The Five Most Common Mistakes an Elder Law Attorney Sees

Schuster photo for websiteEverybody knows of the problems of aging adults, however few give it the serious attention it needs.  The failure to address these issues appropriately can result in serious financial distress and/or a loss of independence.  I have outlined five common mistakes made by aging adults and tips on how to avoid making them.

First Mistake: Doing nothing
If you do nothing to deal with aging you have a good chance of lifetime probate. That means the probate court must appoint a guardian or conservator to handle your affairs.  One study found that the number one cause of probate guardianship was the need for emergency medical treatment when the patient cannot give consent.

The cost of probate over your lifetime can be enormous and you lose control over your life.   It’s like being a child again.

Second Mistake: Only planning for death
Many people think they are “all set” if they have a will. A will is only effective at death.  We are talking about lifetime issues, not what happens after we die. For example, in a hospital or a nursing home an empowered advocate can mean the difference between life and death.

Third Mistake: Joint property with children
Many seniors think they are all set if they have a daughter or son on their bank accounts with them.  The thinking goes “that way they can pay the bills if I cannot.”  There are many problems with joint accounts.

The first is that it solves only one problem of aging: paying bills. Joint accounts give the child no ability to help the parent in any other way.  If the child calls the insurance company they will ask “Are you the insured?” The child will say “No. But, I’m joint on the bank account.” That goes nowhere.

The more serious problem is the risk of loss of life savings to a child who has financial bad luck.  The same can go for the house.  If a child is a joint owner, then if the child is sued, divorced or goes in bankruptcy so does your property.

And finally, joint accounts can be the source of probate battles after the death. What if a parent makes an account joint with one child? After the parent dies, will the child share it with the other children?  What if the parent’s will says to share equally?  Unfortunately there are no absolute legal rules and questions like these are often answered after a bitter battle in probate court.

Fourth Mistake: Paying employees under the table
People who perform personal services in the home are “employees.”  The recipient of the services is the employer, who is responsible for collecting and paying income, social security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.

Let’s make it personal. Suppose the lady falls down the stairs carrying laundry.  She can file for workers’ compensation and have her medical bills and her wage loss paid by the employer – you.  If you “let her go” because daughter can now do it, the lady could file for unemployment.  And then you start hearing about back taxes, interest, and penalties

Fifth Mistake:  Not getting legal advice for “means tested” government benefits
Veterans “Aid and Attendance” and Medicaid nursing home benefits are very valuable to elders. But, they are “means tested.”   They have asset and income limits.  Few people know that these programs allow some common sense solutions to losing all your life savings before you get your earned benefits. Like the income tax you need to know what “deductions, credits and exemptions” the programs allow. When it comes to these government benefits get legal advice.

Conclusion: It is really easy to do it right
For the average person a “life care” plan is no more difficult than preparing for “death and taxes.”  All you have to do is identify your trusted assistants and give them legal authority to do what they will need to do – everything. And then make sure they know when to get professional advice.  Do that and you are 99% there to having aging go as smoothly as it can be.

Jim Schuster, a Certified Elder Law attorney, is an Of Counsel attorney at the law firm of Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. He has been licensed to practice law since 1978 and practices entirely in the area of Elder Law. Mr. Schuster helps elders stay independent and in control and helps children of aging parents with the advice and legal documents they need to carry out their parents’ wishes and take care of their needs. Additionally, he assists clients with the complex Nursing Home Medicaid application process.

Attorneys in the Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group at Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. are available to answer any questions about the five common mistakes outlined above.  We offer compassionate, common sense solutions for seniors worried about the future.  Contact us at (734) 261-2400 or www.cmda-law.com.  To learn more about additional issues impacting elder law, follow our blog at cmdaelderlaw.com.

Panel Discussion on Understanding Long Term Care Needs to be held April 20

Gene Richards_8x10@300On Thursday, April 20th Norman E. Richards (Gene), a partner in our Livonia office, will join other elder law experts to present a panel discussion on Understanding Long Term Care Needs.  The seminar will be held at Waltonwood Cherry Hill in Canton and is open to the public.  For more information, please click here.

Norman E. Richards (Gene) focuses his practice on estate planning and elder law.  He assists clients with the development of customized estate plans to address their specific needs, including family owned businesses, senior adults concerned about long term care needs, and special needs trusts for children with special needs.  He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or nrichards@cmda-law.com.

