May 31 or July 31? Avoiding a Tax Appeal Trap

In Michigan, property taxpayers can challenge the amount of taxes assessed against a property by disputing the assessed value of the property and alleging that the assessed value exceeds fifty percent of the property’s true cash value, which is synonymous with market value. Although the volume of assessment appeals has significantly decreased from the historic high levels of 2009-2011 during the Great Recession, there are still many circumstances where an appeal of a property’s assessment may be advisable. Those circumstances may include, but are not limited to, a recent purchase of the property for a price far below the assessed value or recent construction on the property.

In those circumstances where an appeal is advisable, it is critical to understand the filing deadlines before the Michigan Tax Tribunal (MTT). The MTT has original and exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of a property’s assessment. See MCL 205.731. For property classified as residential or agricultural, an owner must first appear before the local taxing authority’s board of review in March, and then must file an appeal before the MTT on or before July 31. See MCL 205.735a(3) and (6).

On the other hand, owners of commercial or industrial property, have no obligation to first petition the local board of review. However, the deadline for filing an appeal with the MTT for property with these classifications is May 31. See MCL 205.735a(4)(a) and (6).

In both situations, the filing before the MTT is merely the first step in a sometimes-lengthy process that requires particularized knowledge of the rules and customs of practice before the MTT. Property tax appeals are filled with both procedural and substantive traps for the unwary, of which the filing deadline is merely the first.


Underutilized Tax Exemption for Eligible Developer Property

During the depths of the housing crisis, the Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 494 of 2012 to assist home builders holding excess inventories of “development property” (a term defined in the PA 494) in various states of construction. PA 494 was phased in over a one-year period. Beginning December 31, 2013, eligible development property is exempt from taxes levied by the local school district for school operating purposes to the same extent provided a principal residence for either (a) three years, or (b) until the property is no longer eligible development property. See the General Property Tax Act—Act 206 of 1893.

“Eligible development property” is (a) a residential dwelling, condominium unit, or other residential structure that was new construction after December 30, 2012, including (b) the land on which that residential dwelling, condominium unit, or other residential structure is located, if the property meets all of the following conditions: (i) is not occupied and has never been occupied; (ii) is available for sale; (iii) is not leased; and (iv) is not used for any business or commercial purpose. The construction does not need to be complete to qualify for the exemption. See the Department of Treasury Bulletin 24 of 2013 regarding PA 494 of 2012.

To take advantage of the exemption, the owner must fill out Form 5033 and submit it to the local assessor. The assessor must determine if the property is eligible within fourteen days. If at any time the property, or a portion of the property, does not meet the requirements, the owner must file a rescission within 90 days. Assuming a school operating millage of 18 mills, the owner/developer stands to save $1,800 per year per $100,000 of assessed value. Builders and developers, particularly of high value residential construction, should consider utilizing the 211.7ss exemption.


Ladybird Deeds: Purposes and Usefulness


A ladybird deed, sometimes written as Lady Bird deed, is not a deed in and of itself. Rather, it is a term that describes a method of transferring real property by a warranty or quitclaim deed. Simply defined, a ladybird deed is a transfer of real property to a contingent grantee that reserves a life estate and the lifetime power to convey the property and unilaterally defeat the grantee’s interest.

It is a classic example of retaining the power to take back with one hand what the other hand purportedly gave. Before obtaining the nickname of ladybird deed, this type of transfer was commonly referred to as an enhanced life estate; namely, a life estate reserved in the grantor and enhanced by the grantor’s reserved power to convey. It is generally believed that the first ladybird deed was used by President Lyndon Johnson to transfer property to his wife, “Lady Bird” Johnson, upon his death. The name actually came into existence when Jerome Ira Solkoff, a Florida attorney, used a fictitious cast of characters, which included Lady Bird, in his elder law materials to illustrate the usefulness of the enhanced life estate transfer.

In fact, the ladybird type of transfer precedes Solkoff (and, for that matter, President Johnson). This type of transfer by deed was permissible under the common law of estates. It is a vested remainder subject to total divestment. The most common ladybird-type transfer in Michigan is sanctioned by the Michigan Title Standards.3 This standard is founded on the principle of powers of appointment. Consequently, the ladybird-type transfer is not a new phenomenon.

