Dower Rights in Real Property

By definition, a dower is the portion of a deceased husband’s real property allowed to his widow for her lifetime. Traditionally, dower rights were a way by which a husband or his family could support a wife and children in the event that she should become a widow.

Today, most states in the United States have abolished dower rights, but a handful of states still recognize a widow’s dower rights including Michigan. Under state law, dower only attaches to real property, not personal property. So, for example, if a husband owns real property, dower rights for his wife will attach at the moment of marriage. However, the same is not true for property owned by a wife as her husband does not have any legal dower interest to that property. This is why if a husband wishes to sell or transfer this property, his wife might also have to sign the transfer document.

In certain instances, as wife’s dower interests can be barred by a voluntary conveyance or by executing a prenuptial agreement.

It is important to seek the advice of legal counsel when dealing with property issues, including dower rights. The attorney will need to determine exactly who owns the property and by what legal mechanism the property is owned. In making this determination, you might be asked to present real property documents, including any deeds, and other formal written agreements for the attorney to review. Please contact Sumner & Associates to get started today!

Debts after Death

Am I responsible to pay debts of my deceased loved one?

It depends. If the debt is SOLELY in the name of the deceased person, you are not individually responsible, as a loved one of the deceased. Often times, creditors such as hospitals or credit card companies can be aggressive in their collection methods, making you believe you are obligated to pay them. Fearful of the negative consequences, many loved ones will immediately pay these debts. It is important to be aware of how these debts are handled through the probate court process and who is ultimately responsible to pay.

After a person dies, creditors cannot make their claims against you, the loved one of the deceased, but have to make their claim against the Estate of the Deceased Person. This is handled through the probate court process.

If the Estate has any assets in it, such as bank accounts, investments, etc., the creditors will be ranked in order of priority to determine who is paid first. However, if the Estate is insolvent, meaning the deceased person left no assets when he or she passed, there are no funds available to creditors, and they simply don’t get paid.

When dealing with creditors and outstanding debts after death, it is important to gather all records and information pertaining to the deceased person’s assets and debts. This will help you know exactly how much money is left in the Estate and if funds are available to pay creditors.

The best way to handle assets and debts of a deceased loved one is to contact an attorney, who will be able to guide you through the Estates and Probate Court process. Contact Sumner & Associates, PC today to assist with all your Probate Court needs!

Keeping your Record Clean

More young people now have a chance to correct past mistakes and keep criminal records clean.

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act or HYTA (MCL 762.11 et seq.) was enacted with the thought and understanding that we are all human and sometimes make mistakes. Those mistakes can be corrected if a criminal defendant is eligible for and granted HYTA status.

You can be granted HYTA status, after pleading guilty to certain crimes. This conviction will not be placed on your record, IF you successfully complete all probation requirements. If you violate your probation, HYTA status can be revoked. The consequence is that the conviction will be placed on your criminal record and be available for anyone in the public to see. However, if you successfully complete your probation, the conviction can be dismissed and your criminal record will be sealed.

You can be eligible for HYTA status if you and your criminal conviction meet certain requirements. As recently as August 2015, law makers expanded HYTA eligibility. Previously, only criminal defendants who committed crimes between the ages of 17-21 years could be considered for HYTA status, but now, a criminal defendant as old as 24 years could be eligible.

Please contact Sumner & Associates for all your criminal law representation needs and let us evaluate and determine if YOU are eligible.

Parental Responsibility

“Every child has the right to a parent-child relationship with both parents”

If the mother is married, either when she becomes pregnant or the child is born, her husband is considered to be the father (unless a court has determined otherwise).

But what if the mother is not married?

If the mother is not married, either when she became pregnant or when the child is born, paternity can be established either by a voluntary acknowledgement or a by a court order.

Voluntary Acknowledgment

At the hospital, a father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity when the child is born. His name can also be added to the birth certificate right at the hospital.

