Crenshaw Peterson & Associates PC

Crenshaw Peterson & Associates PC

Estate Planning and Elder Law 

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Stay tuned for more insight on Estate Planning, Elder Law, Trust Administration, Probate, and related topics.

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Medicaid asset protection

Posted on September 28, 2018 at 4:40 PM

Tara Peterson, Elder Law Attorney, Crenshaw Peterson & Assoc. tells us about Medicaid rules and you / your asset's protection. When to see an attorney for all these purposes? For more information, please visit their website at www.CrenshawPeterson.com or give them a call at (517) 347-2100.



Posted on September 28, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Senior assistance

Posted on September 28, 2018 at 3:50 PM

Talk to your loved ones as they age and before they'll actually need the help, it'll make it easier to make decisions when they do. See more of what Tara has to say on the topic. www.crenshawpeterson.com

#cpalaw #elderlaw #taratalkstoseniors

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Posted on August 4, 2016 at 2:20 PM


Our state has adopted a new law allowing people to designate a "Funeral Representative."

What is this Funeral Representative?

A Funeral Representative is a person who has the authority to make all arrangements for your funeral and burial after you die. This is different from previous years when the law stated that only a person's next of kin was in control of funeral and burial arrangements. The next of kin rule was less than ideal for several reasons.

  1. When no spouse was present, all children had to sign off to agree to the funeral arrangements. (How often does a group of people always agree on all aspects? Rarely!!)
  2. If the individual had a second or third spouse, or even short term marriage, the new spouse trumped the children and any of their wishes for their deceased parent.
  3. The deceased individual's wishes may not be followed if the next of kin decided to do something different.

Designating a Funeral Representative changes the above scenarios. You get to choose the Funeral Representative prior to your death, and that Funeral Representative exclusively has the power to make funeral decisions on your behalf. The only question remaining is whether they HAVE to follow your previously made arrangements. I would argue they do given that the power arises out of an advance directive appointing them to the position. If the power given is to be abided by, certainly so should the previously made decisions of the deceased.

The Michigan Funeral Director's Association says otherwise. They state that the law is not an advanced directive such as other states have developed but that it is meant to protect the deceased individual's right to choose who should be in charge of funeral decisions. The Michigan Courts will be the ultimate deciding factor, but it does point in the right direction. And, it makes clear the importance of choosing the right person for such a job. A person who will abide by your wishes as the deceased.

The alternative to not listing a represented leaves too much open to fighting amongst those you leave behind. And where death is concerned, we, as humans, are incredibly emotional and far less rational than we ought to be in those tense situations of loss. A Funeral Representative uncomplicates the entire process and will save a far greater headache down the road for your heirs.

We have placed this language in both the Power of Attorney documents we draft as well as the Last Will and Testament documents we draft.

If you haven't had your estate plan updated recently, nominating a Funeral Representative may be a good reason to come in and get it updated!



Posted on March 13, 2016 at 6:35 PM


I’m often asked when it is necessary to talk to an attorney if you’re making future decisions involving your assets?

Senior adults are often prey to scams at a time when they are facing health and financial insecurity. Add to that the long term and short term ramifications to decisions that families just may not be aware of, and I think it’s always a good idea to contact us at Crenshaw Peterson as your elder law attorneys and just check in. Sometimes families are able to resolve or help with decisions regarding health and finances but it is always a good idea to seek the advice of an elder law attorney to confirm the right path is being taken and bring some peace of mind to the senior adult as well as their family. Unintended consequences are often the biggest culprits to future planning.

The following decisions should be made in consultation with Crenshaw Peterson as elder law attorneys because they can later impact a senior adult’s potential for Medicaid or Veterans benefits. We can help to develop safe solutions to achieve your goals, without losing the potential benefits.


