Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Trial Victory for the Good Guys

It's nice to know you're on the side of right when you walk into a courtroom to settle a dispute at trial.

We represented elderly parents who sold their son their house, keeping a life estate for themselves. Of course they didn't have a lawyer draw it up, the son, a financial planner did, and the contract only vaguely lays out the terms.

You can guess what happened right?

The son after a while gets greedy, wants the property right away and has them sign a deed under interesting circumstances, a deed that doesn't mention the life estate.

The son then kicks his parents out of the house, and claims there never was a life estate.

Thankfully, the son was quite greedy and didn't want to pay more taxes on the property so before he kicked them out, but after he gets the deed, he files a Michigan tax exemption after he gets the deed, claiming his parents are co-owners so the property is exempt and didn't transfer so it shouldn't uncap and have a property tax increase.

He then writes a few letters to the Treasury when they question the exemption and states in it that they do have a life estate. He then claims he was just told to say this to avoid taxes and it doesn't really mean it is true. Anyone out there buy that claim?

The Judge didn't buy that either.

We (the partner and myself on the file) got the house back for the parents for them to have as their life estate, putting them where they should be under the terms of the sale. It was a very happy moment for them and it felt good to win it, I can tell you that.

A cautionary note: whenever serious money or property is involved in a deal, even among family members, its best that you spend a few dollars on having a lawyer review the deal and make sure your intent is fully spelled out in the contract. This saves a lot of grief and serious attorney fees later. Everything may be great when you start the deal, but serious money can bring serious complications and risks.

1 comment:

Scott said...

For all the flack you barristers get, it's stories like this that remind is that it's good to know a good lawyer.

Good Job, my friend!