Questions Answered by John Joseph Rizzo III

Q: Is there any way to know if a loved ones will was put through will contest and then found to be invalid?

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning for Michigan on
Answered on Jul 17, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
You should contact the probate court for the county the loved one lived in when they passed away. If there was a will contest it would be in the court records. If you are not sure of the county, you can call other counties in the area and any counties where the loved one used to live.

There is no universal database; it takes some investigation. If a will was found invalid, one probate court will have the records.

Q: My brother is moms legal conservator and I am her legal guardian. She has an old will. Will we avoid probate or no?

2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 12, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
Generally, a will does not avoid probate. Many different factors can determine if a probate is needed, or not. For example, does she own real property? If she does, how is it titled? If she owns real property that is only in her name, you will need to probate her estate. If she does not own real property, and all her bank accounts and investments have beneficiary designations, there would most likely be no need for a probate, regardless of the status of the will.

You should contact...

Q: My dad recently passed away, my brother has access to all paperwork and says there was no will, how do I know the truth?

2 Answers | Asked in Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 6, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
If your father used an attorney or firm, you may be able to get information about any documents. Sometimes you can track down an attorney through passing comments, business cards, branded sticky notes, etc. The same advice would work for the IRAs, you would be looking for any mention of a financial planner or insurance salesman. Tax preparers are also a good source of information.

You can check with the probate court for any counties he resided in on the off chance he filed a will.

Q: Would you be able to help me with my Ssi I have been denied once case closed and help me get a divorce?

1 Answer | Asked in Divorce and Social Security for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 5, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
Have you tried contacting a legal aid provider in Kalamazoo? Please move quickly because of the appeal deadline. Here is a link to one:

https://www.lawestmi.org/location/kalamazoo.

Legal aid should be familiar with both issues and you will want a local attorney to handle the issues.

You could also try to attend an Ask a Lawyer event run by the local bar association:

http://www.kpl.gov/law-library/ask.aspx

Q: Parent's bank CD: no beneficiary; no will. I'm only child/heir. What probate forms required? Can CD amt be kept private?

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 5, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
It depends on the size of the CD. If it is below $23,000 you can use a form called PC 598, Affidavit of Decedent's Successor for Delivery of Certain Assets Owned by the Decedent. There is no probate court involvement. Fill out the form, sign it before a notary public, attach the death certificate(s), and give it to the bank. This will keep the process private.

If it is over $23,000, you will need to open a probate estate. Depending on the value and the cost of final expenses you...

Q: The state of Michigan named a guy the father of my two kids by default. He's not on birth

1 Answer | Asked in Family Law, Child Custody, Child Support and Public Benefits for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
I do not think that the state trying to get reimbursement from him for the assistance you received gives him any legal rights to the children. He could file a paternity action to get rights to the child that is his, but if he has not done that and he is not on the birth certificate, I do not see how he currently would have any rights.

Q: Can my stepmom step down as personal representative and allow me the heir be the new personal rep?

2 Answers | Asked in Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
If she is the personal representative and has some interest in the house through the will, she could simply disclaim the interest to the house, deed the property to you, and close the probate. I don't think you would need a ladybird deed for the purposes of your father's estate unless your stepmother wanted an interest in the house so she could possibly sell it at some point. If she wants nothing from the house it should be possible to deed it to you and close the estate. You will need...

Q: How can I find a missing insurance policy? I have searched retirement and bank account holders.

1 Answer | Asked in Elder Law for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
I would suggest looking at her tax returns to see if the insurance company provided any documentation of interest or earnings. If you are still the conservator, you could send your letters of authority to the biggest insurance companies to see if they have any records. Many times a policy will be sold by a financial planner or insurance agent. If you know of one your mom worked with you could contact them. Otherwise, you can look through her records and documentation in the home and see if...

Q: My father is 84 and recently moved into a senior apartment and is concerned about earnings from the sale of his house.

1 Answer | Asked in Elder Law and Real Estate Law for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
If your father is single, the proceeds from the sale of the house would count against his $2,000 asset limit for Medicaid long-term care benefits. He would need to consult an elder law attorney to create a plan to save the proceeds, or spend it down, usually by paying the nursing home until the cash is depleted. You could plan at any time, even after he is in the nursing home. However, there is a five-year look back period for Medicaid that would penalize any outright gifts. The Medicaid...

Q: Do spouses automatically have power of attorney for their partner in cases of dementia?

1 Answer | Asked in Elder Law for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
The answer is no. If a legal power of attorney was never signed the spouse would have no power over assets solely in the other spouse's name. The probate court would have to appoint a conservator to handle those assets. In practice, many couples hold their assets jointly and the competent spouse would have control of the assets automatically by way of that joint ownership.

