Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – September 8, 2023

  1. DOL Proposed Rulemaking Would Make More White-Collar Workers Eligible for Overtime Pay

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced a notice of proposed rulemaking which would raise the Fair Labor Standards Act’s salary-level threshold from $35,568 to $55,068 for white-collar exemptions to overtime requirements.

Why it Matters: If the proposed rule becomes a final rule, millions more U.S. salaried workers would eligible for overtime pay.

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  1. Attorney Michael S. Ashton Honored as “Lawyer of the Year” in Utility Law in Lansing

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Michael S. Ashton has been named the Best Lawyers in America© 2024 Utility Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Lansing. This is a high distinction, as only one attorney in each practice area in each community is identified as “Lawyer of the Year.”

Why it Matters: “I am honored to be recognized by Best Lawyers© as a 2024 ‘Lawyer of the Year’ for Utility Law in Lansing,” said Mike Ashton. Because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers© is considered a singular honor. Only five percent of attorneys in Michigan are awarded the honor. Read more about Mike.

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  1. Keep Your Michigan Cottage in the Family

The family cottage is a place for fun and relaxation in Michigan. For many, the family cottage becomes the meeting place for generations and where lifelong memories are made. As a result, it’s often the intent of the owner to pass the cottage on to future generations to enjoy. Unfortunately, challenges such as high property taxes and family disputes can prevent that from happening. These obstacles can be overcome through careful cottage succession planning.

Why it Matters: If you own a cottage in Michigan, our Cottage Law team can help you think through the issues and take the actions necessary to create a cottage plan. A cottage plan usually addresses the concerns through the creative use of a limited liability company (LLC) or a trust to own the property. Learn more from your cottage law attorney.

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  1. Gain Peace of Mind Through Life’s Toughest Challenges

Family law involves deeply personal and often emotional issues – that can be as complicated as they are sensitive. A strong family law attorney understands the judicial processes and procedures, while also handling your case with care and compassion.

Why it Matters: Fraser Trebilcock attorney Paula C. Spicer has over a decade of experience assisting clients in family law matters. Paula compassionately and efficiently works with clients to help them understand their options and navigate the often challenging and emotional situations. Learn more how she may be able to assist.

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  1. Business Education Series – Practical A.I. Business Solutions

Explore the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence in the business landscape during our Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Education Series.

Why it Matters: From understanding the capabilities of AI models like ChatGPT to creating customized workflows using API integrations and automation tools, discover how AI can drive innovation and efficiency across industries. Learn more.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Utility Law | Michael Ashton
Cottage Law | Mark Kellogg
Family Law | Paula Spicer

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – August 4, 2023

  1. Michigan Supreme Court Rules that New No-Fault Law Does Not Apply Retroactively

On July 31, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed, in part, a court of appeals decision ruling that medical cost controls in Michigan’s new no-fault auto insurance law do not apply retroactively to car crash victims whose accidents occurred prior to the change in the law.

Why it Matters: As a result of the ruling, drivers who were catastrophically injured in accidents prior to the no-fault must be paid at full rates and not be subject to new cost controls for medical services.

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  1. Marijuana Business Can’t Sue State Authority Due to Federal Illegality of Marijuana

On July 31, 2023, US District Court Judge Paul Maloney dismissed a lawsuit filed by Viridis Laboratories against four employees working for the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency stemming from a 2021 recall the agency issued against Viridis, pulling nearly $230 million worth of marijuana from retail shelves.

Why it Matters: In Viridis’s lawsuit, it claims that the recall violated its right to due process under the U.S. Constitution when it was unable to challenge the allegations in court. However, federal law prohibits marijuana and characterizes it as illegal contraband, leading to Judge Maloney dismissing the lawsuit on grounds that constitutional protections do not apply to illegal entities. Learn more.

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  1. Second Quarter Surpasses First Quarter for Michigan Marijuana Sales in 2023

Per data from the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, the second quarter total sales of both medical and adult-use marijuana sales totaled $752,771,513.25, surpassing the first quarter total sales of $673,367,341.50.

Why it Matters: While the prices of cannabis and cannabis-related products continue to decrease and make consumers happy, growers on the other hand are seeing profits decrease resulting in them seeking ways to halt new licenses to be granted in an effort to steady prices. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.

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  1. Keep Your Michigan Cottage in the Family

The family cottage is a place for fun and relaxation in Michigan. For many, the family cottage becomes the meeting place for generations and where lifelong memories are made. As a result, it’s often the intent of the owner to pass the cottage on to future generations to enjoy. Unfortunately, challenges such as high property taxes and family disputes can prevent that from happening. These obstacles can be overcome through careful cottage succession planning.

