Practice Areas

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Probate or Estate Administration

Probate is the means by which we transfer assets from the deceased to the living.  It requires the appointment of a person to collect and sell the decedent's assets, pay the decedents' debts, and distribute what's left to those  entitled to receive it.

  • Costs vary depending upon the size and complexity of the estate and typically range from $1,500 to $7,000.
  • Probate will take at least seven months unless the estate qualifies for simpler and faster procedures.
  • Some assets pass outside of probate.


We have extensive experience in representing taxpayers before the IRS, State of Michigan, and local boards of review for income, employment and real estate tax matters.  Call now to explore solutions.

Estate Planning

          Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan that includes a will, a durable power of attorney, and a designation of patient advocate.  The most difficult part of creating an estate plan is making and keeping an appointment with an attorney to discuss it.  Once you take that first step and set an appointment with Mr. Cotner, you should give consider the persons you want to benefit from your estate, and the persons you want to administer your estate.

  • Wills:  A will assures the orderly distribution of your property and assets according to your wishes. If you are a parent, you may also name a guardian to care for your young children should something happen to you and the other parent. Your will names people you trust to carry out your wishes.  Without a will, a relative or even a creditor can apply to be your estate’s personal representative.  State law will provide for distribution of property according to a set formula that most likely will not fulfill your wishes.   You may change your will as your financial and family circumstances change.
  • Trusts:  A trust is an arrangement under which one person, called a trustee, holds legal title to property for another person, called a beneficiary. You can be the trustee of your own living trust, keeping full control over all property held in trust. Different kinds of living trusts can help you avoid probate, reduce estate taxes, or set up long-term property management. A "living trust" (also called an "inter vivos" trust) is simply a trust you create while you're alive, rather than one that is created at your death.  We also draft other types of trusts to meet special needs such as life insurance planning, special needs trusts, and spendthrift trusts.
  • Durable Power Of Attorney:  With a durable power of attorney, you can give a trusted person authority to handle your finances and property if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs. The person you name to handle your finances is called your agent or attorney-in-fact (but doesn't have to be an attorney). You can make the power of attorney effective upon signing it, or if you later become disabled.
  • Health Care Directives:  Writing out your wishes for health care can protect you if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. A health care directive in Michigan is  known as a “designation of patient advocate”, which is a power of attorney for health care. This document gives someone you choose the power to make medical decisions if you can't.
  • Delegation Of Parental Powers For Parent(S) With Minor Children:  Are you planning a trip? Are your kids in school and there might be times when it is difficult to reach you?  If your child needs non-emergency medical, dental, or surgical services, whether in a doctor’s office or in the hospital, you as a parent must give permission.  In an emergency, your child may be treated without your consent if a physician determines that your child needs immediate medical care and further delay would increase the risk to your child’s life or health. In situations that are not emergencies, your child may need unexpected care. In these cases, contacting parents for permission can delay treatment and create unnecessary anxiety or discomfort for your child.  Your delegation of parental powers will assure prompt medical attention for your child when you are away, can’t come with your child to medical appointments, or think you might be hard to reach.
  • Lady Bird Deeds:   This can be a very effective tool to retain ownership and control over real estate and yet still provide for your children's (or grandchildren's) ownership of the property after your life.  This tool fits ONLY very specific situations.

Debt Defense and Other Consumer Matters

Debt buyers purchase "charged off" debts from banks and credit card companies, often for pennies on the dollar.  The debt buyer, armed an assignment, will then try to collect that debt as if owed to it.  If a debt buyer can't persuade you to pay the debt with letters and offers to compromise the debt, the debt buyer may file a collection case against you in state court.  Just because the debt buyer says it's so doesn't make it so. 

  • It may not be your debt. 
  • The debt may be so old that the debt buyer is legally barred from collecting it. 
  • The debt buyer may not be able to prove the debt or that it's entitled to collect it.
  • The debt buyer may not have followed the rules in trying to collect the debt.

We defend consumers in these actions.  If you get served with a lawsuit, contact us immediately for a free consultation regarding possible defenses.


What I do:  I handle cases in the Bankruptcy Court, primarily for individual consumers, including:

  • Chapter 7 (liquidation) cases
  • Chapter 12 farm reorganization cases
  • Chapter 13 (wage earner plan) cases
  • Litigation matters (stay and discharge violations, student loan discharge, defense of preference and turnover actions, etc.)

Where I do it: I handle cases in all divisions of the Western and Eastern Districts of Michigan.  My office is in Grand Haven at 575 Robbins Road, Suite D, behind Dr. Leitner's office..

Why you need me: There is no such thing as a simple bankruptcy case. If someone tells you your case is simple, run for the hills—they haven't asked you the right questions. You need a lawyer (not a paralegal) who keeps up with the daily changes in Bankruptcy law and will take the time to understand your case in detail. You can lose assets if you hire a firm that emphasizes volume over quality. You can go to jail if your attorney is dishonest enough to let you lie, even about things that you may not think matter.

How much it costs:  A Chapter 7 case will cost you between $1,400 and $5,000 in legal fees, depending on the complexity of the case and other factors. A typical Chapter 13 case costs about $5,000 in legal fees.  A responsible house painter won't give you a price without seeing your house, so don't expect a lawyer to give you a firm price over the phone or on their web site.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

I sue abusive debt collectors.

Are creditors harassing you?  Are you afraid to answer the phone?  Have you been sued for an old debt?

Federal law requires your debt collectors to treat you truthfully, fairly, and with dignity, and respect. Debt collectors profit from illegal practices. As your attorney, I’ll discuss remedies for these abuses with you and will consider a contingency fee agreement, which means there are no fees or expenses charged to you unless I recover on your claim.

Legally Stop Creditors.  Here's how:

  • Keep a log of all letters and phone calls you receive from creditors, and save all letters and other written documentation you receive.  Call or email us for a Collections Communications Log.
  • Email or call to set up an appointment.
  • Bring your Collections Communications Log and the debt collector's letters with you to the meeting.

We will provide you with a no-cost initial consultation and inform you whether you have a case and, if so, what it may be worth to you.