Q: My dad has Alzheimer's and he got married while after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's now his wifewant to be guardian

1 Answer | Asked in Elder Law for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
A spouse would normally have first priority as a guardian, but that is only a starting point. If she is not the best person to serve as guardian, you can object in court and ask for a different person to be appointed. The fact that he had Alzheimer's before the marriage is not relevant unless he was declared, or you can prove, he was incompetent at that time.

Q: Am I responsible for my elder parents care if I haven't seen or talked to them in 20 years due to abuse

1 Answer | Asked in Elder Law for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
You have no legal obligation to pay debts of your parents unless you sign an agreement to do so. In the situation you describe, I do not feel you could be legally compelled to contribute to any of their debts.

Q: I’m on disability. I’ll be 65 this year. How will my benefits change. I’m also divorced

1 Answer | Asked in Social Security for Michigan on
Answered on Feb 2, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
This answer assumes you are receiving SSDI, not SSI. If 65 is your full retirement age, you would be shifted from the SSDI to RSDI. Your payment amount would remain the same, it would just be paid from a different program. It will happen automatically and is really just an accounting entry for the SSA. If you have not qualified for Medicare yet, you would be signed up. If you were married for more than ten years and your ex-spouse is receiving retirement benefits that are higher than...

Q: Concerning federal poverty level. Are disabled ssdi and veterans benefits countable income for poverty chart?

1 Answer | Asked in Social Security, Tax Law, Public Benefits and Immigration Law for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 30, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
I believe the answer could change based on the facts. For instance, many people use SSDI and SSI interchangeably when they are very different programs. If you receive SSI, you should be automatically eligible for the fee waiver. If you receive SSDI, that will probably count against you when looking at the federal poverty levels. Veterans benefits would be similar. A pension should automatically grant eligibility, but compensation would count against you. If you could confirm the benefits...

Q: Do you have to have an attorney to put a will through probate?

2 Answers | Asked in Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 30, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
You do not have to have an attorney to probate a will. However, unless it is a very simple estate, an attorney could actually save you money and prevent any missteps. Depending on the county, the probate court staff may help you decide if you should hire an attorney (even though they really shouldn't). I would strongly recommend you take advantage of a free consultation with an attorney to determine your options.

Q: My father died in 2009 and stepmom 2018. Stepmom had no kids. With no will, who's in line for estate in Michigan?

1 Answer | Asked in Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 30, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
Absent a different provision in the estate plan, your stepmom would have received $150,000, plus 1/2 any balance of your father's estate upon his death. Because she had no will, her default beneficiaries in Michigan would be, in the following order, (1) stepmom's parents, (2) stepmom's siblings, (3) stepmom's nieces and nephews, etc. Depending on the size of the estate, and the trust, there is a chance you would not receive a share of the estate.

The trust is the most important...

Q: I just received a letter from the Michigan Probate Court, Notice of Deficiency. I must appear in court.

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 30, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
The proof of service lets the court know that you have served all the interested parties with the sworn statement to close. The interested parties are usually the other heirs. Sometimes a creditor may need to receive the sworn statement to close, and sometimes a government agency needs to receive a sworn statement to close.

I would ask the court for a copy of an old proof of service to use as a guide. I have attached links to the two forms below. Depending on the county, the probate...

Q: I had been taking care of my mother who had dementia in her home for the last four years. I never received any help.

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 29, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
There is no law that would prevent your claim. You can try to bill the estate for the care you provided, but be prepared for a fight. Your sister is the trustee, controlling the money. She will most likely use trust assets to fight your claim; you would usually be required to use your own assets for legal fees. We see your situation all the time; it is always difficult. If you make a claim and they fight it, your realistic goal would be to get the matter into mediation and try to negotiate...

Q: If I'm married, is it okay for me to make a will and leave my spouse out of it?

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 19, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
You can leave your spouse out of the will, but she will still have statutory rights to a good portion of your probate estate. A simple trust would most likely serve your purposes better. The other option is to have her sign a document releasing her statutory rights. The second option would depend on whether you spouse knew about your intention and was willing to consent to it. I will link to the statute with the formula for the spousal elective share....

Q: Mom passed and had a trust but did not add her home to it so we had to probate her home, how do i get it into the trust.

2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning for Michigan on
Answered on Jan 19, 2018
John Joseph Rizzo III's answer
Assuming the time for creditors to present claims has expired, you can transfer the property into the trust. Getting it into the trust is most likely the best way to handle the situation. It is usually good to be able to close the probate when an extended wait is possible. It will make the eventual closing easier too.

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