Why it Matters: If you own a cottage in Michigan, our Cottage Law team can help you think through the issues and take the actions necessary to create a cottage plan. A cottage plan usually addresses the concerns through the creative use of a limited liability company (LLC) or a trust to own the property. Learn more from your cottage law attorney.

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  1. Business Education Series – Setting Meaningful Goals and Time Blocking for Success

On August 22, 2023, gain valuable knowledge and skills to set meaningful goals, establish priorities, and effectively manage their time through the practice of time blocking.

Why it Matters: Participants will learn practical strategies and techniques to enhance their goal-setting abilities, develop a clear sense of direction, and optimize their productivity. Learn more.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Insurance Law | Gary Rogers
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Cottage Law | Mark Kellogg
Business & Tax | Ed Castellani

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – May 5, 2023

  1. Sixth Circuit: Employee Must Alert Employer of Need for Reasonable Accommodation to Bring a Claim of Disability Discrimination

In the case of Hrdlicka v. General Motors, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that an employee must sufficiently inform their employer of their need for a reasonable accommodation in order to prosecute a claim of disability discrimination under state and federal law.

Why it Matters: This case serves as an important reminder that while employers must be responsive and engaged when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation for a disability, there is also a responsibility for employees to inform their employers of a disability. In this case, the plaintiff’s “purported disability was unknown to either herself or General Motors until well after her employment was terminated.”

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  1. Independent Contractor Bills Introduced in Michigan House of Representatives

Even though the Michigan Legislature is currently mired in the often months-long process of passing a budget, there is a package of mostly non-spending bills in the Michigan House of Representatives that businesses should be keeping an eye on.

Why it Matters: The multi-bill package (HB 4390 et seq.) would create one of the strictest standards for defining an independent contractor and provides for significant penalties for those employers that misclassify workers. Learn more.

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  1. Limitations of Federal Bankruptcy Law for Marijuana Businesses

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal at the federal level. This creates a unique challenge for marijuana businesses operating legally within their state’s framework, as they are unable to avail themselves of federal bankruptcy protection.

Why it Matters: Federal bankruptcy courts have been reluctant to provide relief to debtors engaged in activities that are illegal under federal law, even if those activities are legal under state law. As a result, marijuana businesses are often left without the benefits of bankruptcy protection, such as the automatic stay, discharge of debts, and court-supervised reorganization.

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  1. Attorney Receives Favorable Ruling for Firm Client

Fraser Trebilcock’s Litigation Department Chair Thaddeus Morgan obtained a favorable ruling for the firm’s ERISA plan client in a case brought by a no-fault provider claiming reimbursement for the plan enrollee’s treatment.

Why it Matters: The court granted the plan’s motion to dismiss finding that the provider did not have standing and the plan’s anti-assignment provision was enforceable. Learn more.

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  1. Ten Reasons You May Want to Consider a Family Cottage Succession Plan

The goal of cottage succession planning is to set up legal ground rules that provide the best chance to keep a cottage in the family for future generations.

Why it Matters: A cottage plan usually addresses concerns through the creative use of a limited liability company (LLC), or in some cases a trust, to own the property. Here are ten reasons why you and/or your family may want to consider a family cottage succession plan. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Dave Houston
Business & Tax | Robert Burgee
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Litigation | Thaddeus Morgan
Cottage Law | Mark Kellogg

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – March 17, 2023

  1. Business Education Series – Teaching Leadership

Hosted at the Lansing Regional Chamber on Wednesday, March 22 at 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., the March Business Education Series will have Brain Town, founder and CEO of Michigan Creative, who will discuss how to inspire your staff to be the leaders they all have inside of them.

Why it Matters: Brian will also show you how to write core values that can guide your business and help form an unstoppable team. Attendees will learn how to write and use core values, leadership tips, and ways to inspire greatness. Business owners and leaders are encouraged to attend! Learn more.

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  1. How Patents Protect Your Business

A patent is a legal monopoly for protecting a utilitarian device, system, machine, composition or process. A patent owner has the right to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing a protected invention for a limited time.

Why it Matters: The U.S. is a “first-to-file” system, so it is imperative that an inventor keep the details of their invention confidential until a patent application has been filed. Also, timing is of the essence to prevent a competitor from winning the race to the Patent Office. Learn more.

