Wills, Trusts, Business, Real Estate, and Probate Blog

What's new in estate planning, business, and real estate law.

Time is of the Essence:

Now is the time to decide whether to appeal your current residential or industrial/commercial property tax assessment.  When you receive your assessment notice for your home or business, should you discuss it with a real estate attorney?

If you own industrial/commercial property, the deadline for filing an appeal with the Michigan Tax Tribunal is during the summer.  However, if you own residential property, your first step is the local taxing authority’s board of review held annually in March.  In addition, appeal assessments in Grand Rapids or Detroit require you to participate in an assessor’s review prior to appealing to your local board of review.  It is important to plan ahead to avoid running afoul of these time limits.


Although Seattle won the Super Bowl and Florida State is the new college football national champion, the college football players at Northwestern University continue playing, but this time on a different field - the courtroom.  On Tuesday, January 28, 2014, with support from the Steelworkers Union, a majority of Northwestern college football players appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for unionization rights as “employees” of Northwestern University.  The players claim that Northwestern University, and the N.C.A.A. as a whole, have used the concepts of amateurism and the “student-athlete” to avoid having to share revenues from ever-increasing TV contracts.  Players seek to compel universities to provide long-term medical care and four-year guaranteed athletic scholarships in the event that a player is no longer able to continue playing because of injury or other medical reasons.

The players filed their appeal with the NLRB in the Chicago NLRB regional office, which will hold a hearing to decide the employment status of Northwestern football players.  In the event that the NLRB determines that Northwestern has misclassified the college football players as non-employees, the decision would be a watershed moment for college athletics.  Significantly, any NLRB decision applies across the board to all other scholarship athletes at private universities.


You can protect your business’s name, logo, or tag line by having Shinners & Cook file an application for a Federal Trademark or Services Mark (“Mark”) through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  You can register a name, “doing business as” name, logo, combination of a logo and a name, or a tag line or phrase that you plan to use.  Registering a name, logo, or tag line keeps others from using that name, logo, or tag line and keeps consumers from being confused between your name and another company’s name. 


We are all used to receiving emails from Nigerian princes trying to flee an oppressive regime or winning an online lottery we never entered, both promising millions of dollars in money if we just provide our bank account information and our social security number.  We learned to ignore them.  The powers of numbers associated with the internet allow millions of emails to be sent out at relatively little cost, with the potential for big results in the form of your entire bank balance.


In Michigan, like most states, a pet is not considered a human and, therefore, is not an Heir or Devisee under estate planning documents such as Wills and Trusts.  However, a pet may very well be an important part of the family.  In a recent seminar (22nd Annual Drafting Estate Planning Documents-ICLE), one of the speakers indicated that 600,000 pets are euthanized a year because of the death of an owner and lack of a caregiver.  This is not necessary so long as the beloved pet is included when you prepare your estate plan.


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