Blog and Legal News

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Owning Commercial Property In A Digital Age

The digital age has affected most aspects of life, not only in Michigan but globally. People can now find quick bits of information online, but they can also perform many serious and life-changing actions, such as finding a mate, filing for divorce and even earning a college degree.

For about 96 percent of consumers, shopping online is a common behavior, and many can even go to work digitally in the comfort of their homes. While all of this makes things convenient for most people, it may not be such a good thing for someone like you who owns commercial property.

Be flexible and adapt

Finding and keeping tenants in your office and retail space may be getting more difficult. Fewer people venture out to shop, and more employees are able to work from home. Business owners no longer require brick-and-mortar space for their offices and stores, which leaves you with empty properties and no income. However, there may be ways to adjust your focus so you can draw tenants to your buildings despite the conveniences of the digital age.

It may be necessary to become more flexible with the space you have to offer. Since fewer tenants are looking for office space or retail storefronts, you may be able to re-purpose your building to meet current trends. For example, more workers are looking for co-working space, and you may be able to adapt your vacant space to suit that need.

Think outside the box

To avoid having empty buildings without tenants, you may have to devise a plan beyond seeking the traditional tenant. Some examples real estate experts recommend include the following:

  • Instead of single-use properties, invest in properties with multiple uses, such as strip malls, so you have less chance that all your units will be vacant at once.
  • Make sure your properties are tech capable.
  • Cluster your tenants to create customer zones, which will make your property a destination for consumers.
  • Create an experience that will draw customers away from their computers to physically visit your tenants.
  • Always be ready to adapt to current market trends.

You may also choose to move away from commercial retail space into residential space. Multifamily properties always seem to be in demand, and you may even consider purchasing a property that offers residential units along with office space, entertainment, retail units and restaurant opportunities.

If this seems like a grand undertaking, you are right. In fact, any commercial real estate investment is a serious and risky venture that you may not want to enter without some solid advice and guidance from an experienced legal advocate.

Please contact our Real Estate and Business Law expert, Jason, at Herbert Machnik Law Firm. You can reach us at 269-459-1432 or Contact Us here!

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Retirement for the childless – Steps to create an Estate Plan for your future care

As the baby boomer generation ages, there is an increase in people who do not have a spouse or children who will take care of them in their old age.

There are increased risks for a person to become diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other disabilities that diminish a person’s ability to care for themselves. Not everyone has someone to protect them when age or disability denies them the ability to protect themselves.

Living on your own has several advantages, including independence and living a life as a self-sufficient individual. However, as a person starts to age they need to think of the long term. By creating an estate plan, a person can ensure they are comfortable and cared for as they age or their health worsens – even if they have no children.

Living as an Independent Senior

The fear of being sick or incapacitated without anyone to advocate for your needs is a natural and genuine fear. According to a report by the United Census Bureau, the proportion and number of people over the age of 65 is going to increase significantly between now and 2050.

In addition to the population growing older, it has become more socially acceptable to stay single and not have children.

There are many reasons that a person can’t or doesn’t want to rely on family members for support: estrangement, geography, death, or simply the social isolation that can accompany the aging and disabled. Without an advocate, the infirm run a risk of losing their dignity, independence, possessions, and health. Having a solid estate plan in place will give others a guide to make sure your needs, wishes, and desires are taken care of.

Preparing an Estate Plan

Being proactive as you age is essential, especially for people who do not have a caregiver within their family or close acquaintances. An elder attorney can assist with:

  • Designating advocates through guardianship or medical proxies
  • Locate a care manager who can monitor and coordinate care; many care managers also act as health care advocates
  • Finding long term care-insurance
  • Disability and Medicaid Planning issues
  • Drafting Powers of Attorney
  • Other general Probate and Estate Administration issues

Most importantly, a competent elder law attorney can help you develop an informed, personalized plan based on what you have, what you want, what you need, and who will advocate for you along the way.

To find out what strategy will work best for you, contact the Herbert Machnik Law Firm today at (269) 459-1432.

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I’m Paying Child Support. Can My Child Support be Reduced if I Have More Kids in the Future?

The short answer to this question is no. In the State of Michigan, if a parent who pays child support has other children with another person, they cannot ask the court to reduce previously ordered child support to support his new children. For example, after David and Linda divorce, David is ordered to pay child support for the couple’s minor child. Two years later, David has another child with Ann. David cannot petition the court for a modification or reduction in child support to support his child with Ann.