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  1. Noteworthy Michigan Cannabis Brand Put into Receivership

Skymint Brands, a high-profile Michigan consumer cannabis brand, was placed into receivership on March 7. According to a lawsuit filed by Tropics, LP against Skymint’s parent company, Green Peak Industries, Inc., Tropics is owed more than $127 million in loans that are in default.

Why it Matters: While Michigan has experienced strong sales of recreational marijuana as a whole, prices per ounce have fallen significantly, making it difficult for many dispensaries to generate profits. The fact that Skymint’s assets were put into receivership is also noteworthy, as state court receivership has become an alternative to bankruptcy for distressed cannabis companies. Because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, companies can’t access federal bankruptcy to reorganize or liquidate.

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  1. CRA Publishes February 2023 Data, Average Price Hovers Near All-Time Low

The Cannabis Regulatory Agency recently published its latest monthly data, showing that the average price for an ounce of cannabis is $86.00, an increase from the all-time low of $80.16 in January of this year.

Why it Matters: While the prices of cannabis and cannabis-related products continue to decrease and make consumers happy, growers on the other hand are seeing profits decrease resulting in them seeking ways to halt new licenses to be granted in an effort to steady prices. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.

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  1. Ten Reasons You May Want to Consider a Family Cottage Succession Plan

The goal of cottage succession planning is to set up legal ground rules that provide the best chance to keep a cottage in the family for future generations.

Why it Matters: Here are a few reasons why you and/or your family may want to consider a family cottage succession plan. Prevents a joint owner from forcing the sale of the cottage through an action for partition, prevents transfer of an interest in the cottage outside the family, protects owners from creditor claims, and establishes a framework for making decisions affecting the cottage. See the complete list from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Intellectual Property | Jared Roberts
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Cottage Law | Mark Kellogg

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – March 10, 2023

  1. US Supreme Court Makes Clear that Highly Compensated Employees can be Eligible for Overtime Pay

In Helix Energy Solutions Group v. Helix, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that highly compensated employees—in this case the employee at issue earned more than $200,000 per year—can be eligible for overtime pay if they are paid on a daily basis as opposed to a salary basis.

Why it Matters: Many employers mistakenly assume that highly compensated employees are not eligible for overtime pay. However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are exempt from overtime if they earn at least $107,432 per year on a salary basis (and perform executive, administrative, professional or outside sales work. Because the penalties for noncompliance can be steep, employers should consult with legal counsel to help ensure that their workers are classified and paid in accordance with state and federal guidelines.

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  1. How Copyrights Protect Your Business

Copyright is the exclusive legal protection that covers an original work of authorship. Copyrights vest upon creation of the work, which means placing the work onto a tangible medium (e.g., applying paint to a canvas or words to a screenplay).

Why it Matters: As noted above, copyrights vest upon creation of the work, even if it isn’t published. Similar to trademark law, it can be difficult to enforce your copyright if the work is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Learn more.

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  1. Department of Labor Issues Guidance to Employers on Telework

On February 9, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (Bulletin) addressing several questions related to compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when a business employs teleworkers.

Why it Matters: The Bulletin provides that the protections under the FLSA apply equally to employees who telework as to employees working at an office, factory, construction site, retail outlet, or any other worksite location. Learn more.

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  1. Business Education Series – Teaching Leadership

Hosted at the Lansing Regional Chamber, the March Business Education Series will have Brain Town, founder and CEO of Michigan Creative, who will discuss how to inspire your staff to be the leaders they all have inside of them.

Why it Matters: Brian will also show you how to write core values that can guide your business and help form an unstoppable team. Attendees will learn how to write and use core values, leadership tips, and ways to inspire greatness. Business owners and leaders are encouraged to attend! Learn more.

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  1. The Ins and Outs of Cottage Succession Planning in Michigan (Part Two)

A cottage plan is an agreement that describes how a cottage will be shared, managed and passed on to future generations of family members. Cottage plans typically cover a range of issues that can impede the succession of a cottage if left unaddressed.

Why it Matters: There are significant advantages to having a cottage plan that utilizes an LLC or trust structure. There is no single option that is best for all families, so it’s important to consult with an experienced cottage law attorney to determine what option is right for you. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Aaron Davis

Intellectual Property | Jared Roberts

Cottage Law | Mark Kellogg

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – March 3, 2023

  1. DOL Issues Telework Guidance to Employers

On February 9, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (Bulletin) addressing several questions related to compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when a business employs teleworkers.

