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Featured Member
Passionate and Relentless Advocate, Businessperson, and Mother: Michele P. Fuller, Esq.

By Kevin Urbatsch, Esq.
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Michele incorporates her passion for life, her sense of humor, and her core beliefs in integrity and helping others into every facet of her daily routine.

Michele Fuller’s dedication to placing people first, whether her clients, her family, or her colleagues, is the defining characteristic of her success as a mother of four, a wife, a daughter, a business owner, and a staunch advocate for her clients. She incorporates her passion for life, her sense of humor, and her core beliefs in integrity and helping others into every facet of her daily routine.

Michele is the founder and managing partner of the Michigan Law Center, PLLC, just outside of Detroit in Macomb, Michigan. She is a national leader in elder law, special needs planning, settlement planning, and estate planning. In recognition of her expertise, Michele was appointed by the State of Michigan to set up the procedure for handling the $600 million settlement in the Flint lead water lawsuit for the minors, persons with disabilities, and elders of the more than 100,000 potential plaintiffs. This settlement is an enormous undertaking that requires all of Michele’s extensive background in settlement planning, assisting minors and persons with disabilities, her intellectual creativity, and her diligent advocacy. The settlement has not been finalized at this writing. Michele is working on an article to be published in an upcoming issue of NAELA News that will highlight her work on the settlement.

Michele graduated with Honors from James Madison College at Michigan State University with a BA in International Relations. Michele then attended American University International Law Master’s program in Washington, D.C., and obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Initially planning to work as a diplomat or in international relations, her passion for settlement planning, elder law, and special needs law were ignited after working with one of her law professors on settlement planning cases.

An In-Demand Presenter
Michele enjoys educating her fellow professionals about better ways to provide services to elders and to persons with disabilities, as well as how to improve their own law practices to create a better work-life balance. Michele is a much sought-after speaker on topics ranging from special needs trust (SNT) establishment and administration, Medicaid planning, settlement planning, estate planning, and even assisting professionals in developing their businesses. In one memorable moment, an outraged audience member asked Michele whether a government agency position was meant to “screw the person with a disability.” Without missing a beat, she responded, “yes, but not in the fun way.” The audience responded with big roars of laughter. Her programs are always informative, well prepared, and entertaining.

Michele also co-hosts the annual Special Needs Planning Symposium in Napa, California. This is a comprehensive, three-day program for attorneys, financial advisors, and professional trustees to learn about special needs planning and administration while sampling the region’s vintages. This program is popular, generally drawing approximately 400 professionals each year. Due to the success of the Special Needs Planning Symposium in California, Michele created the Great Lakes Special Needs Planning Symposium to focus on special needs planning for Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and the Moving to Mastery company, which hosts a website that provides training to consumers and professionals in assisting persons with disabilities.

A Creative Problem-Solver
Michele’s creativity and relentless pursuit of perfection are underscored by her ongoing quest to create solutions to problems. Upon realizing that all too often there was no one with the appropriate training to serve as trustee of SNTs for her clients, Michele created Advocacy, Inc., a non-profit organization that serves as an SNT trustee and is staffed by trained professionals who understand the nuances of proper SNT administration. Due to Advocacy’s success, Michele created Exceptional Administration Services, LLC, which provides national corporate trust offices with specialized SNT trustee services when the named trustee requires additional assistance in this complicated area. Michele has also assisted in the creation and ongoing management of several pooled trust programs throughout the nation.

Michele participates in numerous professional organizations such as the Advisory Board for the Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP), as well as serving on the board of directors for NAELA’s Michigan Chapter. Michele was also the former president and long-time serving officer of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Section (ELDRS) of the State Bar of Michigan and is a long-time member of the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).

Books and Articles Written to Help Consumers
In addition to assisting elders, persons with disabilities, trial lawyers, and her professional colleagues, Michele also provides consumers with direct access to her knowledge and experience. She has authored and co-authored numerous books including, Finding Grace, about the struggles and triumphs of a loving daughter seeking care for her aging mother; Special Needs Trusts: Planning for Your Child’s Financial Future, a self-help guide for consumers in setting up their own third-party SNTs; Administering the Michigan Special Needs Trust, a guide on how to properly administer an SNT; and its companion guide, Administering the California Special Needs Trust. Michele has also written many articles that have been published in national publications, statewide groups, and consumer and client publications. Michele claims, however, that her most challenging writing assignment was an article for NAELA Journal titled, “The Future of Planning for Persons with Disabilities: What Challenges Will Arise” (Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall 2013). Having spent many hours researching and writing this article with numerous rewrites, Michele was finally pleased with the finished product. Still, she was even more delighted when Jeffrey P. Rosenfeld, PhD, a college professor from The New School, read the article and said how impressed he was with the “impeccable research” and “well-reasoned article.” Although, she said she may never do such an exhaustively researched article again.

Michele has been recognized numerous times for her professional accomplishments, including being named by the State Bar of Michigan as its Unsung Hero in 2018. Many publications named her as a top lawyer, lawyer of distinction, or Superlawyer. And Parenting Magazine named her its Top Child Advocate.

Michele’s long-time mentor, business coach, and her wedding officiant Steve Riley, began working with her when she practiced in a small neighborhood law firm. He states how impressed he is with how she has developed her practice into a well-respected law firm with a national reputation, stating, “when describing Michele, I think of her grit and her elegance.” To arrive there, she worked through a breakup with a prior law partner, divorce, new law practice, and being a single mom. In this difficult and uncertain time, she had a record year. Yet, nothing has been given to her; she earned it through sweat, tears, and courage.

A Love of Family
Michele’s life is not all business. She has four lovely children. Cameron, her oldest, is attending college in Michigan at Grand Valley State University and will soon be graduating and is thinking of learning overseas. Her daughter Emma lives in California and is attending college in the San Francisco Bay Area and confidently stood in front of 400 people to ask Dr. Temple Grandin a series of questions about autism. Her daughter Maddie is attending Arizona State University and is receiving top honors despite her frenzied social life. Her son Gavin is in high school and is also receiving top honors. She is so proud of each of her children and the amazing things they have already accomplished and is excited to see what future adventures await them.

From her parents, you can see how her personality developed. Her father, Nick Palmer, is an orthodontist, an entrepreneur with a bombastic wit, and a love of family. Her mother, Carol Palmer, is highly organized, a great chef, a terrific grandmother, and offers to help whenever she can. You can see that Michele inherited many of their fine qualities.

As her husband, I feel like I am the luckiest man in the world. Michele is a tremendous partner who insists that we live life to the fullest. This includes her lifelong passion for international travel. We have traveled throughout Europe together and plan for more trips abroad in the future.

Michele brings an air of elegance and grace to the practice of law that makes people feel loved, respected, and appreciated. The fact that she has worked extremely hard to get where she is lends Michele grace and gratitude for her life, her husband, her family, and what she has built.

About the Author
Kevin Urbatsch, Esq., is Michele’s husband and is the owner of the special needs and settlement planning law firm, The Urbatsch Law Firm P.C., located in Berkeley, California. Kevin serves as National Director of the Academy of Special Needs Planners. He is also a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. Kevin served more than five years as Editor-in-Chief of NAELA Journal.
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By  Leonard Mondschein, CELA, CAP; and Judith M. Flynn, CELA

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President's Message: I'm Excited About the Future of NAELA

By  Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, Esq., CAP