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“Do I Really Need an Attorney?”

by Feb 5, 2019


            I am quite often asked “Do I really need an Attorney?” after someone describes a series of events and appears to be looking for legal advice.  My response obviously varies, depending upon the situation.  However, the answer may often be “NO”, unless …

No, unless you are not planning on dying or if you are comfortable with the State of Michigan essentially writing your Will and deciding where all of your “stuff” might go, once you are gone.  No, unless you are fine with the Probate Court potentially appointing a stranger or someone you do not want to handle the winding up of your financial affairs.  No, if you do not want to have someone be able to make medical decisions for you if and only if you cannot make them for yourself.  No, if you do not need to have someone be able to handle financial matters for you if you are not available or are unable to handle such matters for yourself.  No, if you are familiar with the commencing a Probate estate, the appointment of a Personal Representative, the duties and responsibilities of such individual, the need to file an Inventory and an Annual Account, the preparation of a Fiduciary Deed as to any real property, and how to otherwise distribute assets and administer a probate estate.  No, if you are familiar with Trusts and know how to properly fund a Trust, once it is established.

No, unless you are going through a divorce and are familiar with the issues of child custody, support, visitation, and dealing with the Friend of the Court.  No, if you are conversant with the tax implications of child support versus alimony (and when alimony might come into play), and the related property settlement implications.    No, if you understand the intricacies of drafting a Property Settlement Agreement including dealing with retirement plans through a QDRO, and drafting deeds and liens as to real property.

No, unless you are thinking about filing for relief under the Bankruptcy Code and know the rules about “Means Based Testing” that determine which chapter of the Bankruptcy Code you might qualify (or be required) to file under.  No, if you know about the rules as to the need for credit counseling and eligibility for a discharge of your debts. No, if you are familiar with Federal and Michigan exemptions, which ones would be best to claim in your particular financial situation, and how to claim them.  No, if you are aware of the need to reaffirm or redeem secured property, if you want to keep it in a Chapter 7, when and how to do so, and the ramifications of such actions.  No, if you are aware of the ability to cure a mortgage arrearage in a Chapter 13 setting so as  to possibly “save the house”, as well as the ability to “strip off” a mortgage in a Chapter 13 if it is totally unsecured (meaning there is no equity to support it). 

No, unless you are involved in a real estate transaction and are sure you know the differences between taking title as tenants in common, joint tenants, joint tenants with rights of survivorship, or tenants by the entireties.  No, if you are sure the legal description used is the proper legal description (and not a “tax” description, for example), and that the legal description does, in fact, “close”.  No, if you are buying property on land contract and know how to properly draft a Land Contact and to have it, or more likely a Memorandum of Land Contact, recorded so as to give record notice to the world of the interest of the buyer (“vendee”) in the subject property, and the need to have a Deed issued to the buyer (and an updated policy of title insurance issued) once the land contract has been paid off.  

No, unless you are involved as a defendant in a lawsuit and need to file an Answer to a Complaint, or other responsive pleading, together with Affirmative Defenses (like lack of jurisdiction, lack of proper service,  or running of an applicable Statute of Limitations, for example, which may be waived if not properly and timely asserted).    No, if you have to file an Answer to various discovery requests (Interrogatories, Requests to Admit, etc.) or if you  are going to have your deposition taken.  No, if you are familiar with the procedural ins and outs and are well acquainted with the relevant court rules (state or federal) as well as the separate Rules of Evidence, and are equipped to perform any necessary legal research on the issues that present themselves in such proceedings. 

No, unless someone owes you money and you are familiar with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, and other related statutes.  No, if you know about filing suit with an Affidavit on Open Account, a Claim and Delivery action, or a Mortgage Foreclosure action, or how (and if) you can foreclose on a mortgage by advertisement, and the related procedural issues associated with each.

No, unless you are a landlord and know about the rules as to summary proceedings you need to follow in order to evict a tenant.   No, if you know the differences between giving a tenant a 7 Day Notice to Quit and a 30 Day Notice to Quit.   No, if you are a landlord and know about the rules associated with tenant security deposits, how such deposits should be handled, what type of notice you have to give them (and when) if there is damage to the rental unit, once they move out, and the type of checklist they should be provided when moving in.  No, if you are a  land contract seller (“vendor”) and have to take action to forfeit or foreclose on a defaulting land contract vendee, and which form of relief might be most appropriate in your situation, especially if tax liens are involved. 

As you can see, there are many situations where retaining a knowledgeable attorney may make all the difference in the world.  I cannot tell you how many times I have met with clients (or potential clients) who have either ignored a situation (played “ostrich”) or tried to play “lawyer” and really messed things up.   On several occasions I have met with people who have either signed some agreement and now wonder what it says or simply want to get out of it, shortly after it was signed.   How much easier (and less costly) it would have been for them to meet with me before signing the document so that they could understand the ramifications of executing it and then do so (or request changes)  from an informed point of view as opposed to thinking they “know” what it says or means. 

Look, none of us like spending money; I get it.  But, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish”.  If you have a legal issue (or think you do) please give us a call. On several occasions people have told me what the law is in a certain area and they have been completely wrong.   If it warrants having us take a look at it we will tell you so.  If it is nothing to worry about, of if there are certain things to keep on the lookout for, we will alert you to such items and if they appear you can have us take a closer look. 

Do not operate in the dark. Be proactive and approach things from an informed point of view.  Many times, the spending of a little money up front can save you thousands of dollars down the line.  If you have a legal issue, please call the professionals at Damon, Ver Merris, Boyko & Witte, PLC, at (616) 975-9951.  We are here to assist you, recommend the best course of action to take and, hopefully, set your mind at ease.  Please call us today.

 – Larry A. Ver Merris  /  February 5, 2019


While this posting originates from a law office, none of the contents should, in any way, be considered legal advice. If you have not signed a retention letter describing the legal services to be provided and the amount to be paid for such services, you are not a client of this firm.

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