Michael J. Willis

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Estate Planning & Probate Attorney in Kalamazoo, MI

Willis Law
 | 491 West South Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Phone: 269-492-1040
Fax: 269-492-1042
Selected To Super Lawyers: 2013 - 2019
Selected To Rising Stars: 2008, 2010 - 2012
Licensed Since: 2001
Practice Areas:
  • Estate Planning & Probate (60%),
  • Business/Corporate (30%),
  • Tax: Consumer (10%)
Attorney Profile

Michael J. Willis is the co-founder and managing partner of the Western Michigan law firm of Willis Law. This firm is headquartered in Kalamazoo with a growing office in Grand Rapids. Mr. Willis primarily practices estate and trust planning, probate administration and litigation, corporate and real estate law.

Recognized in Best Lawyers in America**, and Leaders in the Law, and rated AV-Preeminent** by Martindale-Hubbell's, Mr. Willis has consistently demonstrated the highest levels of legal skills and ethics. In 2007, Michigan Lawyers Weekly listed him as an "Up and Coming Lawyer," an honor bestowed upon less than .02 percent of the lawyers in Michigan. Mr. Willis has been recognized in Marquis Who's Who in American Law since 2008.  He was also selected by the Florida Bar as the President's recipient of the Pro Bono Service Award for 2009 for the Out of State (49 states) Judicial Circuit. 

Mr. Willis' estate law practice assists clients in asset protection and minimizing potential estate taxes, and he frequently administers estates and helps solve problem estates via probate litigation.  The types of corporate clients Mr. Willis represents include entrepreneurs, companies and individuals in the biology fields, technology companies, professional service organizations, development companies, and retail and wholesale brokers.

Mr. Willis received his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelors of Arts. Mr. Willis is a member of The Florida Bar and the State Bar of Michigan, and is registered as a certified public accountant in the State of Illinois.

In addition to practicing law, Mr. Willis acts as Co-President of the Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis Foundation, a nonprofit organization which provides college scholarships to Michigan children who have lost an Armed Services parent in a combat zone.  He also acts as secretary and treasurer of Lake Doster Development Company and as president of Jack H. Kelly Farms, Inc., in addition to sitting on the boards at the St. Monica School (Kalamazoo) Local Advisory Council and St. Monica Church Finance Council.  He recently finished nearly a decade of service to the Board of Trustees for Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, Indiana. 

Michael's wife Susan and their children, Isabella, Christian, Mary, Michael Joseph, Marie Therese and Gabriella, are the lights of his life.

*The Best Lawyers in America® 2010. Copyright 2009 by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, SC

**AV-Preeminent and BV-Distinguished are certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the confidential opinions of members of the Bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell ratings fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.

 
Practice Areas
Lawyer Practice Area Pie Chart

Estate Planning & Probate (60%): Estate Planning, Guardianships & Conservatorships, Living Wills, Power of Attorney, Probate & Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills

Business/Corporate (30%): Business Formation and Planning, Limited Liability Companies, Partnership, Sub-chapter S Corporations, Contracts, Business Organizations

Tax (10%): Tax Law

Focus Areas

Estate Planning, Guardianships & Conservatorships, Living Wills, Power of Attorney, Probate & Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills, Business Formation and Planning, Limited Liability Companies, Partnership, Sub-chapter S Corporations, Contracts, Business Organizations, Tax Law

Selections

Selected to Super Lawyers for 7 yearsmiddle-imageSelected to Rising Stars for 4 years

Super Lawyers: 2013 - 2019 Rising Stars: 2008, 2010 - 2012

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About Michael Willis

Admitted: 2001, Michigan

Professional Webpage: http://www.willis.law/who-we-are/attorneys-staff/michael-j-w...