Issues of child support can get complicated when a spouse has additional children. Family courts tend to frown on parents who cannot abide by the current child support order to start new families. There are certain defenses you can use, but they are limited and require knowledge of the law. Contact a Michigan family law attorney to discuss the specific details of your child support obligations and how the law applies in your case.

Important Child Support Considerations

Although you cannot use your new children to reduce child support, you might be able to use the subsequent children as a defense against increased payments. This scenario can come into play when you get another job to support your new child.

For example, if you get a second job to support your new child and have a significant increase in income, your former spouse can (and probably will) ask for an increase in child support. This is one of the few occasions when you can ask the court to consider your obligations with your new family and not increase the amount of child support. It is important to understand that in this scenario, you will be asking the court to go against the set guidelines for Michigan child support determinations. You will need to prepare a persuasive argument about why the court should go against the guidelines. Under these circumstances, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney before filing a response to a petition for a modification of child support.

Final Note

It can be stressful to deal with child support issues, but the main point is that your children depend on you for financial support. The courts recognize this and will make decisions based on this principle. Be sure to stay current on your child support payments as this will help you get cooperation from the courts. Consult with an attorney before you take any steps that might affect your child support payments. With a better understanding of the law, you will be able to make decisions that are fair and comply with the child support laws in Michigan.

Our family law attorney represents clients in Kalamazoo & throughout SW Michigan. In some cases, the attorney offers ghostwriting services to Kalamazoo divorce clients. To learn more about your family law case call our attorney, Alesha Burnash at (269) 459-1432 for a free case evaluation.

TRADEMARKS: The Secret Property You Didn’t Know You Had

The worst thing that you can do as a new entrepreneur is open a business or create a product or service without doing your due diligence for your trademarks and intellectual property. What if someone already has rights to the name that you wish to use or are already using? You risk the possibility of receiving a cease and desist letter in the mail, being sued, and being forced to rebrand your entire business or product. Trademarks are the secret property that most of us don’t know we have.

It is essential entrepreneurs to understand what is at stake and what is involved. The more informed the entrepreneur is, the more they will appreciate how important it is to protect their intellectual property. When you register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you have the full rights to your brand. Registering your trademark protects you and your business enterprises from future liabilities that can be extremely costly to you.

By applying for a trademark, you can protect a word, design (logo), symbol, tagline, or a slogan. Trademarks are either word marks or design marks, you are essentially protecting the name or the design.

The Trademark Process: How It Works

So what does the trademark process practically look like? What are the steps to protecting your name, brand, logo, slogan, etc.? To protect your name, brand, logo, slogan, etc., the first thing you want to do is set up a consultation with a specialized attorney to get an understanding of the overall trademark process.

Some firms charge consultation fees to secure the appointment with their attorneys while others don’t. Attorneys often charge a consultation fee to ensure that the client takes the meeting seriously and is not merely looking for free advice.

In the consultation, the attorney may determine off the bat that the client’s desired trademark will not be successful and will advise the client as such. If, however, the attorney believes that it is fine to move forward to the next stage. At our law firm, our trademark attorneys provide a step-by-step overview both in the meeting as well as emailing the client along with a breakdown of costs throughout the process. The attorney-client relationship is commenced by both parties signing the retainer agreement, either provided at the consultation meeting, or sent via email by the office.

Trademark Search

The next stage in the process is to conduct a comprehensive search across all relevant databases to determine if there would be any potential conflicts for the client’s trademark. These databases include but are not limited to federal, individual states, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), companies, domains, and social media sites. After a comprehensive search, the attorney will analyze the search report for the client. This could be accompanied by an opinion letter that the attorney drafts, for the client’s convenience, summarizing the findings of the search report and advising the client on the best plan of action.

The trademark attorney may find that it is not advisable to pursue the application for trademark registration since there are other companies or individuals that already have registered trademarks that

are too close and could be deemed confusingly similar in the market. Alternatively, the attorney could find that there are no issues and advise the client to move forward with the registration application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Trademark Federal Filing

If the attorney clears the mark for application, the attorney will proceed to draft and prepare the federal application for filing. This requires that the client provide all the relevant information needed for the filling process. This includes information like: whether the mark being applied for is a word or logo; if it’s a logo then a description of it; specimens of the mark (showing how the mark is actually being used); a description of those specimens; the usage of the mark and when it was first used in commerce or if there is merely an intent to use since it has not entered commerce yet.