For reasons such as incarceration or military service, the father might not always be present at the hospital when the child is born.  Just because the father was absent, does not exclude him from this process. If the father wishes to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, legal documents need to be completed, signed by both the child’s mother and father, and submitted to the State of Michigan along with the required processing fees.

Court Ordered Paternity

If a father refuses to voluntarily acknowledge paternity of a child, you may need to take legal action.  In order to resolve the issue, genetic testing and a paternity suit may be necessary. Genetic testing is done when the alleged father questions or denies paternity of a child. A paternity suit entitles an alleged father to a hearing before a judge to prove whether or not he is the father.

Once paternity is established, either voluntarily or by a court order, other legal issues such as child support payments, child custody, and parenting time may need to be determined.

It is in your child’s best interest to resolve any legal issues as soon as possible.

Employment Law

Have you ever been convicted of a crime, either a misdemeanor or felony?” If yes, describe in detail
Do you currently have any pending charges against you?” If yes, describe in detail.

We have all seen these questions on job applications. For some people, the answer is a simple “NO” or “N/A “and it’s on to the next question. For others, these questions might be the reason you aren’t getting calls for interviews or receiving job offers.
So what can you do?

  • Read carefully to determine exactly what information the question is asking about. The question may only require you to disclose felony convictions, so you do not have to include any misdemeanor convictions. In some instances, employers are only looking for recent convictions. If the questions ask about convictions in the last 5 years and you were convicted 10 years ago, you do not need to include this information.
  • Be honest. Most employers will conduct routine background checks on potential employees, even if they answer “No” to criminal history questions. If you are not completely honest or lie about anything, they will find out. Lying could hurt your chances of getting the job even more than anything that is discovered on your criminal record.
  • Get a copy of your criminal history. You should know exactly what your record looks like, exactly what your convictions were for, and how old they are. Most likely your employer will obtain and keep a copy of your criminal record, so you should have this information too.
  • Get your record Expunged. Certain criminal convictions can be “expunged” or removed from your record so that employers can no longer see them when doing a background check. To determine if your criminal conviction is eligible, refer to our blog post “Expunging (Setting Aside) a Conviction from your Criminal Record in Michigan”.


Protecting Our Children- “Sexting”

In today’s world, most people don’t leave home without their mobile devices. While it is convenient to have immediate access to so much information, it can come with damaging costs and severe penalties. Therefore, it is especially important to teach our children about the negative consequences associated with social media. Here are a few things children, teens, and their parents need to know:

In Michigan, the act of creating, soliciting, possessing, or distributing sexually explicit photos of a minor under 18 is a felony (MCL 750.145c). Under this law, many local communities are prosecuting teens for “sexting” which is the act of sharing sexually-explicit material between mobile phones. If you are convicted under this law, you could face 4-20 years in prison.

In order to educate students, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office has visited local schools in an “attempt to explain the possible ramifications — socially and criminally — of improper use of technology, whether it be smartphones, computers or other mobile devices”. Oakland County officials work to prevent sexting, other online issues By Paul Kampe, The Oakland Press.

The Troy School District has had a policy in place for several years now that goes even a step further. The school board adopted a social media policy that states “That in any suspected investigation of a sexting incident, a school official may search a student’s cell phone, computer or other electronic device if reasonable suspicion exists that a student has been involved in sexting,” reads the policy. “All evidence and electronic devices shall be turned-over to the appropriate law enforcement agency, and will not be retained by the district.” New Sexting Policy Allows Troy Schools to Search Students’ Electronics, By Jen Anesi, The Troy Patch.

Many school districts and communities have enacted similar policies. Check with your local school district to see what policies are in place, obtain a copy, and carefully read and review it.

Friends don’t let friends

Do you plan on serving alcoholic beverages the next time you host a social gathering at your home? If the answer is yes, you should learn about the law regarding “social host liability”.

