Charley Janssen's legal practice covers the entire spectrum of estate planning: wills, trusts, family business and succession planning from the basic to very complex business structures, charitable gift planning, creating and advising private and public foundations as well as estate and trust administration. Charley’s goal is to make estate planning concepts and documents understandable to his clients to allow them to make sound decisions and fully understand the implications of those decisions.
He is always willing to speak on estate planning, charitable gifting and business planning issues to interested groups and businesses. He has authored numerous articles on estate planning, business and succession planning and charitable giving topics. He is a contributing editor to a number of Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) books and publications including Revocable Living Trusts in Michigan.
Charley's peers have repeatedly recognized his leadership and scholarship in the Trusts and Estates Practice area. Top estate planning attorneys from around the country nominated and elected him to the prestigious American College of Trust and Estate Attorneys in 1995 where he has been a member in good standing for more than 20 years. Fellow attorneys have also ranked him as a top Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney in Best Lawyers® in America since 1993 and he was recognized as a Michigan Super Lawyer since the survey's inception in 2005.
In addition to his practice, Charley has held numerous leadership roles at Foster Swift, including chairing the Business and Tax Department, and the attorney recruitment and marketing committees. He has served several stints on the firm’s Executive Committee and was President of the Law Firm from 2003-2005. He also chaired the Ingham County Bar Probate and Estate Planning Section and the Greater Lansing Estate Planning Council.
He graduated from Michigan State University Honors College, Phi Beta Kappa in 1976 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1979. Charley is a loyal Michigan State Spartan and supports many causes and philanthropic initiatives at the university. Currently, he is an active member of the Board of Trustees for Michigan State University College of Law where he has served on numerous committees.
Charley is also a devoted booster for the Greater Lansing Community and is happy to volunteer time for numerous causes and initiatives. For more than a decade he has served as a commissioner of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which operates the Lansing Center, Lansing’s Baseball Stadium, Lansing City Market and Common Ground Music Festival. He previously served as chairperson or board member of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, Lansing Public Schools Foundation, Lansing Riverfront Development Board and Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority. Charley also co-chaired the City of Lansing’s Project Play, which helped raise $2 million for new playground equipment for city parks and school playgrounds.
He also served as a past board chair and member of the board of directors of the Capital Region Community Foundation and continues to support the Community Foundation’s programs and initiatives. He is active in promotion and fundraising for Volunteers of America and serves on the VOA “Homeless No More” fundraising committee.
Charley has received numerous volunteer leadership awards, including the Ingham County Bar Association’s Camille Abood Distinguished Volunteer Award in 2006 and the Chief Okemos Council Boy Scout of America Distinguished Service Award in 2009.
Honors & Recognitions
AV® Preeminent™ Martindale-Hubbell
Best Lawyers® 2015 Elder Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Lansing
Best Lawyers® 2016 Trusts and Estates "Lawyer of the Year" in Lansing
Best Lawyers® 2018 Trusts and Estates "Lawyer of the Year" in Lansing
Best Lawyers® 2021 Trusts and Estates "Lawyer of the Year" in Lansing
Best Lawyers in America® 1995-2022 (Elder Law; Trusts & Estates)
2019 Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Service to the College, MSU College of Law Alumni Association
Community Foundation Philanthropy Award, 2018 Governor’s Service Awards
Michigan Super Lawyers, Estate & Probate, 2005-2019
American College of Trust and Estate Law Counsel, Fellow
Camille Abood Distinguished Volunteer Award, Ingham County Bar Association
Distinguished Citizen Award, Chief Okemos Council Boy Scouts of America
Memberships & Affiliations
- State Bar of Michigan
- American Bar Association
- Ingham County Bar Association, Estate Planning Section, Past Chair
- Michigan State Bar Foundation, Fellow
Industry & Professional Associations:
- Michigan State University College of Law, Board of Trustees
- Greater Lansing Estate Planning Council, Past President
- Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Former Chairperson and Officer
- Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, Former Chairperson
- Lansing Public Schools Foundation, Former Chairperson
- Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority
- Former Chairperson
- Long Range Planning Commission, Chair
- Hospice of Lansing, Former Board Member
- City of Lansing-Project Play, Co-chairperson
- Capital Region Community Foundation, Former Chairperson
- Lansing Christian School Foundation, President, Past Treasurer, Board of Directors
- Sparrow Foundation, Major Gifts Committee
- Sparrow Foundation, Dapper Dads Fundraisers, 2010-Present
- Volunteers of America, Homeless No More Committee
- Develop and implement a diverse range of estate plans that accomplish clients' goals.
- Represent and advise fiduciaries in administering estates and trusts from small or midsize to those of several hundred million dollars
- Represent numerous multi-million-dollar lottery winners.
- Establish and advise family and private foundations.
- Provide legal counsel to public charities.
- Design sophisticated generational family gifting plans that minimize tax liability and promote family harmony
- Develop and implement legal and tax aspects of business succession plans for family owned manufacturing, real estate, and agricultural businesses
- Common Estate Planning Pitfalls, Foster Swift Estate Planning Insights, Fall 2010
- Planning for Incapacity, ICLE Michigan Revocable Grantor Trusts (Chapter 4), Third Edition, 2010
- Tax Aspects of Trust Administration, ICLE Revocable Living Trusts in Michigan (Chapter 3), Third Edition, 2010
- The Economy and Changes in Federal Estate Tax Exclusion: Effect on Your Estate Plan, Foster Swift Estate Planning Insights, January 2009
News & Events
- Foster Swift Attorneys Named to 2022 Best Lawyers in America©, August 19, 2021
- Foster Swift Attorneys Named Best Lawyers® 2021 "Lawyer of the Year", August 20, 2020
- Foster Swift Attorneys Named to 2021 Best Lawyers in America©, August 20, 2020
- 23 Attorneys Selected to 2019 Michigan Super Lawyers and “Rising Stars”, Automation Alley, September 3, 2019
- 42 Foster Swift Attorneys Listed as Best Lawyers® 2020, August 15, 2019
- 31 Foster Swift Attorneys Selected to 2018 Michigan Super Lawyers and “Rising Stars” Lists, September 10, 2018
- 45 Foster Swift Attorneys Listed in Best Lawyers in America© 2019, August 15, 2018
University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1979
Michigan State University, B.A., 1976, with honors
Bar and Court Admissions
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan