Gary Coleman Estate Mess

August 6, 2010

Filed under: Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:28 pm

As a Michigan estate planning lawyer, I help clients prepare their estates for a smooth process upon their passing.  This pales in comparison to the Gary Coleman estate, where there were tons of issues.

Gary Coleman’s estate turned out to be quite a mess. Gary Coleman had a will that hadn’t been updated that left everything to an ex-girlfriend, a health care directive that had not been updated leaving control of the decision on whether he lived or died to an ex-wife who he was in a bitter fight with, and enough other loose ends to keep attorneys at work for years.

However, Gary Coleman did have some documents in place, which is better than many people according to a Martindale-Hubbell legal review in 2007, that stated that 55% of Americans do not even have a will, let alone a trust based estate plan that would avoid probate.

You can read more in the

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The Michigan Family Vacation Home

August 5, 2010

Filed under: Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:29 pm

Many of our clients are like the typical Michigander, that is someone in their family has a cottage or vacation home up north. Many people a hefty chunk of their summer enjoying the family cottages up north. However, when it comes to estate planning, the family cottage can become quite a troubling issue.

Who will get use of the cottage when mom or dad passes? Can all the children access the cottage? What if the cottage is sold? What if one of the children gets divorced, will the cottage have to be liquidated?

Proper planning for the family cottage often entails changing the legal ownership of the Michigan family cottage to another type of legal entity, usually a Michigan Family Vacation Property LLC along with a properly crafted operating agreement.

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How To Correct a Death Certificate in Michigan

August 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:25 pm

As Michigan estate planning attorneys, a question that occasionally we hear is “how do I correct a death certificate?” In Michigan, the process is not too difficult. In fact, the paperwork can be obtained online at

Once the form is printed out and completed, the application must be sent to Vital Records Changes, PO Box 30721, Lansing, Michigan 48909, along with the fee of $40.  Additional certified copies are $12 per copy.

If you have questions, in addition to contact us, you may contact the Michigan Vital Records Changes Unit at (517)-335-8660.

One thing to note, however, the process can take longer than expected and up to 3-4 months to get the updated death certificate.

Estate Planning for Michigan Families with Special Needs Children

Filed under: Estate Planning,Special Needs Planning,Special Needs Trusts — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:23 pm

It was a pleasure to present with Nicole Beurkens of Horizons on the topic of Legal Issues Facing Families with Special Needs Children. Nicole is in the Grand Rapids area, while I am near Detroit, in the South-East Michigan area, more specifically, Bloomfield Hills.

We had a phone conference, that Nicole hosts regularly for her clients. The reach of the call included Michigan, as well as outside the state, as we discussed topics relevant to estate planning and special needs planning, including the use of special needs trusts.

If you haven’t visited the Horizon’s website you should at

The Estates of Karl Marx and Charles Darwin

August 11, 2010

Filed under: Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:27 pm

Apparently Karl Marx died a poor man and Charles Darwin died a rich man, according to a CNN article and ancestery website This information was held in the England and Wales National Probate Calender, 1861-1941.

Karl Marx, the anti-capitalist, who died in 1883, left roughly $395 in his estate.  This translates to $31,600 in today’s dollars. Compare this to Charles Darwin, who had an estate of roughly $232,000 or $20.5 million in todays dollars, when he passed away in 1882.

Other notable estates include John Cadbury, Charles, Dickens, Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle, and Lewis Carroll.

You can read more by visiting the CNN article at Online Database Reveals Estates of Marx, Darwin.


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