1. Giving money or property away as a gift

2. Adding children’s names to accounts or to real property

3. Selling certain types of assets

4. Buying financial products that can cause problems as you age

5. Any transfers of property by deeds

6. If one spouse needs additional in-home care assistance or is being moved into a nursing home

7. Paying a family member to care for you

8. Selling real property or a business in order to have the money to pay for assisted living or nursing home care

9. If one spouse becomes the caretaker for the other due to declining mental capacities

10. Choosing who will assist if there are no reliable families members close to assist with health care or provide financial assistance.


Just like the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it also takes a team with a combined set of knowledge to build a plan for your future as a senior adult. Your team may include family, your elder law attorney, a doctor, financial advisors, and even a caretaker involved. Working together allows us to develop a plan that meets all the needs of the senior from A to Z and offers the assurances that the senior adult’s needs will be met fully and that everything done is in their best interests and for their safety. The first step to achieving this plan is, of course, to have a good estate plan in place. But that estate plan may need to be updated or tweaked as time goes on and as our lives and situations change. So before you make any of the above decisions, or start planning as life changes and throws you a curveball, be sure to contact us and allow Crenshaw Peterson, as your elder attorneys, to help you plan for the next steps.


The Challenge of Talking about Aging

Posted on January 25, 2016 at 6:55 PM

As our parents and grandparents age, it becomes necessary to have honest dialogue about the change in needs they may be facing. But these conversations are often difficult. Adult children and the aging parents know the importance of the conversation, but they can be awkward, challenging and emotionally charged and so many simply avoid them. Coming up with a plan that everyone is comfortable with and that makes sense for everyone is a good idea. Avoiding them is not the answer, so here are a few tips to tackling those difficult topics with care and consideration.

1. Talk before it’s time. The sooner families have those conversations, the better they are long term. So start talking, soon and often. It may be twenty, ten or five years off before any serious involvement is necessary, but the sooner you talk about the what if’s, the more comfortable you will be discussing it when it is time and the more receptive the aging parent will be knowing they have you in their corner and that you understand all of their wishes.

2. Make sure you know your options. It’s hard to have adequate conversations when you don’t know all the options. Talk to your Elder Law Attorney to make sure that you are up to date on all the law changes, current practices, available aid, opportunities, and time changes, as well as costs. Life continues to evolve around us, we need to evolve our planning to match. We recommend meeting with your attorney, even if just for a brief update conversation, at least once every five years. This will aid in your discussions with family, as you’ll be better equipped with the information you need to make the best decisions.

3. Don’t be shy about talking. Because these are difficult conversations to have, everyone must be upfront and honest with each other. But remain polite and respectful in your honesty! Aging adults must be honest about the help they need, and adult children need to recognize the limitations they have to potentially assist or see to the problem issue. Tackle the big issues clearly, don’t tip toe around them or you aren’t really talking.

4. Be patient. Aging parents are looking at a reduction in independence and abilities. This is an emotional, confusing and stressful time. Recognize that before you start the conversation so that you are more patient as they express their concerns. They may seem trivial to you, “of course I’ll do that mom,” but those responses aren’t what your aging parent wants to hear. They want reassurance, even if it seems like a silly request or a silly fear they have. Help them to age gracefully and safely.

5. Talk a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I hear when the family is sitting in my office “but mom, we talked about that a few years ago remember?” Once a few years ago is NOT enough. It is tempting to rush through these awkward difficult conversations on touchy issues, and then not talk about them again because now you have, but that isn’t actually helping the situation. Have several conversations and over a lengthy period of time. Bring them up again later to make sure everyone still feels the same way. A great example of a simpler topic shift is with life support. Often if you ask the 60 year old how much they want, you’ll get an answer that is relatively the same, “I want to be resuscitated if the doctors think I’ll survive but I don’t want to be a vegetable.” If you ask an 85/90 year old that question, the answer shifts dramatically to an adamant, “Don’t you dare resuscitate me.” Without these conversations, you won’t realize that the aging parents view on something has changed. Planning processes evolve as life does so talk about these issues often and keep on talking about them. It will reduce so much stress down the road, and often relieve the tension of overwhelmed parents and children.

