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Mary Chartier is Successfully Defending Clients in Lansing, Michigan

We are always looking for cases involving women defenders in the news. This week I was struck by the fact that Mary Chartier, a criminal defense attorney from Lansing, Michigan, had two stories featured this year – both recognized her for successfully defending clients. First, in early 2015 she represented a client at trial and obtained a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict for an attempted murder charge. The case involved a father accused of shooting the mother of his 2-year-old child during a child custody dispute. Chartier successfully convinced the jury that her client was acting in self-defense after that the mother had stabbed him with a knife. The client was acquitted of all counts. Later in 2015 Chartier won a reversal of a denial of a hearing on a motion for new trial for a funeral home director who had been convicted by a jury of embezzlement and RICO.  Before this issue, she successfully convinced the judge to throw out a number of counts because the wrong victim was identified in the pleadings. The case involved prepaid funeral plans, and the beneficiaries of the contracts were the victims not the funeral home owner. The case was sent back to the trial court to hold a hearing on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Chartier was named as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Women in the Law for 2013, and has been named as one of the top 25 women attorneys in the state. She is a founding partner of Alane Chartier, a woman-owned law firm.  It is always thrilling to see brave women hanging out their own shingle – but nothing gets me more than watching a fellow criminal lawyer who is obviously putting herself out there, and fighting with all she has for her clients. Now that’s what I call inspiring! The post Mary Chartier is Successfully Defending Clients in Lansing, Michigan appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Can Women Be Partners… and Parents?

The New York Times recently highlighted a woman-led law firm that lets partners be parents. The Gellar Law Group has created an environment where lawyers can both commit to practicing law and caring for their children. The article cited an M.I.T. Workplace Center report from 2007 which found that by far the most important reason women gave for deserting the partnership track was “the difficulty of combining law firm work and caring for children in a system that requires long hours under high pressure with little or inconsistent support for flexible work arrangements.” So has the Gellar Law Group, with their focus on flexibility, found the answer to this dilemma? In many ways I think the answer is yes. It is certainly a critical step in the right direction. The old brick and mortar law firm mentality needs to change before we will see a significant rise in the number of women staying in the field and reaching positions of power in law. Like it or not, women still largely bear the burden of child rearing and ultimately this has a devastating effect on our ability to compete on a level playing field with men who don’t equally share in child rearing. Carving out flexible work environments is a significant step in leveling the playing field. There are so many aspects of the practice of law that are changing. Today technology allows a lawyer to expand their practice beyond the walls of their office. And in spite of the fact there are obvious pros and cons to being available to clients 24/7, the reality is that this same technology allows lawyers in general more freedom to actively participate in their children’s lives and still practice law full time. So while there seems to me to be a greater effort to provide flexible work environments for all lawyers, in my opinion, the real beneficiaries of this shift will ultimately be women. The post Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Can Women Be Partners… and Parents? appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Robin Williams Estate Fight: How Do You Challenge a Trust?

Almost six months after the tragic death of Robin Williams, the predictable has happened: There's a squabble over his estate. The battle pits Williams' three children (from his two previous marriages) against his widow Susan, to whom he was married for three years. Williams left behind a comprehensive estate plan consisting of trusts for his real estate and for his children. Because trusts are a more bulletproof option than distribution through a will when it comes to estate planning, how can you challenge a trust? Here are a few possibilities: 1. Lack of Capacity. As with wills, one of the main ways to challenge a trust is to claim that the settlor (the person who created the trust) lacked the capacity to create the trust in the first place. This would require a person challenging the trust to show that the settlor: (1) didn't understand the nature of what he was doing, (2) didn't understand the nature of his property, and (3) didn't understand his relationship to people affected by the trust. 2. The Requirements of a Trust Are Not Met. A trust is created only when the settlor manifests an intent to create a trust, places property in the trust, and designates a beneficiary. Even these requirements, though, are malleable. For example, the settlor can instruct the trustee to select a beneficiary, or group of beneficiaries, based on some criteria the settlor provides. Also, a trust won't fail because it doesn't name a trustee; a court can always appoint one. In either situation mentioned above (lack of capacity or the requirements of a trust are not met), the trust would fail. The court would then create a resulting trust, which would treat the trust assets as though they were being gifted, as in a will. If the settlor had a will, the trust assets could fall into the "residue," which consists of unallocated testamentary gifts. If the settlor did not leave a will, then the court would distribute the trust's assets according to state rules of intestacy. 3. Ambiguity. Ambiguity doesn't invalidate a trust, but it could affect the distribution of the trust's assets. In the case of Robin Williams' trust, his widow Susan is arguing that the trust isn't specific enough as to the items of jewelry or personal belongings that Williams distributed to her and his children. As it can with a will containing an indefinite term, a probate court can interpret the language of the trust to determine what the settlor intended. Related Resources: Browse Trusts Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Robin Williams' Estate Plan: Good, But Not Great (CNBC) 3 Things You Should Know About Robin Williams' Trusts (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Legal How-To: Deciding Which Estate Planning Tool(s) to Use (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Should You Scrap Your Will and Start Over?

When is it wise to scrap your will and start over? As you know, a will reflects a person's wishes for how his or her estate will be handled after death. But because many unforeseen events can happen after a person writes a will, in some situations it may be best to revoke an old will and draft a new one. Here are some general guidelines to consider: Why Start Over? There are several reasons you may want to scrap your old will and start over. Most of them relate to substantial life changes. A few common situations include: A change in marital status. After getting married, both spouses may want to consider drafting new wills. When a spouse is added to your will, it could change what's left to your other beneficiaries, so you may want to divvy up your assets in a different way. Similarly, getting divorced can also trigger a need to revisit your will, as some states don't automatically revoke gifts left to an ex-spouse upon divorce. A change in financial circumstances. If your business or investment has grown exponentially over the years since you first created a will, you may want to consider throwing out the old one and creating a new will to reflect your finances. The same idea could apply if you recently purchased or sold a home, or if you were lucky enough to have won the lottery (though, in that case, you may want to set up a lottery trust). Becoming a parent or stepparent. New members of the family can also change your estate plans. After a child is born or adopted, you may want to include the appointment of a guardian in case anything happens to you. It may also be wise to explicitly mention stepchildren in your will, as some states don't allow stepchildren to automatically inherit a stepparent's property after death. Revoking a Will In order for a new will to be effective, you must revoke your old will. State statutes dictate how wills can be properly revoked. One of the most common ways is to simply rip it to shreds. In some states, including a clause in the new will that scraps the old will may be enough; in other states, a new version of a will that contradicts the intentions of an older will may be sufficient to revoke it by operation of law. However, if an older will is improperly destroyed, a court may continue to act as if the old will is still in effect. For more guidance about how and when to update your will, head to our lawyer directory to find an attorney experienced in drafting wills near you. Related Resources: Checklist: Reasons to Update Your Will & Estate Planning Documents (FindLaw) 5 Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Paul Walker's Will, Trust Offer Estate-Planning Lessons (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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