Why it Matters: The Bulletin provides that the protections under the FLSA apply equally to employees who telework as to employees working at an office, factory, construction site, retail outlet, or any other worksite location. Learn more.

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  1. How Trademarks Protect Your Business

Trademarks operate to distinguish your business, build consumer goodwill and solidify your reputation as a source for the goods or services. In most cases, a trademark is a distinctive word, phrase, logo or design that is associated with or applied to a category of goods or services.

Why it Matters: If you are in the business of providing goods or services, then it is strongly recommended that you consult with an intellectual property lawyer to get the best protection in a timely manner. Learn more.

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  1. $35 Million in Grants Available for Small Nonprofits

The State of Michigan, Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) and Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) have teamed up to help Michigan charities whose operations were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it Matters: Under this initiative, called the MI Nonprofit Relief Fund, grants in amounts between $5,000 and $25,000 will be awarded to selected entities with annual revenues total under $1 million. In addition, eligible entities must be based in Michigan and recognized by the IRS under Section 501(c)(3). Learn more.

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  1. Michigan Cannabis Sales Over $200 Million in January

Marijuana sales surpassed $200 million in January, via the monthly report from the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency. Michigan adult-use sales came in at $196,008,634, while medical sales came in at $11,295,443.

Why it Matters: Marijuana sales remain strong in Michigan, particularly for recreational use. However, there still are significant concerns about profitability and market over-saturation that the industry is contending with.

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  1. The Ins and Outs of Cottage Succession Planning in Michigan (Part One)

When purchasing a cottage, it’s often the intent of the owner to pass the cottage on to future generations to enjoy. Unfortunately, that vision may not become a reality due to challenges such as high property taxes, differing objectives among heirs and resulting family disputes that result in the cottage being sold upon the owner’s death.

Why it Matters: Common issues that prevent the passing of a cottage to future generations in Michigan can be addressed through careful cottage succession planning. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Aaron Davis
Intellectual Property | Jared Roberts
Business & Tax | Robert Burgee
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Cottage Law | Mark Kellogg

The Ins and Outs of Cottage Succession Planning in Michigan (Part Two)

This is part two of a two-part blog post series on cottage succession planning in Michigan.

As summer winds down, the second-home market continues to heat up in Michigan. One of the issues many second-home owners face is determining the best way to keep a family cottage in the family for generations to come. In this series on cottage planning in Michigan, we are addressing that very issue.

In part one, we discussed the reasons why a cottage owner may want to develop a cottage plan (including Michigan’s complicated real estate tax framework). This article deals with the mechanics of cottage succession planning in Michigan—specifically, utilizing a limited liability company or trust structure to allow a cottage to be used and enjoyed by future generations in an organized way that helps reduce the risk of family disputes, thereby increasing the likelihood that the cottage will be part of the family for years to come.

What is a Cottage Plan?

A cottage plan is an agreement that describes how a cottage will be shared, managed and passed on to future generations of family members. Cottage plans typically cover a range of issues that can impede the succession of a cottage if left unaddressed, including:

  • Who should own the cottage?
  • Who should manage it?
  • Who should pay for it?
  • What if an owner wants/needs out?
  • Who gets to use it?
  • How should use be scheduled?

By working through these issues in a cottage plan, an owner (or “founder” in cottage-planning lingo) can achieve various goals that are commonly shared by those who desire to keep the cottage in the family. Those goals include:

  • Keeping the cottage in the family for future generations so that it can continue to serve as a gathering place for extended family
  • Giving children equal shares of the cottage (while avoiding “trapping” an inheritance in the cottage)
  • Keeping interests in the cottage out of hands of in-laws and creditors
  • Reinforcing family interests versus any one individual’s interests

An effective cottage plan can and should also address the objectives of the family members (or “heirs”) who will enjoy the cottage beyond the owner’s lifetime. Such objectives include:

  • Protecting the cottage from a divorce
  • Developing decision-making structures and control mechanisms
  • Developing consequences for failure to abide by rules—financial and behavioral
  • Developing a fair, flexible scheduling system
  • Provide an exit strategy where desired or necessary by providing the ability to sell interests back to family

Cottage Planning Solutions

Most husbands and wives who own a cottage hold title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, which means that title to the property automatically passes to the survivor on the death of the first co-owner regardless of any provision in a will or trust. Upon the death of the survivor, and in the absence of a cottage plan, the cottage will pass to heirs as tenants in common.

