Support mechanism: Attorney offers ‘holistic counsel’ to probate clients

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Bodman attorney Rachael Roseman will never forget her first — and horribly sad — probate case, which affirmed her path as a litigator.  

As a fresh-faced lawyer, about a year out of law school, Roseman represented a family in what she refers to as a “stolen grandma” case. One of the siblings had taken the grandmother — who suffered from dementia and many other medical conditions — from her home in Indiana, moved her into a hotel room and neglected her medical needs simply to collect the grandmother’s Social Security checks.

“After a grueling evidentiary hearing, justice prevailed, and the grandmother was finally allowed to return to her home in Indiana. With the return of their loved one, my clients’ world was restored,” Roseman said. “To see the impact of my work on that family still moves me to this day.

“Believe it or not, I’ve had several cases like this where a family member has taken an elderly loved one from his or her home — seemingly without permission — sometimes for good reason, sometimes not.”
Roseman feels a sense of responsibility and gratitude with every one of her clients.

“That’s true whether it is a family struggling through a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding, a corporate fiduciary navigating difficult beneficiaries, or a multi-million-dollar corporation facing an unexpected lawsuit,” she said. “To be able to counsel and guide them through the legal process is a privilege.”  

Roseman, who joined Bodman’s Grand Rapids office in March and is a member in the Litigation and Alternative Practice Group, said she sometimes wishes she had one of those magical stories about how her fate as a lawyer was sealed by a riveting moment in her childhood.

“But I don’t,” she said. “I was a pretty typical college student who had to choose a path.”

That path included an undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Grand Valley State University, and a J.D., summa cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law., where she was a Dean Charles H. King scholar, and made the Dean’s List each year.

During law school she served as a law clerk for judges David Murkowski and Patricia Gardner of the 17th Circuit Court for Kent County.

She also was editor-in-chief for the Michigan State Law Review, was a teaching assistant; externed at the Michigan Department of Human Services and received the Jurisprudence Achievement Award, awarded to the highest achieving student for three courses.

“I had a great experience at MSU Law — our faculty were phenomenal, and I met some of my closest friends and colleagues during law school,” she said. “During law school, I learned how much I enjoy legal analysis and strategy. I also craved the ‘people’ aspect — I knew I wanted at least a portion of my practice to be a service to people”

Being a probate and commercial litigator, Roseman said, “has fulfilled both my analytical mind and my servant’s heart.

“In the probate space, I am as much a counselor as I am an advocate. In the commercial space, I can be creative and strategic. I’m grateful the path I chose aligned well with my personality and my talents. I found out pretty quickly my need for an intense, fast-paced, and high-stakes environment made me well-suited for the practice of law.”  

Roseman represents clients in a variety of litigation matters, primarily focused on probate and commercial disputes.

She has successfully represented clients through all types of probate proceedings and litigation matters, including guardianships, conservatorships, limited guardianships, and probate and trust disputes.  
Roseman has prosecuted and defended claims related to undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, and breach of fiduciary duties.  

“I love being able to counsel clients and help them solve problems,” she said. “Clients often come to me when they’re faced with the most significant and emotional challenges of their lives. Their parents might have just passed away, or their sibling is accusing them of breaching their fiduciary duties, or their company could be facing a devastating lawsuit.  I’m fortunate to be able to walk alongside them and guide them through the legal process.     

“Whether my client has a strictly probate issue — which rarely happens — or is dealing with a catastrophic loss to their business, I pride myself on being able to provide holistic counsel to them.  This includes not only triaging the immediate problem, but also analysis and thoughtfulness about how to protect the client’s future.”  

Roseman added: “I’m competitive by nature, and I like to win.”

Roseman said her practice  has involved “more varied legal issues than most, which gives me a unique perspective on practical solutions for my clients. My willingness to dig and dig some more until we figure out a solution gives my clients a strategic advantage.”

Before joining Bodman, Roseman was a shareholder at a West Michigan-based litigation firm where she handled probate litigation and a variety of commercial litigation matters including noncompetition matters, contract disputes, real estate, employment and shareholder disputes, and automotive-industry matters.

Roseman also is a contributor to the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE).

“ICLE has been such a great partner in my practice,” she said. “I’ve received and utilized countless resources from them and have been fortunate to be able to give back as an author and speaker.”  

Roseman said there is no better place to practice law than in Grand Rapids.  

“The city is filled with a unique mix of businesses that results in varied legal issues,” she said  “We’re fortunate to have a close-knit and collegial community of practitioners, which can help when client tensions get high.

“The practice of law can be an incredibly creative process if we allow it to be —f rom the storytelling aspects of an opening statement to the legal strategy developed to win the case.  Each step of the process offers an opportunity to creatively problem solve, and that creativity is best developed in community.”

In her practice, “while there can be overlap in subject matter,” Roseman said, “no two cases are alike and no one approach works for every case.

“This is especially true when we’re dealing with ‘people problems’ as much as ‘legal problems.’ Having colleagues who have varied experiences and are willing to think outside of the box or to simply offer a different perspective makes practicing at Bodman rewarding.”    

Roseman noted there are many things can wrong for people if probates and trusts are not handled correctly — and she always shares a couple pieces of advice for clients and potential clients.

“First, find someone with experience in probate court to guide you on your duties, rights, and potential remedies before conflict arises — or immediately once it starts,” she said. “Probate is a specialized area of law with many pitfalls for the occasional practitioner; experience matters.

“But even before that, my initial advice to everyone is to make sure your estate plan is in order long before you need it and update it regularly.  With that, talk to your family about what you want.

Understandably, many people keep their testamentary wishes a secret until after they’re gone. By opening discussing these matters with your loved ones, you may be able to fend off probate litigation in later life or after death.”  

Originally from the Grand Rapids suburb of Jenison in Ottawa County, Roseman now lives in Cascade Charter Township on the east side of Grand Rapids. Her favorite leisure pastime is vacation planning; she enjoys researching, creating itineraries, and even budgeting for vacations perhaps even as much as the trip itself.

“We love adventure travel,” she says. “In the fall, my husband and I went on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to the Galapagos Islands where we swam with sharks, sea lions and penguins and walked alongside the Galapagos Giant Tortoise. In the spring, we took to the waters of Kona to snorkel with the magnificent manta rays.

“Back at home, my free time is spent wrangling kiddos, walking the golf course, and trying to tame our nearly two-year-old Portuguese Water Dog, Louie.”

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