|Advisory Board Member|
| County: Ingham|
| Practice Description: |
Mr. Douglas G. Chalgian of Chalgian & Tripp Law Offices, PLLC (CT) is the only attorney in Michigan who is certified in both elder law by the National Elder Law Foundation as well as a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He was also one of about a dozen attorneys on the Michigan Trust Code Drafting Committee.
Notable Cases and Results:
The Court of Appeals handed down an opinion In the Matter of Robert Lewis in July 2019:
The facts of this case are that Mr. Robert Lewis had a long relationship with Carol, although they never married. Mr. Lewis made Carol a joint owner on several bank accounts, which they both used for mutual living expenses, but only he deposited money into these accounts. When Mr. Lewis got sick and went into a care facility, Carol withdraw nearly all the money from these accounts and put the money in her individual accounts.
Mr. Lewis hired CT to sue Carol for the money back and after a lengthy trial, the judge ruled against him and said that because he had made Carol joint on these accounts, she was indeed entitled to take the money. CT filed an appeal. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, and ordered that the trial court award Mr. Lewis damages for Carol’s acts of conversion. “The case is published,” said Mr. Chalgian, “which means it is precedent for future matters. So not only is this a great win for our client, but it makes law that will help others who are put in this difficult situation in the future. This will no doubt be one of the most important probate decisions of 2019. We’re very proud of the work our litigation team did to achieve this result.”
Another significant July 2019 matter:
Clients often tell CT that their parents promised them that when they die, everything will be divided evenly among the children. Then, when they die, they find out that there is an asset, a bank account or piece of real estate, that goes to one of the children, individually. In the recent Michigan Court of Appeals case of In Re Estate of William Patrick McNeight, the father held a family meeting before his death and told his children that everything would be divided among them equally. He prepared a will that likewise said everything would be divided equally. But when the father died, it turned out that there was one retirement account that was left to just one child by beneficiary designation. The other children protested, and started a lawsuit. They were able to show that the paperwork at the financial institution at which the IRA was held had gone through several changes, and that the financial institution was itself confused about their own rules and protocols. But in the end, the court refused to change the outcome, leaving the beneficiary designation on the disputed retirement account intact.
The case offers a lesson in one reality of probate litigation. Families often believe that everything will be divided equally, and that is often what the deceased parent intended. But paperwork matters: that means, that in most cases, a written beneficiary designation or other testamentary document will trump oral promises; and what’s in a will or trust will not, without a specific reference to the contrary, overcome a beneficiary designation or other non-probate arrangement.
Mr. Chalgian has also argued a case of first impression before the Michigan Supreme Court.
Thomas M. Cooley Law School, J.D., 1996
Knox College, B.A., 1981
Bar/Professional Association Involvement:
Michigan State Bar
Elder Law and Disability Section
Probate and Estate Planning Section
Commission on Services to the Aging
Michigan Trust Code Drafting Committee
Awards; Honors; Distinctions:
Leading Lawyers, Law Bulletin Media, 2014-present
Top 100 Lawyers, 5-Year Selectee, Michigan, Super Lawyers Magazine
Published Legal Writing:
Mr. Chalgian writes and speaks regularly on the topics of estate planning, elder law, and probate court litigation.
Chalgian & Tripp Law Offices, PLLC is a law firm focused exclusively in the areas of estate planning, elder law, probate litigation, and special needs planning. Their attorneys are among the most recognized and respected in Michigan. Among their most notable achievements: 1) three attorney have chaired the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the Michigan State Bar, two have chaired the Elder Law and Disability Rights Section of the Michigan State Bar, four are fellows of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, one is certified in Elder Law by the National Elder Law Foundation, one is a member of the Special Needs Alliance, and one is a retired probate judge of 26 years.
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