Social host liability is a legal theory used to describe the responsibility of an individual who provides alcohol to guests. While several other states have laws regarding social host liability, Michigan does not. What this really means, is that party hosts who supply alcohol to their guests, are NOT responsible for the damage those guests cause while intoxicated.

However, there is one key exception – Minors. Under Michigan law, MCL 436.1701, alcohol shall not be provided to any person under the age of 21 years old. So, if you host a social gathering or party at your home and provide alcohol to a minor, you could be responsible for the damage that minor causes while intoxicated, including a drunk driving accident.

When planning and hosting your next social gathering, please keep these tips in mind:

• Planning the party:

  • Encourage guests to volunteer as designated drivers
  • Limit your own alcohol intake so you can drive guests home if needed
  • Purchase and have non-alcoholic beverages available
  • Provide cab company phone numbers and have extra cash for cab fare on hand
  • Determine and announce a party time ending well in advance

• Serving Drinks:

  • DO NOT serve alcohol to Minors
  • Encourage and push food, not alcohol
  • Limit the number of drinks per guest
  • Serve water, coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party ends

A responsible social host not only takes care of guests’ needs, but also helps keep everyone safe!

Expunging (Setting Aside) a Conviction from your Criminal Record in Michigan

Due to the rapid growth of employers, landlords, and banks conducting background checks on perspective new hires, renters, and loan applicants, expunging, or setting aside, a criminal conviction from your public record might be a process you want to consider.

While the Michigan laws (see MCL Section 780.621) for expunging a criminal conviction are detailed and potentially confusing, the following questions and answers are written to help you better understand the process:

Question 1: When can I begin the Expungement process?

Answer: Before filing an application to set aside your conviction, five years must have passed since a sentenced was imposed or your discharge from imprisonment, probation, or parole for this conviction, which is later.

Question 2: What convictions qualify for an Expungement?


You would qualify if you met any of the following:

  1. You have not been convicted of more than 1 felony and 2 misdemeanors.
    1. May petition the court to set aside the 1 felony offense.
  2. You have not been convicted of more than 2 misdemeanors and no other felonies or misdemeanors.
    1. May petition the court to set aside 1 or both of the misdemeanor offenses.
  3. You were convicted of a violation or attempted violation of MCL 750.520e (criminal sexual conduct 4th degree) before January 12, 2015, IF you have not been convicted of any other offense.
    1. Exception to “any other offense: not more than 2 minor offenses. A minor offense is a misdemeanor of ordinance violation that ALL of the following apply:
      1. The maximum imprisonment term is not more than 90 days;
      2. The maximum fine is not more than $1000; and
  • The person committing the offense is not more than 21 years old.

You would NOT qualify if the following occurred:

  1. You committed a felony or attempted to commit a felony for which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment;
  2. You violated or attempted to violate of any of the following:
    1. Child abuse- 2nd degree (MCL 750.136b(3));
    2. Child abuse- in presence of another child (MCL 750.136d);
    3. Child sexually abusive activity or possession of child sexually abusive material(MCL 750.145c);
    4. Prohibited use of Internet or computer system (MCL 750.145d);
    5. Criminal Sexual Conduct- 2nd and 3rd degrees (MCL 750.520c/750.520d);
    6. Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct (MCL 750.520g);
  3. You were convicted of a violation or attempted violation of MCL 750.520e (criminal sexual conduct 4th degree) before January 12, 2015;
  4. You were convicted of a traffic offense, including a conviction for operating while intoxicated;
  5. You were convicted of a felony for domestic violence, if the person has a previous misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence;
  6. You violated the Human Trafficking laws (MCL 750.462a to 750.462j);
  7. You violated the Anti- Terrorism Act (MCL 750.543a to 750.543z).

Question 3: Is there a cost?

Answer: Yes, the application fee is $50.00.  There may be other fees associated with having your fingerprints taken, making copies of the application and attachments and mailing your application packet to multiple agencies.

Question 4: How do I begin the Expungement Process?