Estate Planning for Older Adults

Gene Richards_8x10@300Advocacy is an important need of older adults as they strive to preserve their independence and protect their interests.  For example, strong advocacy is needed to: protect life savings, deal with incapacity, find quality long-term care (whether at home, in assisted living or a nursing home), and qualify for government benefits to pay for long-term care (such as Medicaid and VA benefits). Elder Law attorneys use specialized legal tools and strategies to augment the “advocacy power” of older adults facing these situations.

Older adults require specialized estate planning. Classic estate planning focuses on avoiding probate, protecting assets from creditors, reducing taxes, and distributing inheritances.   Older adults today, however, have the added concerns of financial security in post-retirement years, preserving independence and dignity, and having enough money to pay for good quality care.  CMDA’s elder law attorneys help older adults balance all these concerns through comprehensive, holistic planning and precisely tailored estate plan documents.

As people age, their estate plan documents may not be aging with them. Young and middle-aged clients typically engage in planning before there is any hint of a chronic illness or threat to mobility or capacity. Many make the mistake of thinking their legal documents will suffice for every situation. The reality is that legal and estate plan documents need to be tailored to the specific needs of the present season of life. A 75 year-old person with grown children may be less concerned about their children’s inheritances than they are about the implications of a diagnosis of Parkinson’s or dementia.  As people age and transition through the different seasons and circumstances of life, they should make sure that their plans are transitioning with them.

How can older adults make sure they have the right plan and estate documents in place?  

  • Plan as early as possible. Too often, older adults wait until a crisis hits before asking an attorney for help. Usually the crisis triggers with symptoms of dementia, onset of a chronic illness or admission to a hospital/rehab unit. At that point, some planning opportunities may no longer be available. Thorough pre-planning can preserve options and reduce complications when a crisis hits a family. An attorney should be contacted as soon as there is a hint of a health problem with long-term implications.
  • Update existing estate plan documents. As a rule of thumb, estate plans should be reviewed at least every five years to account for changes in life, assets, and laws.  Older documents may not include important powers needed by older adults for creative problem solving such as allowing transfers of assets between spouses, authority over retirement plans, and the ability to take steps to qualify for Medicaid, VA, and other government benefits.  If important powers are missing, responsible family members may not have authority to make significant decisions or be able to take advantage of legal strategies that could save assets.
  • Carefully select caregivers and money managers. A plan is only as good as the persons authorized to execute it. Older adults should carefully select the persons who will act on their behalf, especially when facing the increased likelihood of incapacity. A spouse or the oldest child is not always the best choice. It is important to carefully distinguish between persons who will make good health care decisions and those who will make sound financial decisions. If necessary, two or more persons can serve at the same time. Accountability can be built into documents to reduce the risk of inappropriate decisions and attempt to prevent family squabbles.
  • Position for government benefits, if available. Long-term care is extremely expensive, with nursing homes costs averaging between $85,000 and $100,000 per year. Long-term care costs are usually not covered by Medicare or health insurance, and many older adults do not have the personal resources to privately pay for the care they will need.  Public assistance may be available through Medicaid and the VA to help pay for care, but these programs have strict financial and legal requirements. CMDA elder law attorneys routinely guide clients through the confusing legal maze and help them steer clear of mistakes that can jeopardize eligibility for benefits. With advance planning and the help of knowledgeable attorneys, many older adults can position themselves to qualify for the maximum government benefits available to supplement their personal funds, and protect spouses or disabled children from impoverishment.
  • Avoid costly mistakes. When faced with a health crisis and the threat of costly care, older adults and their families often make knee-jerk decisions that hurt them financially. Examples of potentially costly mistakes include: giving money/property away; adding children’s names to accounts or deeds; selling assets; buying inappropriate financial products; and acting without legal advice. These and other mistakes can result in unnecessary loss of assets and ineligibility for Medicaid and VA benefits.
  • Recognize special planning situations. Some situations require navigating multiple solutions and the attendant, complex legal issues.  An older adult facing any one, or combination of, the following scenarios will benefit greatly from the knowledge and guidance of the elder law team at CMDA:   1.  Married couples where only one spouse needs skilled or nursing home care. 2.  Older adults with fading mental capacity. 3.  Older adults without surviving or dependable family members to oversee their care or manage their assets. 4. Older adults with real estate or business interest with limited cash available to pay for assisted living or nursing home care.
  • Build a team of professionals.  The best plans are built from the combined knowledge of an experienced team.  The team may include select family members, attorneys, physicians, care coordinators, and financial advisors. When surrounded by a team, an older adult can face the future with assurance that their needs will be met and decisions will be made in their best interest.