6. Think outside the box. After exploring your options and doing all your research to know all that is available for your particular set of circumstances, it’s time to evaluate your plan to ensure that you or your aging parent is aging gracefully and safely. Explore ALL your options and see what fits best. It doesn’t have to be what everyone else is doing. Do what fits you. Don’t assume that you know the answer until you’ve looked at it. Make a pros and cons list. Thinking outside the box allows you to combine options, and be open to alternatives that you hadn’t thought of previously.

7. Talk with a neutral person in the room. Sometimes the conversations are just too charged, especially thecloser we get to needing some additional care. Too many emotions are charged and being flung around the room. So call us. Let us sit down with everyone, phone consult far away family members in, and discuss the situation and the options neutrally. Aging parents especially like this option. They feel they aren’t pressured by family to make one decision over another. We lead them to what is best for them, and they know that they are our first priority, not the adult children. The adult child might have been saying the same thing for months, but hearing it from someone outside the family often helps. Take advantage of that service!

While tough, these conversations will help the aging adult and the child navigate the next few years as life changes and shifts (or has already started to). We like to see our clients' families working easily and peacefully together to the end.  We would be happy to assist you as you navigate these rough waters, and direct you to resources available to you and any planning that may be necessary to ensure your long-term plan continues to work the way you intend it to.


Aging Relatives & the Holidays

Posted on November 15, 2015 at 9:20 PM

Be Watchful Of Your Aging Relatives Over The Holidays.



Holiday celebrations are right around the corner. Many families will gather together with parents and grandparents. It is important to be alert to noticeable changes in your elderly relative’s behavior. It’s not always an easy conversation to have with family, but sometimes it is necessary as these changes may reveal health needs or challenges that require intervention to help keep those loved ones around longer. The Holidays are a great time to be on the lookout for serious physical, mental and health changes in your loved ones.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Personality Changes: As our loved ones age, we need to be mindful of changes in personality that could potentially reflect a larger problem. It could be physical limitations as they age, but it could also be mental. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s carry some very drastic and difficult side effects and consequences. The holidays are perfect times to check in with family and make sure that as they age, they are still functioning and able to care for themselves adequately.  Some common signs are being more anxious than normal, depressed and always down, or having a harder time remembering. Sometimes it’s as simple as a hearing problem, and once fixed they are their happy selves again. But other times it can be early signs of a bigger problem, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, and getting a head of the disease is necessary. Early planning for these diseases is also helpful, both to the other spouse who will be the caretaker, as well as the rest of the family and the remaining estate assets. If a diagnosis is made, consulting with an elder attorney is necessary as soon as possible.
  2. Money Problems: A touchy subject money, but a necessary conversation if things appear off. Look for signs that your elderly loved ones are handling things (or not handling them as the case may be.) Are there unopened bills laying around, or paperwork laying around as if forgotten)? Any collection notices, any mentions of financial questions on things they aren’t used to dealing with? Especially with older women, whose deceased husbands used to handle all the finances, they often have more questions than sometimes they want to admit to. Inquiring and opening the door to the subject, may make it easier for them to discuss the problems. Also be alert to unusual purchases or recent house repairs that were unnecessary as many scammers target the vulnerable senior population. Warn your family members of these scams so they don’t fall victim to them.
  3. Living Conditions: Living conditions are often a sign as to a bigger problem. If you notice the home is not up to the standards they had prior, there could be something more going on. Check the fridge for old food, garbage piling up, clean floors and dishes. Be sure to check in to see if your elderly loved ones need assistance, or if there are changes to be made to make it easier for them to get around the house to better maintain it. Whether it’s physical limitations that prevent their doing more to clean and maintain the home, or because of a mental condition that they don’t realize they are in a dirty environment, a dirty home is a sign that something is wrong.
  4. The Caretaker: Watch for one spouse covering for the limitations of the other. One spouse may start to answer for the other, finish their sentences when they struggle, correct their memories of events, finish stories when the end is forgotten, and hover close by in case they are needed for even some of the small tasks we face every day. This is usually in an effort to hide the decline of mental or physical capabilities of their spouse. Sometimes it is helpful in these situations to ask about any recent trips to the doctor, or offer to accompany them to a checkup and suggest one might be necessary. Unfortunately, Caretakers will often spend so much time caring for their spouse that it is detrimental to their own health. Statistically, most caretakers pass away before the unhealthy spouse because of the stress to their own lives and health. It’s important to come alongside them, and make sure they have the assistance they need to remain healthy themselves.
  5. Mobility Limitations: Age affects so many things, especially our bodies and how much they can do. As our loved ones age, it’s important to ensure that they can still get around easily. Watching their movements over the holidays is helpful. Are they in pain as they move? Are they slower than the last time you saw them? Discuss these issues with a doctor and help develop a plan to ensure your loved one can get to and from appointments and errands and if necessary, have that difficult discussion about alternative transportation to driving.



