Remember when you were a kid, and consistently tried to negotiate everything? Lesser punishments, later bedtimes, the top bunk bed, more junk food, and anything else you could cook up an argument for? Well, I never really grew out of that phase, so I had to make a career out of it.

I often blog about grassroots cases. That is, fresh legal matters that are having their first go-around in probate court. And while the majority of our work occurs in the probate court, there are some matters worth travelling back to my whiny inner child and channeling my will to appeal. Luckily, I get much farther appealing legal matters in court than I did my curfew at home.

What Does It Mean to “Appeal”?

An appeals case is born when a matter is decided upon in court, but one or both of the parties disagrees with the court’s decision. Your appeal is your request for a higher court to review the decision of the lower court and, hopefully, come to different conclusion. Any court case can turn into an appeal but, of course, we generally only handle probate and probate-related appeals.

Tell Me about Probate Appeals

It might surprise you to know that there is no special Probate Appellate Court. Probate cases get reviewed by the same judges that decide other types of civil cases. Not too long ago, some probate cases were appealed to the circuit court in the same county as the probate case, while others went directly to the Court of Appeals. Luckily, Michigan recognized the confusion, took corrective action, and now all cases appealed from the probate Court go straight to the Court of Appeals.  Probate appeals are a right, meaning anyone can appeal any case, and the Court of Appeals cannot refuse to take the case. However, if someone wishes to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals to the Michigan Supreme Court, the court must give permission to appeal – it is not an automatic right.

What is the timetable for a typical Appeal?

Once the judgment from the probate court is entered (or signed by the judge), you have 21 days from the date that the judgment was entered to file a claim of appeal. That is, you have 21 days to communicate to the higher courts that you are appealing a case. Not 21 days to decide whether to appeal, and not 21 days to call your lawyer. The timeline for appeals is strict and not forgiving, so you need to make your decision quickly so that your attorney can get to work.

Once the appeal has been initiated, your attorney will spend the next eight weeks preparing your appeal brief. These briefs are generally very complex, detailed, and time consuming to prepare. Once the brief is filed, the opposing side has five weeks to file a responsive brief. Once all briefs are filed, it can be anywhere from a year to two years before the appeals court reviews your case and sets a date for oral argument on the issue.

This type of wait makes you realize how little your parents were asking for when they said, “Give me 24 hours to think about it.”

Telling It Like It Is

While we know this isn’t easy to hear, one of our core values is that we tell it like it is. No one should go into an appeal blind as to the costs involved. As you may have guessed from the labor-intensive briefs described above, appeals are not cheap. It is unfortunately not at all uncommon to see bills ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

Because appealing can be costly, it is crucial that what you are fighting for is worth the cost. If you wanted your grandma’s recipes and cookware but your sister received them in the probate court’s judgment, it’s probably better to invest in a cup of coffee and a heart-felt conversation rather than years of appealing. But if you feel that a significant amount of money or the family business definitely ended up in the wrong hands, then you might want to talk to an attorney about an appeal.

Who Represents You in an Appeal?

As with every type of legal matter, the attorney that represented you in the lower court can technically also represent you in your appeal. However, not every attorney likes to do appellate work or has the manpower for it, so don’t be offended if your original attorney says “no thanks” to representing you in the appeal. Attorneys who specialize in certain types of appeals are used to picking up cases that have been tried by other attorneys, and it’s not at all uncommon to do so.

We Can!

Luckily, The Probate Pro handles probate appeals. Because we understand that time is of the essence, all of our probate attorneys are experienced and prepared to file a claim of appeal. Remember: you have only three weeks to decide to appeal, hire an attorney, and file the claim of appeal for your case, so don’t wait. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the pros and cons of appealing your particular case. or 248.399.3300.