Honors/Awards:

  • 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, Listed in the Best Lawyers in America, www.bestlawyers.com
  • Recipient for the out-of-state (49 states) Judicial Circuit., President's Recipient of Pro Bono Service Award, President of the Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court, 2009
  • 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, AV-Preeminent Peer Review Rating, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Awarded for Service to the Community in the Spirit of Notre Dame. , Notre Dame Club of Kalamazoo Award of the Year, 2015
  • Listed in Marquis Who's Who in American Law, 2008 - 2017
  • Willis Law was recognized as one of this year's 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in West Michigan.  Winners were selected for innovative strategies and best practices in human resources. In its announcement, the Association noted that "the honorees have clearly demonstrated why each of them would be an ideal place for employees to work." - 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, Michigan Business and Professional Association
  • Willis Law was recognized as one of this year's 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation.  Per the Best and Brightest website (as of Jan 21, 2016) - The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® competition identifies and honors companies that deliver exceptional human resource practices and an impressive commitment to their employees. Organizations are assessed based on categories such as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition, retention and more. Participating companies have the opportunity to benchmark results with other cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, Chicago and more. , National 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, 2015
  • Award presented to only 6 of 40,000 attorneys in Michigan, Up & Coming Lawyers, Michigan Lawyer's Weekly, 2007
  • One of only 21 lawyers or law firms to receive 21st Century Innovator Award for innovation in the practice of law.  Willis Law was recognized for it value-driven employee compensation system. , 21st Century Innovator Award, Michigan Lawyer's Weekly, 2009

Special Licenses/Certifications:

  • Registered as a Certified Public Accountant, Illinois, 1996
  • Completed ICLE's Probate & Estate Planning Certificate Program, 2006

Bar/Professional Activity:

  • Michigan Bar Association
  • Member, Real Property, Probate and Trust Law and Taxation Sections of the American Bar Association
  • Member, Christian Legal Society
  • Secretary and Treasurer, Lake Doster Development Company (land development company)
  • Florida Bar Association
  • Estate Planning Committee of the American Association of Attorney-CPAs (Prior)
  • President, Jack H. Kelly Farms, Inc. (land development company)
  • Michigan
  • Member, Michigan and Florida Bars
  • Member, Kalamazoo County Bar
  • Florida

Pro bono/Community Service:

  • Board Member (Prior), Committee Appointee (Prior), Vice-President (Prior), Friends of the Portage Senior Center
  • Member, St. Monica Finance Council (Kalamazoo), 2017
  • Board Member, Committee Chair, Notre Dame Club of Kalamazoo (Prior)
  • Board Member, Co-President, Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis Foundation
  • Board of Trustees of Holy Cross College, Notre Dame, Indiana; Chair of Mission Integration Committee (prior)
  • Member, Big Brothers Big Sisters SubCommitttee on Planned Giving (Prior)
  • Member (Current), Local Advisory Council, St. Monica School of Kalamazoo, 2017
  • Counsel (prior), Board Member (prior), Secretary (prior), Southwest Michigan Professional Network
  • Co-Founded Christian Legal Aid of Southwestern Michigan by which the firm of Willis Law devotes all of its lawyers in Kalamazoo, one-day per month, to service for the poor at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.  
  • Counsel (prior), Board Member (Prior), Vineyard Outreach Ministries

Scholarly Lectures/Writings:

  • Presenter, Life Insurance Trusts and Use of Medicaid Annuities, 2004
  • Presenter, Living Trusts and Estate Tax Issues to Van Buren County Retired School Personnel, 2004
  • Presenter, Estate Planning Seminar for Senior Services, Inc., 2004
  • Presenter, Probate Avoidance and Estate Tax Minimization to Parchment Rotary, 2003
  • Presenter, Long Term Care Costs (in conjunction with GE Insurance), 2003
  • Presenter, International Estate Tax Planning, 2001
  • Presentation at Annual Meeting of Greater Association of Kalamazoo Realtors pertaining to Asset Protection Planning, Presenter, Asset Protection Planning, Greater Kalamazoo Association Of Realtors, 2011
  • Presentation to Life Insurance Salespersons and Financial Planners pertaining to Asset Protection Planning, Presenter, Asset Protection for Life Insurance Salespersons and Financial Planners, Finance And Insurance, 2011
  • Presentation on Asset Protection for Life Insurance Agents - Prudential Kalamazoo, Presenter, Finance And Insurance, 2012
  • Presentation on Asset Protection for Brokers - Morgan Stanley, Presenter, Presenter, Finance And Insurance, 2012
  • Presentation on Asset Protection for Construction Managers - Consumers Power, Presenter, Construction, 2012
  • "Estate Tax and Gift Tax Law Changes for 2009 – What You Need to Know," Builder/Architect, Vol. 19, 3, May/June, 2009
  • Presenter, Living Trusts and Estate Tax Issues to Van Buren County Retired School Personnel, 2008
  • Presentation on Asset Protection and Estate Planning., Presenter, Asset Protection and Estate Planning, Park Club - Kalamazoo, 2012
  • Presentation on Asset Protection and Estate Planning, Bronson Hospital, Kalamazoo. , 2013
  • Asset Protection Presentation to Trust Advisors - Greenleaf Trust - Kalamazoo., 2013
  • Presentation on End of Life Decisions - St. Catherine of Siena Church - Portage., 2013
  • Presentation on Asset Protection for CPAs - Yeo & Yeo - Portage., 2013
  • Protecting Your Legacy - Michigan Association of RV and Campground Owners, 2013
  • Estate Planning and Wealth Protection - St. Mary's, Kalamazoo, 2
  • Estate Planning and Wealth Protection - St. Monica, Kalamazoo , 2014
  • Asset Protection for Financial Advisors - Wiser Financial, 2014
  • Presentation to dentists of the Kalamazoo Valley District Dental Society pertaining to Asset Protection and Estate Planning, Presenter, Asset Protection for Dentists and Other Doctors, Kalamazoo Valley District Dental Society, 2011
  • Asset Protection for CPAs - Seber Tans, 2015
  • Published an article related to asset protection and single-member limited liability companies in the Michigan Business Law Journal, Author, Singe Member LLCs v. the Member's Judgment Creditor - How Strong is the Shield?, The Michigan Business Law Journal, Asset Protection And Business Law, 2009
  • Charitable Giving - Big Brothers Big Sisters, 2015
  • Estate Planning and Wealth Protection - St. Catherine, Portage, MI, 2014
  • End of Life Decisions - St. Monica, Kalamazoo, 2015
  • Presenter, Estate Planning for Widows, 2010
  • Estate Planning and Wealth Protection - St. Mary, Kalamazoo, 2014
  • Contributor, Long Term Care Planning Techniques, 2010
  • Presenter, Estate Planning and Tax Control, 2010
  • Presenter, Wills, Trusts and Probate, 2009
  • Presenter, Your Personal Financial Future - Finding the Keys to Success, 2007
  • Presenter, Estate Planning, Business Succession Planning and Tax Control, Home Builders Association of Greater Kalamazoo, 2006
  • Presenter, Estate Planning and Tax Control, 2005

Transactions:

  • Assisted client in discharge of approx. $4.2 Million dollar debt to bank. Result being that client no longer responsible for debt and all guaranties discharged, 2010
  • Assisted client in removal of $2.8 Million debt to bank. Deal resolved with client being entirely cleared of responsibility to bank and all guarantees discharged, 2012

Representative Clients:

  • Life Science Related Corporations and Individuals, 2010
  • Development Companies, 2010
  • Entrepreneurial, Wealth-generating Individuals, 2010
  • Professional Service Organizations, 2010
  • Technology Firms, 2010
  • Retail and Wholesale Brokers, 2010

Newsletters:

  • Bi-annual Newsletter delivered to approximately 600 households for purpose of informing and updating on estate planning methods, techniques and concepts. , Estate Planning Newsletter, Estate Planning

Educational Background:

  • University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 2000
  • University of Notre Dame, B.A., magna cum laude, 1996
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Office Location for Michael J. Willis

491 West South Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Phone: 269-492-1040

Fax: 269-492-1042

Michael J. Willis:

Last Updated: 4/5/2019

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