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Legal Questions & Answers

I have a will, so that's all I need, right?

Absolutely not. Assuming for this question that you are not someone who would be better served with a living trust, a will is a good start to a complete estate plan but falls far short of complete coverage. When something bad happens, i.e. an auto accident or fall from a ladder, most of the time you don't die. But you very well can be in a condition where you cannot make decisions or manage your daily affairs. For this reason, a good or complete estate plan also includes a Durable Power of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney. These documents give others the power to make decisions for you when you cannot. They can be tailored to meet your particular situation or desires. Also, if you are the parent of one or more minor children, and you have babysitters (friends, aunts, uncles, even grandparents) you should consider a Limited Power of Attorney so the caregiver can make emergency medical decisions that could save a life. Consider the fact that when you go to the movies or a play, you're not supposed to have your cell phone on. When you're at a concert or theme park, it's likely you won't hear the phone or feel it vibrate. And some courts do not allow phones of any type within the building. This document can give you real peace of mind.

When should I have a contract reviewed by an attorney?

All but the simplest of contracts should be reviewed. All real estate leases, real estate purchases, mortgages, promissory notes, lending of money, auto leases, and auto purchases should be reviewed by an attorney. Contracts that are preprinted and presented by the other party usually have terms that favor the other party and limit your rights while expanding your obligations. Most attorneys will review a contract and advise you of its content and charge for about 1 - 2 hours of his/her time. It will cost more if the attorney gets involved in negotiating the terms of a contract or drafts the contract.

What are my rights when pulled over for drunk driving?

First, you have obligations that you cannot avoid. You must provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance if asked. You must submit to a preliminary breath test at the scene and/or a breathalyzer test at the police station if asked. Failure / refusal to take either test will result in the Michigan Secretary of State automatically suspending your license for a year. Once you have taken the requested breath test, you have the right to a blood test or an independent breath test. But you must do so immediately after you take the police requested breath test. Remember, you hae another right - the right to remain silent. USE IT. Don't engage in conversation with the officer and don't answer questions or offer statements - unless you have absolutely had nothing to drink for at least the last 24 hours.

If the police ask me questions, don't I have to answer?

The only thing you have to do is tell them your name and show them your I.D. In a traffic stop, you also must show your proof of insurance if asked. Whether it's a traffic stop or you are a potential suspect in a criminal investigation, do not admit your guilt. Avoid arguing or being belligerent with the officer as that will only make things worse. The reason you are told that anything you say can and will be used against you is because it is the truth, and it will be used against you if possible. I cannot even begin to count the number of times in my career that my clients have read the police report only to tell me, "That's not exactly what I said," or "That statement is being taken completely out of context." You have the right to remain silent - USE IT! And call your attorney as soon as possible after the incident.