Today’s world presents many threats to the well-being and financial security of older adults.  In order to overcome these challenges it is essential to have up-to-date estate plan documents that are tailored to specific, present needs. The elder law attorneys at CMDA skillfully and compassionately provide older adults and their families with the right plan for the right time.

Norman E. Richards (Gene) is a partner in our Livonia office where he focuses his practice on elder law and estate planning. Drawing on 20 years of experience, his mission is to help clients safely navigate life’s transitions through the skillful, practical, and compassionate application of comprehensive elder law and estate planning services.

As an elder law attorney, Gene guides senior clients in planning for their future care needs. This includes maximizing financial resources to pay for the cost of long-term care. As an estate planning attorney, Gene develops customized legal documents for each client’s unique needs, such as wills, trusts, and power of attorneys; disability and special needs trusts; estate plans for blended families; and business succession plans. 

He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or nrichards@cmda-law.com.

New Tools for Asset Protection and Estate Planning

Gerry Davis 2016Individuals in Michigan seeking to protect assets from creditors no longer have to transfer their assets to Delaware, Nevada or Alaska.  Effective February 5, 2017, the Qualified Dispositions in Trust Act, Domestic Asset Protection Trusts, Public Act 330 of 2016, will allow the owner of trust assets to retain and protect his or her assets from creditors, while still retaining the power to direct investment decisions, the power to veto distribution from the trust (including to himself), the power to receive income, and the right to remove and replace a trustee.  The owner may also retain a special Power of Appointment to direct how the assets will be distributed upon the owner’s death.

While the owner retains some powers and interest, this is still a discretionary trust, so the owner must give up control over his assets to an independent trustee whom the owner does not control.

This is especially useful for people with large estates that can be targets of lawsuits such as doctors, business owners, those with a high public profiles, entertainers, developers and business investors.

However, pursuant to the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, if a transfer is deemed fraudulent it can be set aside, including transfers to a Domestic Asset Protection Trust.  In law, if the disposition was made with actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud any creditor of the debtor, that transfer can be set aside and the assets therefore reached by creditors.  In addition, the assets in the trust are not protected in a divorce action, if the assets were transferred to the trust 30 or fewer days before the marriage.

There are certain requirements that must be satisfied for the protections to be enforceable, including a two-year waiting period from the date the assets are transferred to the trust, and as stated, the trustee must be an independent third party who has total control over the distributions, such as a bank with trust powers or a trust company.

Therefore, it is important that the trust be set up early before liability attaches.  For example, once a tenant defaults on a lease and a claim of personal liability attaches as guarantor, the trust would already have to be in place, or it will likely be deemed a fraudulent transfer.  Thus, the trust must be created prior to any creditor claims being filed against the assets or the creator of the trust, particularly in view of the minimum two-year waiting period required between the time the trust is created and the protections under the trust are asserted, as from a judgment, court order or even a claim of a creditor capable of being reduced to a judgment against the creator of the trust.

With this valuable new tool, debtors and potential debtors, such as tenants under leases, or purchasers of major equipment or real estate, risk having their entire estate wiped out from circumstances they cannot control and are now afforded protection at least to the extent that the assets are subject to a validly created Domestic Asset Protection Trust.

As two-thirds of the states do not offer this type of protection, Michigan will likely be a haven to protect assets from creditors’ seizure.

Gerald C. Davis is a partner in our Livonia office where he concentrates his practice on corporate and business law, leveraged buy-outs, company reorganization and refinancing, analyzing investments for joint ventures, intellectual property, and drafting loan agreements. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or gdavis@cmda-law.com.

Experienced Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney Joins Firm

gene-richardsWe are pleased to announce that Norman E. Richards (Gene) has joined our Livonia office as a partner.  Gene primarily focuses his practice on elder law and estate planning. Drawing on 20 years of experience, his mission is to help clients safely navigate life’s transitions through the skillful, practical, and compassionate application of comprehensive elder law and estate planning services.