To learn more about the purposes and usefulness of ladybird deeds-including how it relates to Medicaid benefits, probate avoidance, creditor protection, and changes in ownership and property uncapping-read the entire article in the June 2016 Michigan Bar Journal.

By: Kary C. Frank, Michigan Bar Journal 


Four Mistakes Family Business Owners Make With Their Exit Plan


Have you ever seen someone walk unsuspectingly into a glass door? I’ve been that person. What’s the worst part? Knowing it was totally preventable.

While that scenario may be funny, creating and executing your exit plan is serious business. There are four common mistakes I see family business owners make in their exit plan — mistakes that create needless frustration, anxiety and regret. The good news is they are preventable.

Mistake No. 1: Waiting until you need to retire to start planning.

William Shakespeare nailed it when he said, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

When it comes to exit planning, many business owners start the process way too late. It’s not uncommon for a successful succession plan to take five or more years to complete. Why does it take so long? It involves a lot of components, and it’s critical they’re addressed properly in order to have a successful exit.

Some of these key components include: establishing the owner’s objectives; analyzing the owner’s personal financial needs; developing and nurturing the next generation (family or management) to take over the business; reducing owner involvement; running a sale or ownership transfer process; estate and tax planning; and legal planning.

You can see how this process can easily take years to complete, but how do you keep it from becoming overwhelming? Take it one step at a time. By starting early, you’ll have plenty of time to make thoughtful choices and decisions without feeling rushed in the process.

Mistake No. 2: Doing your planning in a vacuum.

Have you ever met a family business owner who thought their kids were set to take over the business when, come to find out near retirement, the kids wanted nothing to do with it?

A great way to ruin your exit plan is by not communicating your intentions and sharing your plans with anyone. Think of all the people who might be impacted by your exit planning; they all need to be in the loop for it to really work: you and your family, your management team, your employees, your customers, your suppliers and your community.

In addition to open communication, it’s important to be supported by a team of skilled professionals who have experience with exit planning. These advisors will be invaluable since they deal with issues on a daily basis that you will likely only go through once in your life. Your team might include attorneys, accountants, business valuation professionals, wealth planners, bankers, brokers, and counselors or an industrial psychologist.

By talking early and often to your key stakeholders and advisory team, you’ll be able to create a viable vision for an exit plan that will best serve all parties involved.

Mistake No. 3: Setting up the wrong exit strategy.

There are many ways to transition your business to a new owner. In fact, we commonly see business owners who are confused, unaware of, or overwhelmed by their options.

Instead of blindly selecting a strategy, a business owner should first look inward and ask, “What do I want?” This will help generate answers to critical questions such as:

  • What are my objectives in this exit?
  • What are my personal financial needs?
  • How much do I care about legacy?
  • Do I want my kids to take over the business?
  • Do I need a quick transition or do I want to stay involved and slowly taper off?
  • After sorting out big items like these, the right exit strategy will start to become clear and you can move forward with confidence.

Mistake No. 4: Skipping the business valuation.

You wouldn’t expect your employees to keep contributing money to their 401(k) but not check the balance until they retire, would you? Yet that is exactly the type of behavior I see family business owners engage in when it comes to one of their biggest retirement assets: their business.

A business valuation will tell you how much your business is worth now. It also pays to get valuations performed regularly and to start doing them years before you want to exit your company. Here’s why:

  • If your company’s value is significantly lower than you thought, you might have to put in a few more years to increase the value. Better to know sooner rather than later.
  • I have had the pleasure of telling one family business the company was worth quite a bit more than they thought, and with that, early retirement became an option for the owner. How delightful!
  • A valuation will give you insights about what drives business value up (or down) in the eyes of a buyer. Often times this is eye opening for the business owner and helps them better focus their efforts to maximize value.
  • A valuation starts the document gathering required in a due diligence process, which is helpful if you’re going to sell the company (and a valuation is required for tax purposes if you are gifting equity).