Answer: In order to set aside your conviction, you will need to do the following:

  1. Determine if you are eligible (See Questions 1 and 2)
  2. Complete the “Application to set aside Conviction
  3. Go to the convicting court:
    1. Sign the application in the presence of the court clerk
    2. Get a certified copy of the conviction
    3. Make 4 copies of the application and all attachments
    4. Submit the Original application and all attachments to the court clerk
  4. Go to a local law enforcement agency:
    1. Have your fingerprints taken (possible fee)
    2. Get a fingerprint card
  5. Mail to the Michigan State Police:
    1. 1 copy of the application and all attachments
    2. Fingerprint card
    3. Fee: $50.00
  6. Mail to the Attorney General
    1. 1 copy of the application and all attachments
  7. Mail to the correct Prosecuting Office (county, city, or township):
    1. 1 copy of the application and all attachments
  8. Complete and sign the Proof of Service on the back of the application
    1. submit proof of service to the convicting court

Question 5: Where can I find the required forms?

Answer: The Application to Set Aside Conviction and Order on to Set Aside Conviction can be found at the Michigan State Court Administrator’s Office Website (SCAO). Be sure to review the forms to see what exactly needs to be completed.

Tobacco and Smoking


One simple law: It is illegal to purchase or use tobacco products if you are under 18 years old!

Michigan’s Smoke Free Law

  • What:
    • A law prohibiting smoking in the state of Michigan.
  • When:
    • Effective as of May 1, 2010
  • Where:
    • Required to comply with smoke free laws:
      • Work areas/places of employment
      • Food service establishments
        • Bars
        • Restaurants
      • Any public place including
        • Arenas
        • Bowling Alleys
        • Concert Halls
        • Health Facilities
        • Health Facilities
        • Hotels & Motels
        • Museums
        • Nursing Homes
      • Private clubs
        • VFW halls
      • Not required to comply with smoke free laws:
        • Cigar Bars
        • Tobacco specialty retail stores
        • Casino gaming floors
        • Hookah bars (only if no food service or liquor license)
        • Personal residences
        • Motor Vehicles
      • Why:
        • Michigan legislature passed the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke-Free Air Law on December 10, 2009 to preserve and improve the health, comfort, and environment of the people of the state by limiting exposure to secondhand smoke.

Teen Drivers

Teen Driver’s and Parents

*Credit to Michigan SOS Website for Information


If you are under 18 years, here is how the Michigan Graduated Driver’s License System works:


Important Driving Information:


  1. Kelsey’s Law: Mobile phones banned for Level 1 and Level 2 Driver’s

Under state law, you are prohibited from initiating a call, answering a call, or listening to or engaging in verbal communication through a mobile phone. If ticketed, you could receive up to $295 in fines and costs. Exceptions are if you are using a voice-operated system or a phone to:

  • Report a traffic accident, medical emergency or serious road hazard.
  • Report a situation in which you believe your personal safety is in jeopardy.
  • Report or prevent a crime or potential crime against yourself or another person.
  1. Speed Limits

The standard speed limits defined under the Michigan Vehicle Code are as follows:

  • 15 mph- mobile home parks and some municipal parks
  • 25 mph- subdivisions and condominium complexes
  • 45 mph- In a work zone if posted. If a work zone is not posted for 45 mph, then the speed limit is the normal speed limit for that area.
  • 55 mph- Unless otherwise posted, on all streets that are not designated freeways and on all highways
  • 70 mph maximum/55 mph minimum – On all freeways unless posted otherwise. School buses and trucks are restricted to 60 mph. On freeways with speed limits less than 70 mph, school buses and trucks are restricted to 55 mph.


  1. Driving Record– maintained by the Secretary or State for EVERY driver in Michigan and contains
  • Moving Violations- reported by law enforcement
  • Traffic accidents- reported by law enforcement
    • Michigan
    • Other States- notify Michigan SOS
  • Alcohol convictions- reported through court system
  • Drug convictions- reported through court system
  • Suspended License statuses