As an elder law attorney, Gene guides senior clients in planning for their future care needs. This includes maximizing financial resources to pay for care. As an estate planning attorney, Gene develops customized legal documents for each client’s unique needs, such as wills, trusts, and power of attorneys; disability and special needs trusts; estate plans for blended families; and business succession plans.

Christopher Schultz, managing partner of the Firm, explains, “Gene has substantial experience in the areas of estate planning and elder law.  He is a significant asset to CMDA’s growing elder law practice group and a welcome addition to our Firm.”

Mr. Richards may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or nrichards@cmda-law.com.

Attorneys Selected as 2016 Michigan Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

super-lawyer-rising-star-2016We are pleased to announce that several CMDA attorneys have been selected for inclusion in the 2016 Michigan Super Lawyers & Rising Stars List.  Please join us in congratulating the following attorneys:

2016 Michigan Super Lawyers
Jeff Clark, Top Rated State, Local and Municipal Attorney
Haider Kazim, Top Rated State, Local and Municipal Attorney
Carla Testani, Top Rate Family Law Attorney
Jim Schuster (Of Counsel), Top Rated Elder Law Attorney
Allan Vander Laan, Top Rated State, Local and Municipal Attorney
The Super Lawyers List recognizes no more than five percent of attorneys in Michigan.

2016 Michigan Rising Stars
Kevin Hirzel, Top Rated Real Estate Attorney
Joe Wloszek, Top Rated Real Estate Attorney
The Rising Stars List recognizes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in Michigan.

Christopher Schultz, managing partner of the Firm, explains, “Having many attorneys from CMDA selected as Michigan Super Lawyers and Rising Stars is validation for the hard work they put into the Firm and the superb level of service they offer clients.  Congratulations to each of them on their well-deserved title.”

Estate Planning: A Continuous Process

Chris Schultz 2016Estate planning is a continuous process and estate plan documents should be reviewed at least every decade and upon any major changes in lifestyle or family structure.

A basic estate plan includes a Will, a Medical Power of Attorney, and a Durable General Power of Attorney for financial matters.

A Will addresses the distribution of assets, paying debts and taxes, and providing guardians and conservators for any minor children.

A Medical Power of Attorney designates the individual to be consulted for medical treatment issues in the event a person is not capable of making medical decisions for themselves.  A Medical Power of Attorney can also contain specific instructions for personal preferences, such as anatomical gifts, life sustaining treatment, or treatment consistent with your religious beliefs.

A Durable General Power of Attorney for financial matters allows a person to name an agent to make financial and legal decisions, which is important in the event a person become incapacitated, temporarily or permanently, or is not available to perform certain regular tasks for banking, bill paying, etc.

Additionally, estate plans often include a Revocable Living Trust (Trust).

A Trust is created for several purposes, including planning for potential tax issues, controlling the timing of distributions or setting contingencies for distributions, and avoiding probate.  A Will is administered through the probate court addressing the assets that are titled in a person’s name upon their death.  A proper Trust can avoid the time consuming and expensive probate process.

Without proper instruction to a probate court through a Will or to a successor trustee through a Trust, the assets will be distributed in accordance with a statutory scheme that essentially follows a genealogical rule of inheritance.  Simply, the assets would first go to parents, if surviving.  If not, the assets would be distributed to siblings in equal proportions.

Those who are not married and do not have children may think they do not need an estate plan.  This is not true, especially if they plan to donate assets to a charity, such as a church, college or other qualified charitable organization.  Without an estate plan, assets would be distributed according to a statutory plan with the beneficiaries being immediate family members.

Blended families where one or both spouses have children from previous relationships, create additional reasons to prepare an estate plan.  Following the statutory genealogical rule of inheritance is not going to be the result intended.  Consideration has to be given to making special provisions and allowances for children from prior relationships, former spouses, and possibly a separate allocation of assets.

Complicating matters further are individuals who live with a significant other and may or may not have children.  In almost every circumstance, without an estate plan, your intended disposition of assets will not be consistent with the actual distribution of assets.  An estate plan is necessary in order to guide a probate court or a successor trustee with the proper allocation and distribution of assets.