If you don’t want your exit to become a cautionary tale, make sure you take the proper steps to prevent these common exit planning mistakes. Be sure to:

  • Start your exit planning early.
  • Talk with your stakeholders and advisory team about your exit plan and your intentions.
  • Choose a specific exit strategy only after you’ve thought about what you want to happen after your exit.
  • Get a business valuation periodically to improve your business performance and help you measure progress towards your exit goals.


Source: Business Matters Column, Matt Rampe

Originally published at:



Anglers Fighting AuSable Fish Farm Permit


A permit for the Grayling Fish Hatchery to become a fish farm on the AuSable River is being challenged by anglers, and now many in the community have started to take sides.

A forum on Thursday was packed with dozens of residents listening as the hatchery argued the farm is vital for their business, while anglers fought back saying it’s detrimental to the river.

Dan Vogler is the co-owner of Harrietta Hills Trout Farm, and within a month of receiving a permit from the DEQ to farm up to 300 thousand pounds of trout each year, it was appealed.

“We do not understand why one business should be allowed to simply grow animals for agricultural purposes in a river and allow all the waste to simply go down,” said Anglers of the AuSable president, Tom Baird.

The Anglers of AuSable and Sierra Club are trying to get the permit repealed, saying the amount of phosphorus and suspended solids that the permit allows would harm the river and therefore the community.

“We don’t think that’s healthy for the river, good for the fishery or good for the business in town,” said Baird.

But dozens of residents braved the storm to hear Vogler’s reasoning for the farm.

He says it’s to help them run a sustainable business, and argues the added levels of phosphorus will actually benefit the river.

“There will actually be a better trout fishery than there has been,” said Vogler.

He says it’s the strictest commercial fishing permit in the United States, and have numerical limits for waste they cannot exceed.

“We cannot break the river, if we break the river or there are signs that we are breaking the river that can be verified, then we cannot continue,” said Vogler.

But anglers don’t think that’ll be enforced.

“I’ll tell you and I’ll be honest with you, we don’t trust the DEQ and we don’t think this permit protects the river,” said Baird.

Vogler also says that he plans to put in filters that would capture about 90 percent of the fish waste, but cannot do that while the permit is being appealed.

By: Mara Thompson


Attorney William L. Carey has received a BV Distinguished Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell


For more than 140 years, lawyers have relied on the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings™ while searching for their own expert attorneys. Now anyone can make use of this trusted rating by looking up a lawyer’s rating on or The Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ are an objective indicator of a lawyer’s high ethical standards and professional ability, generated from evaluations of lawyers by other members of the bar and the judiciary in the United States and Canada. It is achieved only after an attorney has been reviewed and recommended by their peers – members of the bar and the judiciary. Congratulations go to William Carey who has achieved the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating™.

Mr. Carey commented on the recognition: “The Martindale-Hubbell BV Distinguished Rating is a credential highly valued and sought after in the legal world. It used to be a sort of secret among attorneys who used the rating as a first screen when they needed to hire a lawyer they did not personally know. Now, thanks to the Internet, the Rating is a great way for anyone – lawyers or lay people – to use to screen lawyers. I am thankful to my peers who nominated me for this distinction, and proud to have earned this rating.”

The plaque shown here commemorates Mr. Carey’s recognition.

To find out more or to contact William Carey of Grayling, MI, call 989-348-5232, or visit

As a result of this honor, American Registry LLC, has added William Carey to The Registry™ of Business and Professional Excellence. For more information, search The Registry™ at

Contact Information:
William Carey
Phone: 989-348-5232
Email Address:

Grayling Chamber of Commerce recognizes Carey & Jaskowski

Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC Attorneys at Law

Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC
Attorneys at Law

Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC was selected as the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce Ambassador’s Club Spotlight-A-Member for February 2016. The original publication of the article can be seen here.

Year Began:

How many staff/volunteers do you employ?
Seven (7)

The firm was organized in 1985 as Davis & Carey. When Alton Davis was elected to the 46th circuit bench, the firm became known as Carey and Associates, PLLC. Mr. Jaskowski joined the firm as an associate in 1994, and became a partner in 1997. Carey & Jaskowski is the largest and oldest firm in the Crawford, Kalkaska, Oscoda and Roscommon County market area.