A tenancy in common can be problematic for a number of reasons, including:

  • Each tenant in common (“TIC”) has a right to partition
  • Each TIC may use the cottage at any time
  • A TIC may transfer his interest to any person at any time – including his/her spouse.
  • A TIC does not owe rent to the other owners for using the cottage.

A better approach, which helps avoid the issues that often arise when heirs are tenants in common, is to have title to the cottage held either by a limited liability company (“LLC”) or a trust. Under an LLC structure, a management committee, which serves a function similar to a board of directors, is formed to manage the cottage’s affairs. With a trust, co-trustees are appointed to make decisions. In either case, if the family and entity is structured by branches, it is advisable to have one representative from each branch of the family involved in decision making.

Through the cottage planning process, the founders decide who may be a “member” (under an LLC) or beneficiary (under a trust). Virtually all cottage plans restrict participation to lineal descendants of founders, which ensures the cottage remains in the family—in other words, preventing in-laws from becoming members or beneficiaries.

One of the primary advantages of having a cottage plan utilizing an LLC or trust structure is that it provides a mechanism for transferring membership or beneficial ownership interests. Plans typically include a “put option” which requires the LLC or trust to purchase the interests of members or beneficiaries who want to sell their stake, and a “call option” that allows for the forced buy-out of difficult members or beneficiaries. Valuation and payment term guidelines for purchases are defined in the plan. This provides a predetermined exist strategy for those who do not wish to participate in the cottage or those who do not or are unable to contribute their fair share to cottage costs and expenses. The predetermined terms established for the buy-out provisions offer the opportunity for a graceful exit.

Plans also address issues related to expenses, such as taxes and maintenance, for the cottage. Expenses are typically allocated according to a predetermined sharing ratio among the members and beneficiaries. Often, an annual budget is prepared and an annual assessment is determined at the beginning of each year or season. Failure to pay expenses can be dealt with through an escalating series of sanctions, from the imposition of late fees and interest all the way to the forced buy-out of the delinquent member or beneficiary.

In many instances, founders choose to offset the ongoing expenses of a cottage by establishing an endowment, which is a dedicated sum of money for a specific use. For example, a $500,000 endowment invested at a five percent rate of return will create a pre-tax return of $25,000 per year, which is a sum sufficient to operate many cottages. The endowment may be held and managed by a bank trustee or by the LLC. If a cottage is sold, the endowment distributes to the founder’s descendants. One way to fund the endowment is to purchase a “second-to-die” life insurance policy.

Finally, a cottage plan typically addresses issues related to the use of the cottage—that is, who can use the cottage at any given time. Two common approaches include a “rooming house” structure in which any member or beneficiary can use it any time, and a “time share” structure in which members and beneficiaries are allocated specific time slots for use.

Take Action to Create a Cottage Plan

There are significant advantages to having a cottage plan that utilizes an LLC or trust structure. There is no single option that is best for all families, so it’s important to consult with an experienced cottage law attorney to determine what option is right for you. With a bit of planning, you can help ensure that your cottage will be a source of enjoyment for your family for generations to come.

If you have any questions about planning issues for your cottage in Michigan, please contact Fraser Trebilcock shareholder Mark Kellogg.


We have created a response team to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and the law and guidance that follows, so we will continue to post any new developments. You can view our COVID-19 Response Page and additional resources by following the link here. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.


Fraser Trebilcock attorney Mark E. Kellogg is a certified public accountant, and has devoted over 30 years of practice to the needs of family and closely-held businesses and enterprises, business succession, commercial lending, and estate planning. You can reach him at 517.377.0890 or mkellogg@fraserlawfirm.com.

The Ins and Outs of Cottage Succession Planning in Michigan (Part One)

This is part one of a two-part blog post series on cottage succession planning in Michigan. You can view part two here.

The family cottage is a place for fun and relaxation in Michigan. It’s where different generations gather and form lifelong memories. When purchasing a cottage, it’s often the intent of the owner to pass the cottage on to future generations to enjoy. Unfortunately, that vision may not become a reality due to challenges such as high property taxes, differing objectives among heirs and resulting family disputes that result in the cottage being sold upon the owner’s death. Common issues that prevent the passing of a cottage to future generations in Michigan can be addressed through careful cottage succession planning.

Michigan is a Market for Second Homes

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, many predicted calamitous economic consequences. With record-high unemployment and a plunge in gross domestic product, there has been a severe plunge in economic activity across the United States. However, few anticipated that a mere four months after the pandemic took hold in Michigan and across the country, we would see record home sales driven by low mortgage rates and flight from dense urban areas.

