Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – January 5, 2024

  1. Reminder: Michigan LLCs Must File Annual Report by February 15

With the new year upon us, we want to remind you that limited liability companies formed with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs must file their annual report (called an Annual Statement) by February 15.

Why it Matters: LLCs that fail to file are subject to fines. More importantly, failure to file an annual report after two consecutive years results in an LLC falling out of good standing with the state of Michigan, which may lead to the dissolution of the entity. Contact a Fraser Trebilcock lawyer if you require help with corporate filing and reporting requirements.

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  1. Michigan Minimum Wage Increased After New Year

Now that we’re into calendar year 2024, Michigan’s minimum wage has increased per the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act of 2018 which establishes the annual schedule of increases. The minimum hourly wage increased to $10.33 per hour; the 85% rate for minors aged 16 and 17 increased to $8.78 per hour; the tipped employee rate of hourly pay increased to $3.93 per hour; and the training wage of $4.25 per hour for newly hired employees ages 16 to 19 for their first 90 days of employment remains unchanged.

Why it Matters: It’s important to be aware of new laws, and changes to existing laws, that have taken effect as of January 1, 2024. Contact us with any questions.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Announces Department Chairs for 2024

Fraser Trebilcock announces new Department Chairs for 2024: Sean P. GallagherAdministrative LawRobert D. Burgee and Paul V. McCordBusiness & TaxRobert D. BurgeeEmployee Benefits: Welfare/HealthDavid J. HoustonLabor, Employment, and Civil RightsMichael P. DonnellyLitigationJared A. RobertsReal Estate; and Marlaine C. Teahan and Mark E. KelloggTrusts and Estates.

Why it Matters: A new year brings a renewed commitment to leadership within our firm. When it matters in Michigan, we are the trusted advisor for businesses and individuals requiring planning and consulting services, or facing legal and regulatory challenges, and our capabilities extend to wherever clients require counsel. Read more.

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  1. Reminder: Prevailing Wage Act Being Reinstated in Michigan in 2024

It’s important for businesses to be aware of laws that will take effect in 2024. One is the reinstatement of Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act (the “Act”), which will require contractors and subcontractors in Michigan to pay the prevailing wage and benefit rates to employees working on most state funded construction projects.

Why it Matters: A prevailing wage law was in effect in Michigan from 1965 until 2018 when the law was repealed. On March 24, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed the Act into law. It will take effect in March of 2024.

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  1. How do you Defend an Amazon Neutral Patent Evaluation?

Amazon’s Neutral Patent Infringement Program (NPE) is Amazon’s version of a quasi-judicial court to resolve patent infringement disputes between sellers. It is akin to an arbitration or mediation overseen by an experienced and vetted patent practitioner. NPE is not a court of law, so any of the rulings are not prejudicial on any platform or marketplace other than Amazon.com. However, it aims to provide a more cost-effective method to resolve patent disputes between sellers.

Why it Matters: The program is initiated once a patent holder submits a complaint to Amazon through Amazon’s seller portal. The accused product is immediately removed from its Amazon listing and the accused infringer is notified. The accused infringer then may negotiate a settlement directly with the rights holder or agree to participate in the NPE program. Learn more from your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals 

Business & Tax | Robert Burgee
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Intellectual Property | Andrew Martin

Importance of Signing an Operating Agreement for Your LLC

So, you and your little sister, Rachel, finally started that mitten-shaped decorative soap business you’ve always talked about – Nice! And your friend’s brother’s buddy helped you file for an LLC through the State of Michigan’s website and sent you the link to obtain an EIN from the IRS because the banks said you needed it to open a checking account. That’s it then, you’re all set and ready for the farmer’s market next weekend, right? Nope. You forgot to agree on the rules for running your business, the rules for how you and your sister will make the “big” decisions for your new company. We call these Operating Agreements and they are an important part of any small business – even if it’s just one person. There is nothing worse than having to stop the fun to argue about the rules in the middle of the game because no one can agree – no Rachel, landing on free parking does NOT mean you get all the money paid for the properties.

Let’s look at a few scenarios of how the life of your business can go awry without a one.

Scenario 1: You and Rachel start the business together and agree to split the business 80/20 since you put in all of the startup funding, make all of the soaps, and spend every weekend selling them at farmers markets from Port Huron to Petoskey, and all she did was set up the website – seems like a fair split. After a few months, things are going well and you decide to hire Rachel’s boyfriend, Ray, to expand your sales capacity and sell the soaps at more shows. Unfortunately, you quickly realize that Ray isn’t up to the task and he’s losing more soap than he’s selling – no biggy, you can just fire Ray (even though Rachel says Ray isn’t going anywhere); after all you own 80% of the business. Not so fast; because you and Rachel never signed an operating agreement that says that decisions would be made on the basis of ownership shares, you have to make decisions according to the Michigan Limited Liability Company Act (the Act) which says that each owner (the Act calls them Members) of the company gets one vote. So what now…the status quo wins and Ray stays.

Scenario 2: Rachel started a new company a few months ago and asks you to join. She did the usual start-up procedures like file the Articles of Organization to start the LLC and opened a checking account, but it was just her, so she didn’t think she needed an operating agreement. You both agree that the business is worth about $20,000 dollars, so you pay her that $10,000 you were saving to buy a new car. A few years go by and you and Rachel are happily employed by the company, pulling great benefits and a decent salary, and because you and Rachel work so well together, you even get a few thousand dollars in distributions every year. Unfortunately, Rachel decides to run off with Raul and sells out to her pal Rusty. After a week or two, Rusty tells you he appreciates you, but your services are no longer needed and terminates your employment. “Wait, what!?! We’re 50/50!” you say. Not quite, sorry. There was no operating agreement, remember? And you bought your share from Rachel. Rusty has talked to a lawyer and figured out that you are merely an assignee of 50% of Rachel’s interest in the company, you were never admitted as a member. So long great benefits and decent salary; oh and by the way, Rusty has no idea what he’s doing so those distributions are gone, too.

These two scenarios illustrate the pitfalls of small businesses failing to adopt an operating agreement for their LLCs. It may seem like an unnecessary step when you’re starting out, but waiting until the time is right or until you get big enough, can often lead to forgetting about it completely. If you are starting a business, or have started a business and you’re unsure about whether it is properly structured, you should make sure that you consult with an attorney who can help you write the rule book for your business and ensure that everyone is playing the same game.

This is a brief summary and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact Robert D. Burgee or your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.


Robert D. Burgee is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock with over a decade of experience counseling clients with a focus on corporate structures and compliance, licensing, contracts, regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and a host of other matters related to the operation of small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits. You can reach him at 517.377.0848 or at bburgee@fraserlawfirm.com.

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 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.

Stay tuned for part two in this series in cottage succession planning. In the interim, 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.