Law Office of Suzanne M. Dugas, J.D., LLM.  (810) 227-2702

Law Office of Dugas & Associates has extensive experience in all aspects of Estate Planning, Probate and Elder Law. We represent and have provided, since 1986,  ongoing advice to our clients through out the State of Michigan.  Our firm is located in Brighton, Michigan.  

Ms. Dugas holds a Law Degree and a Special Masters Degree (Masters in Legal Letters - LLM.)  in taxation and estate planning from Boston University Law School.  Thus the firm is uniquely qualified in areas other law firms in the county are not.  The staff also is well experienced in areas of estate planning and have been with the firm since 1987.  There is a respect for our clients and the issues that are presented.  Both staff and counsel are intertwined in working to assist the clients in a compassionate and competent manner unlike many production line law firms. 

Our firm handles legal matters in the following practice areas:  Estate Planning, Taxation, Trusts and Estates, Estate Litigation, Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Durable Powers for Health, Guardianship, Conservatorship, Probate and Decedent's Estate, and Elder Law, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security Issues. 
Probate - what is it? 
Probate is a legal process that, in Michigan, involves the County Probate Court were you lived during your lifetime. The Probate Court will require your original will, if you left one, before it can proceed to process your estate and appoint your personal representative. The role of the court is to insure, when you die, your heirs are determined, your assets are accounted for, your creditors are paid, and your assets distributed according to your wishes.

If you died without a     , the Probate Court will determine, by statute, who your heirs are, account for your assets, determine your creditors and distribute your estate according to the Intestacy Law. 

Why do people want to "avoid" Probate?
The Cost - Both legal fees and executor fees can be very expensive and are paid before your assets are distributed.  These fees vary but can be equivalent to 3%-10% of the estate value.  If you own property outside the State of Michigan your estate could also be involved in ancillary probate with another State's Jurisdiction. 

Privacy -    The Probate process is a open and public process.  Any :interested party" can see what you owned and who your creditors were during your lifetime. 

Time -        The time involved varies but can last 6 months to 2 years.  Sometimes longer if there are disgruntled heirs.  
Can't I just add my children's names to my assets to avoid probate?
Perhaps our firms greatest concern over the years is clients "losing control" over their assets.  If you place your children's names on your home, you must get their approval and signature before you can sell your house which may be a problem if the family circumstances have changed or if one spouse has died and the grown children perceive you as not being able to make rational decisions on your own.  A few of the pitfalls are:

Named in Lawsuit:  When you add co-owners your chances of being enjoined in their lawsuits and losing your assets to creditors is increased.

Disinherit - Unintentionally disinherit your family members.

Real estate - LOSS OF CONTROL  - Co-owner signature required.  If co-owner is incapacitated you could become enjoined in their court proceedings for guardianship and conservatorship. 

Blank Check - Placing someone on your financial assets as co-owner gives them a blank check to do whatever they wish with your assets. Circumstances change and that trusted co-owner may be struggling with their own financial or personal challenges at your expense. 

How can my Estate avoid these Problems?
A Living Trust, which is similar to a Will in following your directives of asset distribution and designation of beneficiaries, is very different because it:

  • controls ALL of your wealth and assets, and 
  • prevents court intervention if you become incapacitated during your lifetime.  

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Law Offices of
 Dugas & Associates
Suzanne M. Dugas, J.D., LLM.
810 W. Grand River Ave. 
Brighton, Michigan 48116

Call us at:
(810) 227-2702