I’ll add a caution to this blog post: Don’t ruin the holidays by bringing up the tough subjects, have fun at the holidays and enjoy time with your elderly loved ones. Especially since there are no guarantees as to how much time we have left with them. But be aware too that they are elderly and that aging brings with it new problems. Make sure your loved ones are managing their lives properly and are remaining as healthy as they can be for their ages. If your observations do cause concern, speak with a doctor, and consult with an attorney on the next steps to take. Don’t discuss the problems in the middle of Thanksgiving Dinner though, rocking the holiday boat can be dangerous and upsetting. But start that discussion with family members, comparing notes and discussing options. Then broach the subject and next steps after the holidays are over. And most importantly, BE RESPECTFUL. These are not children, they are adults, aging and vulnerable, but still adults. Adults with a lifetime of experience and knowledge. Respect that aspect, and the conversation, the options, and the decisions made, will be that much easier and more productive!


Scams on Senior Citizens to be watchful of

Posted on October 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM


Scam artists like to prey on senior adults.  Unfortunately, this has only increased in recent years, rather than decreased.  If ever there is a question about something you have received, or a fee invoice you have been sent by an agency you're not familiar with, we would recommend calling us! We don't mind, and we'd rather help protect our seniors, than see these scams executed successfully and have to clean up the mess afterwards. So please please please, give our office a call should you encounter anything you think is suspicious!

Here at our firm, we also address these issues directly in the drafting of your Trusts and Powers of Attorney.  By contacting your elder law attorneys here at Crenshaw Peterson, you can identify and authorize your team of quick responders to step in and protect you from being taken advantage of by outsiders. We can also direct you to any authorities that may assist in helping you recover from the scam should you fall prey. 

Frequent Scams:

1. A fee for pulling a copy of your deed from the register of Deeds.

This is becoming a frequent scam sent to almost all of our clients across the state of Michigan.  Especially if we filed a deed for recording with the Register of Deeds as part of your estate plan.  Our clients get a very official looking letter in the mail that appears to be legitimate and from the State of Michigan asking you to pay a fee of usually around $75 for them to send you a copy of your real estate transactions.  DO NOT SEND THEM THE MONEY!!  

If you look closely, this form is actually from some other party, not the State of Michigan, and often lists California in the small print.  They will in fact send you a copy of your most recently recorded deed BUT, it would only cost you a $1.00, that's right ONE DOLLAR if you went down to the register of deeds yourself.  Secondly, you just recorded that deed, so you just recently got the original back from the register of deeds, so why would you need a copy?? And if you do want a copy, call us, and we'll send you our file copy FOR FREE!! 

2. IRS scams

Often around tax season, seniors will get a phone call from a supposed IRS agent calling about taxes owed or unpaid taxes.  Often if a senior doesn't immediately respond, they even resort to threatening the senior with arrest, suspension of a driver's license, a lawsuit and more.  Do not respond to these calls.  The IRS is not making them.  