Estate planning for the elderly becomes complex due to concerns for long-term care and the potential need for Medicaid.  Medicaid is a need-based program and Medicaid planning is needed in order to qualify for eligibility.  More and more reviews and reports are being published that recommend purchasing long-term care insurance.  In most circumstances, it appears this is a more viable financial option than planning for Medicaid eligibility.  Medicaid planning is a method organizing the assets and income into categories of countable or non-countable assets.  Non-countable assets are assets that are not counted in determining your eligibility for Medicaid benefits.  Proper Medicaid planning can assist in sheltering your countable assets, preserving assets to pass to your heirs, and providing for the care and financial support of your spouse.

Estate planning has become more complicated over the years, however the estate plan itself does not have to be complex.  Attorneys in our Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group are available to assist in creating or updating your estate plan to ensure the plan benefits you and your loved ones.

Christopher G. Schultz is a partner in our Livonia office where he concentrates his practice on representing businesses in many areas of the law. Additionally, he assists clients with estate and elder law planning. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or cschultz@cmda-law.com.

Contributing to a Roth IRA through the Backdoor

linda friedlandMany high income earners believe that they cannot contribute to a Roth IRA.  This is because they are unaware of the loophole they can use by contributing through the backdoor.

The income limitations imposed by the Internal Revenue Service create the perceived barrier.  For 2016, the income and contribution limits for a Roth IRA are as follows:

Filing Status Modified Adjusted Gross Income Contribution Limit
Married, Filing Jointly <$184,000 Up to the limit*
  ≥ $184,000, but
less than $194,000
Phased Out Amount
  ≥$194,000 Ineligible
Married, Filing Separately (lived with spouse during the year) <$10,000 A reduced amount
  ≥10,000 Ineligible to contribute
Single, Head of Household, Married Filing Separately (did not live with spouse at any time during the year) <$117,000 Up to the limit*
≥$117,000, but
less than $132,000
Phased Out Amount
≥$132,000 Ineligible to Contribute

Despite the flurry of recent tax legislation, the income limits have remained in place for contributions to a Roth IRA.  However, for conversions from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, the Tax Relief Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 removed these income limits, creating a backdoor for interested investors to utilize.  To contribute to a Roth IRA through the backdoor, follow these steps:

Step 1: Consult with a tax adviser to determine whether a Roth IRA is an appropriate retirement vehicle for you.

Step 2: Contribute to a non-deductible, Traditional IRA up to the contribution limit.

Your contribution will most likely be non-deductible given the income limits, however, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible anyway.

Your contribution will be your “cost basis” for tax purposes.

Step 3: Convert your Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. 

This process will be much easier if both your Traditional IRA and Roth IRA are held with the same custodian.

Do not confuse “conversion” with “distribution,” the latter of which could subject you to a 10% penalty if you are under age 59 ½ and receive more than the amount of your non-deductible contributions.

The amount of the conversion will be limited to the $5,500.00 (or $6,500.00, if over age 50) assuming that a new Traditional IRA is being opened just for this purpose.

If you are converting an existing Traditional IRA, the limit will be the balance of the account.  Keep in mind, however, that the amount of the conversion will have to be reported to the IRS as ordinary income, so it may be best to convert smaller portions of the existing Traditional IRA over a number of years.

In determining whether it would be better to convert smaller portions of a Traditional IRA over a number of years, consideration should be given to whether the amount of the conversion will bump you up to a higher tax bracket.

More likely than not, if requested, your custodian will leave one penny in your Traditional IRA account so that this process can be repeated every year.  (Be sure to ask if interested.)

If you deposit money into your Traditional IRA in increments, it is usually best to wait and covert the entire amount at one time.

Seek the advice of a tax advisor if you have more than one Traditional IRA (with deductible contributions) because of the “IRA Aggregation Rule” under IRC §408(d)(2).

Step 4: Make note of any income tax due as a result of the conversion to the Roth IRA.

The income tax due will be zero or close to zero if the non-deductible deposit into the Traditional IRA is followed by an immediate conversion into a Roth IRA.

If the conversion results in a higher tax bracket, or more income tax due than your budget allows, then work with your custodian to reverse the process by the October 15th deadline.

Step 5: Notify the Internal Revenue Service. 

Make sure that IRS Form 8606 is filed with the income tax return for each year that a backdoor Roth IRA contribution is made, in order to alert the IRS that the deposit into the Traditional IRA is non-deductible.  This will also help maintain records of the cost basis/amount of contibutions.