The application is submitted by the attorney to the USPTO and assigned to an examining attorney from the USPTO offices. The examining attorney is the individual that is assigned to the client’s trademark case and is the point of contact for any necessary correspondence with the client’s attorney. The USPTO’s examining attorneys typically take three to six months to respond to the application. They either approve the application for publication or reply with a particular “Office Action” that requires further attention and action from the client’s attorney. This takes place if there are substantive issues that need to be addressed like the “likelihood of confusion” with other existent marks in commerce, for example.

At this juncture, the attorney should respond to the examining attorney by no later than six months. Otherwise, the application will be abandoned. Even if that deadline is missed, for whatever reason, the attorney can still respond but would need to pay an additional fee for a late response.

Trademark Opposition

If there are no Office Actions, then the examining attorney will approve the trademark to be sent to publication in the USPTO’s Official Gazette. Essentially, this is to be used to give any third party who has legal grounds to oppose the application a period of thirty days from the publication date to file a Notice of Opposition to the application. This rarely happens, but if it does, the client’s attorney will be notified by the USPTO. The attorney should notify the client of this and discuss the appropriate steps forward at that point.

If no opposition is filed, which is what occurs in most situations, then the trademark will be registered after the thirty-day publication period. The attorney’s office will receive the official certification of registration in the mail for the trademark, along with instructions from the USPTO on how to maintain the protection of the trademark.

That is an overview of the trademark process and a breakdown of the steps it takes to get your trademark registered federally with the USPTO. It is essential to work with a law firm that knows the process and has experience delivering results for its clients. Don’t hesitate to schedule your strategy consultation to protect your intellectual property. Remember, if it’s law it’s Herbert Machnik Law Firm.

Your Parent-Child Bond Can Influence Custody Decisions

Going through child custody negotiations can feel impersonal and frustrating, and you may feel that you are receiving orders from judges that have no knowledge of you or your child. However, you may not realize that child custody courts are surprisingly thorough in the way that they evaluate situations. They take many different factors into account to establish a setup that they believe will be in the best interests of the child.

This is why it is important to realize that there are many ways that you can influence child custody decisions. If you have a particularly strong bond with your child, you should highlight this as part of the hearing. If your child is accustomed to spending a great deal of time with you, it is unlikely that the courts would like to disrupt that.

What kinds of factors will the courts consider relating to a parent and child bond?

The courts may ask questions about your child so that they can gain a picture of the relationship that you have and the way that you spend your time. They may also want to know which parent carries out daily care. For example, they may ask who prepares meals, reads bedtime stories and who bathes them to establish an idea of which parent is the primary caregiver.

If you have recently separated from the other parent of your child, it is important that you approach the child custody negotiation process with an open mind and with the intention of gaining an agreement that is in the best interests of your child.

SECURE Act – 2020

On January 1, 2020, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act (the “Act”) went into effect.  This will result in significant changes to retirement planning.

The Act increases saving potential in tax-sheltered accounts by extending the maximum age for contributions. The Act also adds a new requirement.  This will significantly limit the time period during which most beneficiaries must withdraw the tax-sheltered account.  After the death of the account owner.

SECURE Act Removes Age-Based Contribution Limit and Increases Age for RMDs.

Prior to the Act, a traditional IRA owner was prohibited from making contributions after the age 70.5 (there were no similar age restrictions for contributions to a ROTH IRA). The Act removes that age limitation. A traditional IRA owner can contribute to the account at any age. Provided that such person is still working. Before the Act, an IRA owner was required to begin to take out RMDs in the tax year they reach the age of 70.5. The Act raises the RMD starting age to 72. Individuals who reached age 70 ½ on or before December 31, 2019, must start or continue to take RMDs at 70.5.

The SECURE Act Limits Stretching an Inherited IRA

The act expands the timeline for retirement savings.  It also could limit the benefits of inheriting an IRA. Previous rules provided that a non-spouse beneficiary of an inherited IRA could take out RMDs over the beneficiary’s life expectancy.  Thus stretching out the income tax resulting from each distribution.

The Act now requires most beneficiaries to entirely deplete the IRA within 10 years after the owner’s death. Unless a beneficiary is “qualified,” the 10-year rule applies. “Qualified beneficiaries” can still stretch out IRA distributions over the beneficiary’s life expectancy. They include a surviving spouse, a disabled or chronically ill individual, a child who has not reached the age of majority, and a beneficiary who is less than 10 years younger than the original account owner.