What product or service does your business provide?
The firm is a general practice firm with areas of concentration in real estate, business organizations, water and environmental rights, estate planning and domestic relations.

What is a product/service that you provide that people may not know?
We provide unique counseling for the ‘baby boomer” generation including business advice and estate planning.

What is a unique fact about your business that people may not know?
We have a strong commitment to community service. We advise or act as active board members on many local organizations including Chemical Bank, C.F. Fick and Sons, and The Higgins Lake Land Conservancy.

Additional information you wish to share:
We are proud promoters of the Grayling area and sincerely believe that the community is at the front end of an economic renaissance.

Changes to Michigan Property Tax Law: New Uncapping Exemptions

Changes in ownership of real property may or may not affect your property taxes depending on whether a conveyance of real property is categorized as a “transfer of ownership.”

Whenever a “transfer of ownership” of real property occurs, the taxable value of the transferred property “uncaps” in the year following the transfer and is re-set based on the current market value. Generally speaking, an annual increase in a property’s taxable value is capped while it is owned by the same person. Michigan law, however, provides several exemptions to the definition of the term “transfer of ownership.” In particular, a new Michigan law allows owners to transfer property to certain relatives and certain trusts without uncapping the taxable value of the property. MCL 211.27a.

Public Act 310 of 2014, which went into effect on December 31, 2014, allows an owner of residential real estate to transfer his or her property to eligible family members without triggering an uncapping event. If residential real property is transferred directly, it can pass to the following list of eligible transferees without uncapping the property’s taxable value for purposes of property taxes:

  • Spouse;
  • Parents (including parents of a spouse);
  • Siblings (including siblings of a spouse);
  • Children (including adopted children and children of a spouse); or
  • Grandchildren (including grandchildren of a spouse).

For this exemption to apply, however, the use of the residential real property must not change. For instance, converting the property for commercial use would uncap the taxable value.

The new law also expands the methods by which an owner may transfer residential property to eligible family members. The transfer may occur either during the owner’s lifetime or after his or her death (by intestate succession or through a will or trust). This is a significant change because trusts and probate estates were previously subject to uncapping. As a result, parents can now maintain their residential real estate during their lifetimes and transfer it to their children upon their deaths without burdening the future generation with negative tax consequences.

The new exemptions provide more options for owners to transfer their residential real estate to family members without triggering an uncapping of property taxes. Property owners may want to explore taking advantage of the opportunities the new law makes available.

Please contact Attorney William L. Carey at Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC for all of your property tax questions and needs.

Are You Buying or Selling a House? Read the Purchase Agreement Before You Sign It.

A recent decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals illustrates the importance of knowing what provisions are in your real estate purchase agreement before signing it.

As many of you already know, the purchase agreement is the contract between the buyer and the seller that sets forth the terms of the real estate transaction. At a minimum, a purchase agreement should accomplish the following:

  • Dictate how the transaction will take place;
  • Comply with state-specific laws; and
  • Provide sufficient protections and assurances for the contracting parties.

Each of the above mentioned items should also be supplemented by a number of real estate related concerns that are specific to the transaction. A few of the most common include evidence of marketable title, inspection rights, terms of payment, and title commitment. The contracting parties may need to negotiate on several points in order to reach a final agreement that is tailored to meet each party’s particular needs.

In order to be enforceable, the purchase agreement must be in writing and signed by the buyer and seller. But before you sign it, make sure you know what you are agreeing to.

Please contact Attorney William L. Carey at Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC for all of your Northern Michigan real estate needs.

Today’s Estate Planning: More Than Just a Will

Creating an estate plan that accommodates your individual needs—including unexpected life changes and providing for the next generation—can be a taxing endeavor. This is particularly true for today’s estate plan, which typically involves more than the standard will.

Knowing the right questions to ask your attorney is one of the first key steps toward planning your comprehensive estate plan.

To help you get started, here are the top 10 estate planning questions and answers discussed in a recent article.

Please contact Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC for all your northern Michigan estate planning needs.

By William L. Carey