3. Health Care scams

A new favorite scam on senior citizens seems to be with health care.  With ever changing rules and regulations this is already a fear of a lot of senior citizens and probably why they fall victim to it more easily.  A scammer will call a senior pretending to be a medicare representative.  The goal by the scammer is to get personal information.  The scammer then uses that personal information improperly. We've also seen the scammers pretend to have back due amounts owed back to medicare or the insurance company to get money out of the senior.  Or in some instances, we've seen the scammer call back later and tell the senior that they spoke with their children and the child said it was okay to give the scammer their social security number.  

DO NOT give out your personal information and especially your social security number over the phone to someone you do not know!

4.  Grandchild/great grandchild scams

Less frequently, but still prevalent is the scammer who pretends to be a grandchild or great grandchild. They call up "grandma" or "grandpa" and ask for money for some problem they recently encountered that they need help with.  Grandparents LOVE their grandchildren often to the point of being irrational on what the give them.  Isn't that what grandparents are for? To spoil grandkids rotten?! Speaking as a grandchild beloved and loving my grandparents this is a relationship unlike any other.  And these scammers try to take advantage of knowing what those relationships are like.  

Be sure, that if you are asked for money from a loved one, you confirm that is in fact them you are speaking to.  Call them back on the phone later and ask, go to their home if you live nearby and speak face to face.  Don't give the caller or your grandchild your banking information!

5. Prescription drugs

With the ever increasing costs of prescriptions on seniors, many senior citizens are looking online for cheaper drugs.  BE CAREFUL!

Some of the drugs are counterfeit, or the company takes the money and doesn't deliver the drugs.  Be sure that it is a reputable company you are transacting with. DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Unfortunately, this scam is ever increasing and our seniors and their families need to be more prudent in watching for these scams.  

6. The obituary scam

Here, scammers read obituaries in the paper and call the deceased's family and demand money for a supposed outstanding debt that the deceased left behind.  Another version of this is the delivery person showing up at the door and demanding onsite payment for a package the deceased ordered right before they died.  

First, make sure you are working with a legal team to correctly identify legitimate creditors. Second, very rarely does a company deliver a product today without demanding payment first, so you shouldn't pay anyone coming to your home. And finally, you can reject any orders sent that your deceased spouse or relative ordered right before they died by sending a "return to sender" and not opening the package.  Do not fall party to these scams. 

7. Funeral and Cemetery plot scam

This is less common. And I want to emphasize that there are some really great local funeral homes that will assist you with all your needs. But unfortunately, there have been known to be a nonreputable funeral home too that will try to be dishonest in doing business.  You do not need to buy the most expensive casket, you don't need a casket at all if your loved one is being cremated, and watch for those unnecessary funeral service costs being added to the bill.  

One recommendation I often make to my clients is to do this ahead of time. A prepaid funeral is a gift to yourself and your family. The reason that this scam is successful is because losing someone is stressful and emotional and you're not always thinking with your best frame of mind.  Doing this in advance not only ensures that your family won't buy the most expensive thing out of grief, but also that you control what happens to you in the aftermath.  

Seniors today are unfortunately the targets in a way others are not.  But as you've just read, those who are careful, and observant will not be taken advantage of.  So call us! Whenever you are concerned that you might be on the receiving end of a scam artist call and get our feedback on it. We may tell you that it's legitimate, but wouldn't you rather have the assurance?  And we'd love to give it to you, so call our office should any questions arise. 

The problems with do it yourself documents, or downloads.

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 8:00 AM


I recently encountered a situation where a family came in extremely upset because a bank wasn’t listening to their directions. In sitting down with them, parents made their own trust, downloaded from legal zoom or a similar site and thought they were in good shape. But now that they are at the point they need the documents to work for them, they are finding that they don’t.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, online services aren’t services and they don’t help clients. They create more problems than they solve. It’s a sales site and nothing more. You get no help after you’ve paid your money, no guidance, no assurance, and no clarifications. In this particular situation, the parents, being very elderly, went on to update this document and change the current trustee to one of their children. This isn’t uncommon and is often done so that the child can handle all of the financial affairs as the parents’ age and are unable to do so. The bank refused to recognize the change.

Now it bears pointing out, that the parents were the ones changing the trustee, not the children. Many times, there can be questions over whether the children are rightfully taking over from the parents, or if they are instead infringing on the parents’ rights as the original trustees. But in this situation the parents themselves were the ones making this change. So what was the problem?

The problem was the same problem I see with all online and do it yourself documents. People will get the document (singular) and have no help or instruction on how to sign or execute it. And then what? They get no additional help on where or even if to file it, record it, or any supplemental documentation to change accounts, fund, or transfer assets to the trust according to the setup of their estate plan. Not to mention instructions to the children when parents pass away and the child has to take over. What are they supposed to do with the paperwork? There is no service, just a payment with no follow up.

I certainly understand saving money. We all love to do that. But at what cost? And this is a great example of the fact that the clients are now paying twice for what should have cost them only once, in addition to the fact that I now have to fix a problem that didn’t exist before, which created more cost.

On these sites, once you leave you’re on your own. Legal zoom won’t refund if you don’t understand it, they won’t explain it, and they won’t take responsibility for anything they have sold, they claim to be valid in every state, but each state is different. They give no assurances that what they’ve provided to you will continue to work or that they’ll contact you if it changes. Once you’ve hit the pay button, they are done with you. If you contact them with a question, guess what they say? “Please contact an attorney.”

Sometimes if you make enough of a fuss, they’ll give you a referral to an actual attorney’s office to further help you with your problem, after they’ve charged you a referral fee of course. So not only did you pay for something that isn’t working and created this issue, now you paid to get sent to an attorney to fix the issue, and the attorney is going to charge you to fix the issue. Is it just me, or were there far too many unnecessary steps to that?

If we equate that to a different scenario, how many people out there would go to a store and buy a one size fits all shoe? Shoes are different for everyone, different lengths and different widths, different heights, heels, boots, sandals, styles etc. Seems pretty silly in that context, but to me, as an estate planning attorney who understands the consequences of the online documents, that’s what I see people doing.

No two people are the same. There are different family structures, family dynamics, relationships, responsibilities, and different financial outlooks. Plugging yourself into a template that’s good for your neighbor, may not be good for you. Get personalized attention, come in to see one of our attorneys and let us not only draft documents tailored to you, but also make sure they work when you go to the bank.


Back to school

Posted on August 22, 2015 at 9:20 PM


Every fall we have joyful parents who are ready for their kids to be back in school, and we have sad parents who are saying goodbye to their college children as they travel far away from them.

Regardless of where you fall, there is planning that needs to be done for your children. If you have minor children your will needs to name a guardian to take them in the event of your tragic early death. You must also decide if you want the same person who has custody of your children, to have custody of the money. Some people we trust to handle both. Sometimes we may want someone to raise our children in a similar way to the way you are currently raising them, but they may not be great with money. You can name a separate conservator for your children to handle all the finances. This allows you to make sure your kids get the best care, and the best money management for their future.

And what about incapacity? In a world full of uncertainties it may not be death that takes you away from your children. It could be a threatening disability. Your will may name a guardian in the event of your death, but it only impacts after your death, not incapacity. Accidents are unfortunately all too common today, your estate planning documents thus need to cover more than just death.


Adult children are a different issue. They no longer need to go to the neighbor or your sister if something happens to you, but children are children a lot longer today than the age of 18. They aren't always prepared to take care of themselves just because they hit that magic age. Nor do young adults make wise financial decisions. You can make decisions in your estate planning documents to cover this interim period of their lives until they reach a more responsible age.

Additionally, your 18+ year old is no longer a minor under your guardianship. You no longer have the right to make decisions for them, or even in the event of incapacity. Young adults need to have their own Powers of Attorney in place naming you as the parent as their potential agent. If they are injured at school, seeing a doctor, or having financial difficulty, those Powers of Attorney are what give you the authority to act as you would want to as a parent, even though they are an adult.