This change has the potential to create significant income tax liability for the beneficiary.  This would otherwise have been minimized by stretching out distributions over the beneficiary’s life expectancy. It also could be of particular concern to those who wish to use a trust to limit the manner and amount of distributions to a beneficiary.  If the purpose of the trust was to avoid significant amounts of money automatically passing to a beneficiary at a given time.

WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES JUSTIFY MODIFYING SPOUSAL SUPPORT

SPOUSAL SUPPORT IN GENERAL

Under Michigan law, a spouse who lacks the financial resources to cover their living expenses at the standard of living they grew accustomed to when they were married may receive spousal support payments from their former spouse.

To receive spousal support, a party not only has to prove that they do not have adequate financial resources to live at the marital standard of living, but also that the other party has sufficient resources to provide necessary financial support.

Michigan Family Code lists specific factors that a court must consider when determining whether a party qualifies for spousal support. Some of those factors include:

  • The earning capacity of each party
  • The length of the marriage
  • The parenting and financial responsibilities of the supported party
  • “The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting with a reasonable period of time.”

After evaluating the statutory factors for spousal support, a court will issue an order for spousal support. However, the terms of a spousal support order may be modified if there was a material change of circumstances after the court made the original order.

MODIFYING DURATION OF SUPPORT

When determining whether a material change of circumstances justifies modification of a spousal support order, the court must reevaluate the factors of the Michigan Family Code.

In general, spousal support orders are crafted to allow a financially less resourceful spouse to achieve financial independence by providing them with financial assistance for a reasonable period. Michigan courts typically consider half the length of the parties’ marriage to be a reasonable time for a supported spouse to become self-supporting.

In cases where the marriage lasted over seven years, Michigan courts may decide to fashion a spousal support award for an indefinite time.

However, the duration of a spousal support obligation is modifiable if the expectations the court relied on when they issued the order failed to materialize.

For example, imagine that the court-ordered three years of spousal support, expecting the supported spouse to find gainful employment by the time the order expires. The supported spouse can modify the order to extend the obligation further if they failed to find gainful employment despite their good-faith effort to secure a job.

Similarly, a court may reduce or terminate a spousal support order if the supported spouse regained their ability to earn income or otherwise experienced a sudden increase in wealth.

MODIFYING THE AMOUNT OF SUPPORT

The exact amount of a spousal support order depends on the financial circumstances of the parties. For example, courts have considered retirement to be a change of circumstances that warrants the reduction of a spousal support order by an amount commensurate with the resulting drop in the supporting spouse’s income.

In contrast, a sudden ascension to significant wealth—such as winning the jackpot or inheriting property—does not automatically necessitate modification of the support order.

CONTACT THE LAW & MEDIATION FIRM OF Herbert Machnik TODAY

At Herbert Machnik Law Firm, you can benefit from the years of family law experience our attorneys bring to the table. Whether you need legal representation in a matter involving divorce or a request to modify a spousal support order, our legal team is prepared to tenaciously advocate for your interests.

To schedule an initial consultation, please contact Herbert Machnik online or call us at (269) 459-1432 today.

Lawyers Add Credibility To Your Deal

Our law firm provides security, prestige and credibility to the deal. The client gains credibility by assembling a respected professional team. This is particularly true for newcomers who are dealing with established players. The lawyers can handle the “Player” while the client learns how the game is played.

Typically, it is the “big league player” who uses the established, prominent attorney in the practice area. Ironically, it is probably the newcomer who most needs this level of representation from experience. The “Player” may know the game, the rules, and the pitfalls. The newcomer does not. Thus, unless one is careful, one might find oneself the victim of the smart “Player” who is guided and protected by the knowledgeable attorney.

The best way for any of us to get hurt is to “play the other person’s game,” particularly, when the other person is a “player”. Players usually will not play it straight or fair with neophytes. Rather, they will attempt to “snow job” the other side into a very bad deal. Lawyers can help clients make the players “cut the crap”. The deal will go more smoothly and fairly. If it’s a bad deal, the client can walk away and stands a better chance of not “losing his shirt”.