In 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that in New York City the luxury real-estate market has been delivered a “stunning gut-punch” due to the COVID-19 crisis. Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan’s “Up North” cottage market has “become a red-hot market this summer, and not just despite COVID-19, but perhaps because of it,” with sale prices up as much as 10% from a year ago in some areas.

With plentiful access to fresh water and beautiful natural landscapes, Michigan has always been a desirable place to own a cottage. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders estimates that 50 percent of second homes in the United States are located in eight states, with Michigan being one of them.

With so many second homes in Michigan, it’s natural that there is a great deal of interest among homeowners in succession planning issues that allow second-home cottages to remain within their families for generations to come. The goal of cottage succession planning is to set up legal ground rules that provide the best chance to keep a cottage in the family and prevent intra-family squabbles that may arise in the absence of a plan.

Reasons to Develop a Cottage Succession Plan

There are a number of reasons why a cottage owner may want to develop a cottage plan, which usually addresses concerns about successorship through the creative use of a limited liability company (LLC) or a trust (typically used for more favorable treatment associated with the uncapping of taxable value), tailored specifically for ownership of the cottage property. Here are ten common reasons why a cottage plan may be advisable.

  1. Prevent a joint owner from forcing the sale of the cottage through an action for partition
  2. An alternative to allowing common law rules to dictate how the cottage operates
  3. Prevent transfer of an interest in the cottage outside the family
  4. Protect owners from creditor claims
  5. Establish a framework for making decisions affecting the cottage
  6. Provide sanctions for nonpayment of cottage expenses
  7. A vehicle for an “endowment” (money set aside to fund cottage expenses)
  8. To require mediation or arbitration of family disputes
  9. Allocate control of the cottage between or among generations of owners
  10. May help delay (or avoid) the uncapping of Michigan property taxes

Michigan Real Estate Taxes

Cottage succession planning in Michigan has unique aspects due to its complicated real estate tax framework. Pursuant to Proposal A, a 1994 amendment to the Michigan Constitution, a property’s annual assessment increase is “capped” and cannot exceed the lesser of five percent or the rate of inflation during the preceding year. However, when ownership of property is “transferred” to a new owner, the property value is “uncapped” for purposes of calculating property taxes, and the value is adjusted to the current fair market value.

Prior to Proposal A, it was common for cottage planning to involve the use of a limited liability company (“LLC”) to enable successive generations to use and manage a family cottage. But the Michigan legislature, in revising real property tax laws to address Proposal A, did not include LLCs as a means of “transfer” that would prevent the uncapping of property taxes.

Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, Section 211.27(a), transfers of ownership do not include (and therefore do not give rise to uncapping) the following:

  • Transfers to a spouse or jointly with a spouse
  • Transfers to a “qualified family member”
  • Transfers subject to a life lease retained by grantor.
  • Transfers to a trust if the settlor, settlor’s spouse or a “qualified family member” is the present beneficiary of the trust
  • Transfers from a trust, including a beneficial interest in a trust, to a “qualified family member”
  • Transfers from an estate to a “qualified family member”

A “qualified family member” includes:

  • Transferor
  • Spouse of the transferor
  • Transferor’s or transferor’s spouse’s:
    • Mother or father
    • Brother or sister
    • Son or daughter, including adopted children
    • Grandson or granddaughter

The Trust Approach to Cottage Succession Planning

Although the manager and member structure and the limited liability protection afforded LLCs make them the ideal entity to be used for cottage succession planning, in Michigan, the favorable treatment associated with trusts as a means to prevent the uncapping of real estate taxes upon transfer of a cottage to the next generation, have resulted in trusts being the entity of choice in Michigan. Part two of this series will discuss in further detail the aspects of using a trust in cottage succession planning in Michigan allowing the cottage to be used and enjoyed by future generations in an organized way that helps reduce the risk of family disputes and accordingly increases the likelihood that the cottage will be part of the family for generations to come.

If you have any questions about planning issues for your cottage in Michigan, please contact Fraser Trebilcock shareholder Mark Kellogg.


We have created a response team to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and the law and guidance that follows, so we will continue to post any new developments. You can view our COVID-19 Response Page and additional resources by following the link here. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.


Fraser Trebilcock attorney Mark E. Kellogg is a certified public accountant, and has devoted over 30 years of practice to the needs of family and closely-held businesses and enterprises, business succession, commercial lending, and estate planning. You can reach him at 517.377.0890 or mkellogg@fraserlawfirm.com.