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Cottage-225x300Northern Michigan has been a beloved vacationing destination for many years. Families develop annual traditions, with each generation introducing the next to the beautiful countryside and artistic spirit found throughout the region. Frequently, a member or several members of the family decide to purchase a cottage, preserving the summer tradition for all the generations to come.

The family cottage has invaluable sentimental value; however, oftentimes it appreciates in financial value over the years. Over the last 40 years, the greater Grand Traverse region has become a premier national vacation destination. The local real estate market has seen near constant appreciation, which has accelerated to sometime outrageous rates since the housing bubble collapsed in 2008. It is not uncommon for a modest cabin, purchased or built in the 1960s, to now be worth in high six, or even seven figures, if it has a significant amount of frontage on the right lake. Finally, the vacation rental industry has exploded into a major economic factor. The family cottage may not only be an appreciable asset, it can become a significant source of revenue, if the owners so desire.

The significant value associated with a family cottage can become problematic after its ownership has been distributed amongst a number of family members after the death of the first generation. Subsequent generations may have less attachment to the Cottage. In some cases, new owners may financial constraints on how much they can contribute to the maintenance of the property. Other owners may see the property as an investment, rather than a vacation destination.

Trust-300x225The trust. For many people, trusts are an intimidating legal construct they don’t want to be bothered with, perhaps feeling as though it is a needless complication created by lawyers to make money. Although having a trust may not be appropriate for some families, it can be a stable platform with which to address a number of problems outside of a courtroom, ultimately saving money and heartache. Consequently, it has become central to most. Below, I touch on several common trusts, but please note, these descriptions are far from exhaustive on the subject.

But first, what is a trust? Well, imagine that the concept of ownership isn’t one right, it is a bundle of rights. If I own a piece of real estate, I have the right to sell it, to develop it, to live on it. These rights can be split from one another. For instance, I can rent the property to someone, so I no longer have the right to live on the property, but I still own it. I can transfer my right to sell the property by selling someone an exclusive option to purchase it, but still maintain possession of the property. This concept of fractured ownership rights is important to a trust.

The trust itself can be viewed as a separate, individual person. It can open a bank account, purchase land, invest in the stock market, etc. But of course, someone must direct it to do so. This person is the trustee. The trustee has the authority to direct the trust and to act on its behalf, which is the “ownership interest.” However, unless the trustee is also a beneficiary, he or she cannot use any of the trust assets for his or her personal benefit.

Child-199x300Every parent wants to provide the very best they can for their children, directly or indirectly dedicating most of their waking hours towards building a safe and happy home life, and part of the beautiful innocence of little children is their complete ignorance of their parents’ hard work and sacrifice dedicated to providing a home. The child feels safe because of the mother’s and father’s mere presence.

Sadly, we live in a world of not only childish innocence, but one of tragedy and loss. Although a parent would gladly trade places with his or her child in the event of disease or physical trauma, we are never given that choice. Yet sometimes, children do have their parents torn from them at a young age. Losing a parent at a young age is one of the most devastating life events a human can experience. Not only is there a terrible sense of loss, the child’s future is suddenly uncertain. Who will raise the child? How will they pay for the child’s needs? Will there be a family fight to determine both?

Under Michigan law, a minor that loses his or her parents will either be placed with friends or family, or in the absence of a willing caregiver, be placed into the foster care system. As parents, we do not want our bereaved children to go through any unnecessary distress or uncertainty. Consequently, it’s a parent’s responsibility to have an estate plan that nominates the children’s caretakers in the event of their death. To learn more about estate planning, you will find an article discussing the basics here.

road-man-broken-car-6078-300x200Buying a car is typically a stressful, yet exciting experience for most people. That sense of excitement can quickly turn to frustration when the vehicle purchased begins having mechanical trouble. Frustration can devolve into anger when the dealer repeatedly makes ineffective repairs, sometimes delaying action or denying responsibility all together.

Each state and the federal government have enacted “lemon laws” to provide redress where a purchaser is saddled with a vehicle that doesn’t meet quality and performance standards. Unfortunately, not all situations are covered by a lemon law; moreover, every state’s, as well as the federal, version of the law is different.

Generally, lemon laws protect purchasers of new motor vehicles from defects or conditions that substantially impair the value of the vehicle and where the manufacturer has failed to resolve the problem after been given a reasonable opportunity to perform repairs. However, various jurisdictions define “new motor vehicles,” “substantial impairment,” and “reasonable opportunity to repair” in a number of ways. There are also a number of variations in the scope and breadth of relief available.

hospital bed

Photo Credit: Stokkete / Shutterstock.com

A catheter is a medical device, essentially a tube, used in a wide range of medical procedures.

Certain catheters are designed to access veins and arteries. Vascular catheterization allows a physician to perform certain diagnostics that are otherwise impossible, such as sampling blood directly from the heart; measuring blood flow in the heart’s chambers; or evaluating blockages or abnormalities in the blood vessels outside the heart, such as the arms and legs.

In April 2014, plaintiff David Alvarez plummeted from a rock climbing wall at LifeTime Fitness Center in Novi, Michigan. Alvarez had taken his family to the center. Neither his wife nor daughter had climbed before, and everyone signed a waiver releasing Lifetime from liability for negligence. Alvarez fell from the climbing wall because his harness was on backwards and was hooked incorrectly to the belay system. Shortly thereafter, he filed suit in Oakland County Circuit Court.Alvarez suffered numerous injuries to his legs and back during the fall. In the lawsuit, he argued that the LifeTime employee was “grossly negligent” in failing to determine whether Alvarez had correctly fastened his harness and belay system before instructing Alvarez to climb. Once he had reached the top of the wall, Alvarez asked the employee how to get down and was told: “just let go.” After letting go, the harness failed and Alvarez fell to the ground, seriously injuring himself.

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