A finding of incompetence may lead to the appointment of a conservator to manage the person's affairs. Also known as 'incompetency.'

HEIR APPARENT

One who expects to be receive property from the estate of a family member, as long as she outlives that person.

COUNTERCLAIM

A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that it was the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who committed legal wron... (more...)
A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that it was the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who committed legal wrongs, and that as a result it is the defendant who is entitled to money damages or other relief. Usually filed as part of the defendant's answer -- which also denies plaintiff's claims -- a counterclaim is commonly but not always based on the same events that form the basis of the plaintiff's complaint. For example, a defendant in an auto accident lawsuit might file a counterclaim alleging that it was really the plaintiff who caused the accident. In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint. In other states and in federal court, where counterclaims are still used, a defendant must file any counterclaim that stems from the same events covered by the plaintiff's complaint or forever lose the right to do so. In still other states where counterclaims are used, they are not mandatory, meaning a defendant is free to raise a claim that it was really the plaintiff who was at fault either in a counterclaim or later as part of a separate lawsuit.

SELF-PROVING WILL

A will that is created in a way that allows a probate court to easily accept it as the true will of the person who has died. In most states, a will is self-prov... (more...)
A will that is created in a way that allows a probate court to easily accept it as the true will of the person who has died. In most states, a will is self-proving when two witnesses sign under penalty of perjury that they observed the willmaker sign it and that he told them it was his will. If no one contests the validity of the will, the probate court will accept the will without hearing the testimony of the witnesses or other evidence. To make a self-proving will in other states, the willmaker and one or more witnesses must sign an affidavit (sworn statement) before a notary public certifying that the will is genuine and that all willmaking formalities have been observed.

STATUTORY SHARE

The portion of a deceased person's estate that a spouse is entitled to claim under state law. The statutory share is usually one-third or one-half of the deceas... (more...)
The portion of a deceased person's estate that a spouse is entitled to claim under state law. The statutory share is usually one-third or one-half of the deceased spouse's property, but in some states the exact amount of the spouse's share depends on whether or not the couple has young children and, in a few states, on how long the couple was married. In most states, if the deceased spouse left a will, the surviving spouse must choose either what the will provides or the statutory share. Sometimes the statutory share is known by its more arcane legal name, dower and curtesy, or as a forced or elective share.

ABATEMENT

A reduction. After a death, abatement occurs if the deceased person didn't leave enough property to fulfill all the bequests made in the will and meet other exp... (more...)
A reduction. After a death, abatement occurs if the deceased person didn't leave enough property to fulfill all the bequests made in the will and meet other expenses. Gifts left in the will are cut back in order to pay taxes, satisfy debts or take care of other gifts that are given priority under law or by the will itself.

AB TRUST

A trust that allows couples to reduce or avoid estate taxes. Each spouse puts his or her property in an AB trust. When the first spouse dies, his or her half of... (more...)
A trust that allows couples to reduce or avoid estate taxes. Each spouse puts his or her property in an AB trust. When the first spouse dies, his or her half of the property goes to the beneficiaries named in the trust -- commonly, the grown children of the couple -- with the crucial condition that the surviving spouse has the right to use the property for life and is entitled to any income it generates. The surviving spouse may even be allowed to spend principal in certain circumstances. When the surviving spouse dies, the property passes to the trust beneficiaries. It is not considered part of the second spouse's estate for estate tax purposes. Using this kind of trust keeps the second spouse's taxable estate half the size it would be if the property were left directly to the spouse. This type of trust is also known as a bypass or credit shelter trust.

SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR

(1) In the law of wills and estates, a person appointed by the court to take charge of only a designated portion of an estate during probate. For example, a spe... (more...)
(1) In the law of wills and estates, a person appointed by the court to take charge of only a designated portion of an estate during probate. For example, a special administrator with particular expertise on art might be appointed to oversee the probate of a wealthy person's art collection, but not the entire estate. (2) A person appointed to be responsible for a deceased person's property for a limited time or during an emergency, such as a challenge to the will or to the qualifications of the named executor. In such cases, the special administrator's duty is to maintain and preserve the estate, not necessarily to take control of the probate process

NONPROBATE

The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surv... (more...)
The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surviving spouse and property left outside of a will through probate-avoidance methods such as pay-on-death designations, joint tenancy ownership, living trusts and life insurance. Property that avoids probate is sometimes described as the 'nonprobate estate.' Nonprobate distribution may also occur if the deceased person leaves an invalid will. In that case, property will pass according to the particular state's laws of intestate succession.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Kostin Estate

In Docket No. 272767, respondent Camille A. Kent appeals as of right the probate court's judgment and order following a bench trial, interpreting a will and trust, determining heirs and devisees, and determining title to property after decedent Juanita Kostin's death in 2004. ...

In re Nestorovski Estate

723 Payne, Broder & Fossee (by Andrew J. Broder) and Underwood & March (by Lauren M. Underwood), Bingham Farms, for the petitioner. ... Kemp Klein Law Firm, PC (by Alan A. May and Debra Nance), Troy, for the respondent. ... Before: SAAD, CJ, and BORRELLO and ...

In re Rudell Estate

During her lifetime, the decedent owned a certain parcel of residential real property located at 1170 Chesterfield in Birmingham, Michigan (the property). In 1982, the decedent properly transferred ownership of the property to the trust. According to the complaint filed in this matter, the ...