Roth 401(k) Plans Offered through Employer

For those who have access to a Roth 401(k) Plan through work, this could be a viable alternative – or addition to the Roth IRA.  Roth 401(k)’s have no income limits, but for 2016, the contribution limit is the same as for a regular 401(k) – $18,000 ($24,000 if age 50 or over).  Contributions can be made to both a Roth 401(k) and a regular 401(k) in the same year, so long as the contribution does not exceed the $18,000/$24,000 limit.

The most noteworthy distinction between a Roth IRA and a Roth 401(k), is that the Roth 401(k) is subject to the same minimum distribution rules as a traditional or regular 401(k).  Of the three vehicles, the Roth IRA offers the most flexibility in retirement, although contributions are more difficult during the accumulation years for high income earners.  The chart on page 3 can provide assistance in determining whether a Roth IRA, Roth 401(k), or a traditional or regular 401(k) is the best option for your particular situation.

 Designated Roth 401(k) Account Roth IRA  Traditional, Pre-Tax 401(k) Account
Contributions Designated Roth employee elective contributions are made with after-tax dollars. Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars. Traditional, pre-tax employee elective contributions are made with before-tax dollars.
Income Limits No income limitation to participate. Income limits:
• 2016- modified AGI married $194,000/ single $132,000.
• 2015- modified AGI married $193,000/ single $131,000.
No income limitation to participate.
Maximum Elective Contribution Aggregate employee elective contributions limited to $18,000 in 2015 and 2016 plus an additional $6,000 for employees age 50 or over. Contribution limited to $5,500 for 2016, plus an additional $1,000 for employees age 50 or over ($6,500). Same aggregate limit as Designated Roth 401(k) Account
Taxation of Withdrawals Withdrawals of contributions and earnings are not taxed provided it’s a qualified distribution – the account is held for at least 5 years and made:
• On account of disability,
• On or after death, or
• On or after attainment of age 59½.
Same as Designated Roth 401(k) Account and can have a qualified distribution for a first time home purchase.  Note:
• Contributions (direct) may be withdrawn anytime, without tax or penalty (make sure a record is kept of contributions).
• Conversions may be withdrawn without tax (and without penalty, but only if held for 5 years).
Withdrawals of contributions and earnings are subject to Federal and most State income taxes.
Required Distributions Distributions must begin no later than age 70½, unless still working and not a 5% owner. No requirement to start taking distributions while owner is alive. Same as Designated Roth 401(k) Account.
* Source:  Internal Revenue Service.  This article is not intended to provide tax advice.  A tax advisor should be consulted when making a contribution, conversion or withdrawal from any retirement vehicle.

Linda Davis Friedland is an attorney in our Livonia office where she concentrates her practice on commercial litigation, employment and labor law, corporate and business law, estate planning, elder law, probate, trusts, guardianships and conservatorships. She may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or lfriedland@cmda-law.com.

2015 Year in Review: Monumental Milestone Recognized, Skilled Attorneys Hired, and Remarkable Anniversaries Celebrated

Chris SchultzAs a new year is upon us, we reflect back on 2015 and the successful year we had at CMDA. We recognized a monumental milestone, hired several attorneys, and celebrated some remarkable anniversaries.

CMDA was honored to have celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 2015. This monumental anniversary would not have been possible without Owen Cummings, the founder of the Firm.  Mr. Cummings had a vision of developing a Firm whose strength rests in the service we provide our clients.  We thank Mr. Cummings for the dedication and effort he has put into growing CMDA over the past 50 years.

As a way to give back to the community as we celebrated our 50th anniversary, every month throughout 2015 the Firm, employees, and clients donated 50 (or more) items to local charities, including the 17th District Veteran’s Court, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Mittens for Detroit, Dearborn Animal Shelter, PBJ Outreach Center, Alternatives for Girls, St. Dominic Outreach Center, and The Guidance Center.

Attorneys Suzanne Bartos, Matthew Heron, David Katz, and Jennifer Richards joined our Firm in 2015.

Suzanne Bartos is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on labor and employment law, insurance defense, municipal law, education law, and litigation.  She successfully defends civil rights, wrongful discharge, and discrimination claims in state and federal courts, as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Michigan Employment Security Commission.  She also achieves outstanding results for clients in premise liability, breach of contract, collections, warranty disputes, and consumer protection matters.  Further, she is a trusted legal advisor to school districts and community colleges on a variety of educational and governance issues.  Ms. Bartos was previously with our Firm from 1985 to 2000, and we are elated to have her back at CMDA.  Ms. Bartos may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or sbartos@cmda-law.com.