You will not usually need the attorney to send routine letters of inquiry or response. But, using an attorney to negotiate or provide a final review of the deal or settlement adds professionalism to your side. Working through an intermediary also gives you time to discuss and think about options before committing to them. And, if the lawyer makes a statement or mistake in negotiation you are not bound by it. If you make it personally it may be difficult to retract or correct. Herbert Machnik has multi-millionaire clients who make every deal or settlement “subject to the attorney’s final review.”

Why Your Contract Needs a Contingency Provision

There are many reasons why you or your company should consider adding a contingency clause or provision in you contracts. These provisions can be easily overlooked before entering into a binding agreement. However, it should garner more importance since it can be used as a type of “escape clause” for your formal agreements. A contingency clause is a contract condition that requires a specific event or action to take place for the contract to be considered valid. If the events or actions do not satisfy the contingency clause, the parties will be released from the contract’s obligations.

Let’s take a closer look at the composition of a contingency clause and what a proper clause entail. A contingency clause can be inserted into any contract to benefit either party. The courts often necessitate a good faith effort in contracts that include these clauses. One party can cancel a deal if certain requirements are not met, though the party benefiting from the clause usually has the right to waive. The provision must specify an event and / or action to occur for the contract to be considered valid.

Common contingency clauses may be used for the following:

· Licensing Contingency

· Financing Contingency

· Appraisal Contingency

· Compliance Contingency

It’s easy to overlook adding a contingency provision in your agreements. Every detail is important in a contract and contingency clauses may get lost when you’re drafting terms and conditions. It’s recommended to speak with an experienced contract attorney to see if a contingency provision makes sense for your contract. It’s important to always look out for you and your business’s interests and adding or amending a contingency clause to an outdated contract can do just that.

Small Business Legal Strategy for Coronavirus

As the calamity continues to change and governments around the world organize to solve the immediate threat, the long-term strategic impacts of COVID-19 also require analysis and strategic planning. All businesses, regardless of size, should prepare for the long-term impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition to the immediate effects on their operations, it is equally important to make sure they are prepared for a possible economic downturn in these moments. Confronting legal needs can seem like a daunting task at this time, but it’s always best to start protecting your business before it’s too late. There are several key legal documents that are essential and will need to be analyzed before you get back to business operations.

Operating Agreements and Bylaws

Let’s start with operating agreements for LLCs and bylaws for corporations. These documents are beneficial to a well-ordered business. They are especially important if you have multiple owners involved in the business. These documents define how functional and financial decisions are made for the company and will dictate how the company may respond in tough financial situations. Properly drafted legal documents can help you avoid possible liability and guard your best interest. These documents are especially significant as they provide how important business decisions are made (particularly when there may be a disagreement as to the best course of action), define the distribution of profits and losses, and lists out the obligations and rights of all members. Furthermore, these documents serve as a contingency plan if a downturn becomes too severe as members leave, sells their interest, get divorced, or die.

In addition to their bylaws, corporations should ensure that they are holding annual meetings and recording minutes as required by law.

Licensing

Unfortunately, knowing what type of license you need to operate may be difficult since there are many different governing departments that cover different jurisdictions. Contingent on your small business operation, you may need to obtain local, county, or federal licenses. As your operations change, your licensing needs may change as well. This may include registering with additional licensing departments if you are expanding into new jurisdictions. If you are adding to the scope of your business’s offerings or changing direction entirely, additional licensing can also be in the form of health license and permits, environmental license and permits, food and beverage licensing, and transportation licensing, just to name a few.

You’ll have to make sure that all your business licenses are current and that your entity is in good standing as well. Neglecting to do so can prevent your business from working with vendors or receiving government funding for difficult times.

Contracts

Business contracts should be updated periodically and now is a good time to review your business’s agreements. Depending on how your business operation will move forward from a crisis, you may need to draft an addendum to critical parts of your contracts. These can range from partnership agreements, vendor / supplier agreements, independent contractor agreements, or employment agreements. Keep in mind that drafting a completely new contract is a possibility as well to ensure that you are covering the entire scope of your operations. It is also important to ensure that your website has a current privacy policy and terms and conditions that are relevant to your business and industry. While it takes some time and effort to draft all these legal documents, they are the foundation to any successful business.

No matter the changes to your business operations, it is important to think of the legal side of those changes. Whether companies change to keep up with the times and technology, or decide to change due to crisis, it is recommended to speak with a Michigan business attorney to make sure your Michigan business is set up for success.