Matthew Heron is an attorney in our Livonia office where he focuses his practice on commercial litigation and real estate, including community association, condominium law, real estate litigation, zoning and land use.  He also has extensive experience in a variety of litigation matters, including insurance coverage, non-compete agreements, automotive supplier disputes, and breach of contract.  He routinely appears in both federal and state courts throughout Michigan and has argued before the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Mr. Heron may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or mheron@cmda-law.com.

David Katz is an attorney in our Kansas City office where he focuses his practice on insurance defense, municipal law, business litigation, and civil litigation.  He prepares and files motions with all levels of Missouri state and federal courts and performs research for unique areas of law handled by our Kansas City office.  While attending John Marshall Law School, he worked as a law clerk for an insurance subrogation firm in Chicago.  Upon graduation, he moved back to Missouri, and we are delighted to have him at CMDA.  Mr. Katz may be reached at (816) 842-1880 or dkatz@cmda-law.com.

Jennifer Richards is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on appellate law, law enforcement defense and litigation, municipal law, and insurance defense.  She writes briefs for submission to all levels of state and federal courts, argues cases in all levels of state and federal courts of appeals, and performs research for all areas of law handled by the Firm.  She was previously a law clerk at the Firm and when she recently passed the bar exam to become an attorney, we were pleased she accepted the Firm’s offer to continue her legal career at CMDA.  Ms. Richards may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jrichards@cmda-law.com.

These attorneys are all wonderful assets to the Firm, and I am sure you will hear much more about them in future newsletters.

We are pleased to announce the expansion of the Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. Jim Schuster, a top Certified Elder Law attorney in Michigan, has joined our Firm as an Of Counsel attorney. He has been licensed to practice law since 1978 and practices entirely in the area of Elder Law. Mr. Schuster helps elders stay independent and in control and helps children of aging parents with the advice and legal documents they need to carry out their parents’ wishes and take care of their needs. Additionally, he assists clients with the complex Nursing Home Medicaid planning process.  Mr. Schuster is a welcomed addition to our Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jschuster@cmda-law.com.

Several employees celebrated impressive anniversaries with the Firm in 2015. Owen Cummings, Founder of the Firm, celebrated his 50th anniversary; Tim Young, an equity partner of the Firm, Tom Laginess, an attorney in our Livonia office, and Janet Raffaelli, the Firm’s IT Specialist, all celebrated their 30th anniversary; Tim Ferrand, a partner in our Clinton Township office, Marie Jones, a legal assistant in our Livonia office, Kathy Ueberroth, a paralegal in our Livonia office, and Jim Glover, the Firm’s Courier, all celebrated their 25th anniversary; Patrick Sturdy and Jim Acho, both partners in our Livonia office, and Robin Thomas, the Firm’s Accounting Administrator, all celebrated their 15th anniversary; and Anita Zischerk and Eileen Stoner, both legal assistants in our Livonia office, celebrated their 10th anniversary.  We are fortunate to have such an excellent group of people working at the Firm and thank them all for their dedication.

We are grateful and appreciative for the trust our clients have placed in our Firm since 1965.  Thank you for your support in helping CMDA continue to be a premier law firm with office locations throughout Michigan, Kansas and California.  Have a great 2016.

Christopher G. Schultz is the managing partner of the Firm and works out of our Livonia office.  He concentrates his practice on business law, real estate law, and estate planning.  He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or cschultz@cmda-law.com.

CMDA Announces Expansion of Estate Planning and Elder Law Practice Group

Jim SchusterWe are pleased to announce the expansion of the Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. Jim Schuster, a Certified Elder Law attorney, has joined our Firm as an Of Counsel attorney. He has been licensed to practice law since 1978 and practices entirely in the area of Elder Law. Mr. Schuster helps elders stay independent and in control and helps children of aging parents with the advice and legal documents they need to carry out their parents’ wishes and take care of their needs. Additionally, he assists clients with the complex Nursing Home Medicaid application process.

Mr. Schuster is a welcome addition to our Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jschuster@cmda-law.com.