Can your Michigan Business Continue Without You?

February 15, 2011

Filed under: Business Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 1:04 pm

As a Michigan business lawyer who helps with formation and succession issues for South-east Michigan, Metro-Detroit businesses, I am often asked to write or present on issues facing small businesses.  Lori Williams, with Your Legal Resource, asked me to do a guest blog on estate planning for your business, which you can read at the Wayne/Oakland Legal News Examiner.

Many thanks to Lori Williams, Esq.

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Michigan Asset Protection Seminar

February 2, 2010

Filed under: Asset Protection,Business Planning,Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:01 pm

Last Friday in Lansing, Michigan I attended an asset protection seminar that included planning for physicians. The presentation was part of the Michigan WealthCounsel forum which is organizing some of the top Michigan estate planning lawyers.

California asset protection attorney Jeff Matsen, Esq., was the key note speaker for the event. We covered keys that every Michigan business owner, professional, doctor, dentist and real estate investor need to know about asset protection.

We were instructed on a modular approach to protect wealth through a series of trusts and business structures. Through the training our Michigan asset protection law firm can help clients preserve and protect their business and personal assets through a sophisticated process of perfectly legal Michigan asset protection planning.

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Why you need a Michigan Living Trust versus a Last Will and Testament if you are a Business Owner

November 10, 2009

Filed under: Business Planning,Estate Administration,Estate Planning,Probate — Christopher J. Berry @ 8:08 pm

As a Michigan estate planning lawyer, I participate in online discussions with other estate planning attorneys across the nation to stay up on the latest estate planning and business succession planning news, laws, and cases.  Well, one of my colleagues very succinctly summarized two situations that he has seen occur when a business owner only had a Last Will and Testament and not a Revocable Living Trust based estate plan.

The first situation occurred when a client became disabled.  With a Last Will and Testament that doesn’t become effective in Michigan until the creator passes away, the court had no ability to pass the business to who the client would have preferred, a brother in this instance.  What happened was that the business basically disintegrated with a lack of proper leadership.

Now if the client had used a Michigan Revocable Living Trust based estate plan drafted by a Michigan trust planning lawyer, the successor trustee, the brother in this case, would have been able to step and continue the business during the client’s disability.  Michigan Living Trusts provide for trustees to manage assets (and businesses) during the incapacity of the creator while a Last Will and Testament has no such provisions and is only effect upon death.

The second situation is when the business owner dies.  At this time the Michigan Last Will and Testament will have to be probated.  During the date of death and the opening of the probate estate, or even worse upon final distribution if the proposed business successor isn’t the Michigan personal representative, the business disintegrates or is diverted to third party creditors.  With a Michigan Revocable Livnig Trust based estate plan, the transition is quick and seamless, there won’t be any erosion due to lack of legally recognized leadership.

So, if you are a Michigan business owner and are considering a Trust vs. a Will it’s important to not only consider your personal assets, but also the business in creating your Michigan estate plan.

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Witzke Berry & Carter PLLC
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The New Age Of Estate Planning

January 16, 2013

Filed under: Business Planning,Estate Planning,Estate Taxes and Lifetime Gifts,Federal Estate Tax — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:02 pm

Estate planning lawyers worked themselves ragged to close out 2012 in preparation for the approaching fiscal cliff. Lawyers worked overtime during the holiday season to set up trusts and fund them with gifts that made maximum use of what was then the $5.12 million per person tax-free amount.

(Read more: “Pound Foolish” Author Warns Americans From Taking Foolish Financial Advice)

But in less than three pages in the 157-page law, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 or ATRA, and put to rest the looming uncertainty that had haunted wealthy taxpayers for the past 12 years. As it came to pass, ATRA did not adjust the amount you can pass tax-free during life or at death. On Jan. 11 the IRS announced that with the inflation adjustment, that amount will be $5.25 million in 2013 ($10.50 million for married couples).

(Read more: Living Together and Property Agreements)

With fewer people worrying about estate tax, lawyers are uncertain what their next career move will be. Clients are calling to ask if they did the right thing, expressing concern about whether they will have enough for themselves down the road and whether they gave too much away. Other residual work for lawyers in 2013 will include preparing gift tax returns for 2012 gifts, which are due on April 15.

(Read more: Saying ‘I Do’ to a Prenup)

Gift tax audits will begin in 2014, while the IRS challenges some of the cute text tricks used to leverage or pack even more into the lifetime exemption amount. But looking ahead, there is less work to be done. Some firms plan to engage in strategic planning, while others look for growth in the field of elder law, dealing with asset transfer and the quality of life as people age.

Read more:


Mr. Witzke practices in the areas of estate and gift tax planning, financial planning, retirement planning, LGBT civil rights, charitable giving, elder law, and small business planning. He focuses on helping clients grow, protect, and transfer wealth efficiently. Mr. Witzke is a past president and board member of the Financial Planning Association of Michigan, a member of the board of directors for Leadership Oakland, and a member of the planned giving advisory committees of Wayne State University and the Community House in Birmingham. Follow Mr. Witzke on Twitter @gr8estatelawyer.

Why Your Clients Should Be Concerned With the Federal “Death Tax”

December 3, 2012

Filed under: Business Planning,Estate Taxes and Lifetime Gifts,Federal Estate Tax,Living Trust — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Christopher J. Berry @ 3:43 pm


Marc H. Wander is a partner of the Bloomfield Hills law firm of Witzke, Berry, Carter &Wander, PLLC. Marc has been licensed to practice law in Michigan since 1992. Marc’s practice is devoted to estate planning and business succession planning.  Marc is a member of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan and is a prior Chairperson of the Oakland County Bar Association Tax Committee. He is a frequent continuing education speaker to insurance agents, financial advisors, CPA’s and financial industry organizations. He has also been heard on WJR Radio. Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcWander

John Carter to Speak at Lunch and Launch Series, Wednesday September 19

September 18, 2012

Filed under: Asset Protection,Business Planning — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:23 pm

Forming Partnerships: The Key Legal Considerations

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Noon until 1 p.m.

Macomb-OU INCubator

at Velocity Center

6633 18 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, Mich. 48314

John Carter will provide entrepreneurs an understanding of the various types of “partnership” entities and the “key considerations” before entering into a partnership agreement.

More specifically, participants will learn to identify and address short term issues such as: death, permanent disability, third party sales, withdrawal and retirement, and divorce. Last, to be considered are the affects and proper use of Non-compete and Non-disclosure agreements to protect the partnership’s intellectual property.

John Carter is a principal member at Witzke Berry Carter & Wander, PLLC and leads the “Business Law and Commercial Transactions” group. He has been practicing business and commercial law for 18 years and focuses on assisting Michigan entrepreneurs with business formation, commercial transactions, licensing and franchises, and business succession planning.

Carter is an active member of the Business Law and Unincorporated Enterprises section of the Michigan Bar, and serves as a mentor and teacher with various Michigan entrepreneurial and small business organizations. He received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and his law degree from the University of Miami, Fl.

Please bring your lunch, though beverages and dessert will be provided.

For more information on this Lunch and Launch program, or to register for this free event, call Joan Carleton at (586) 884-9324 or email

WBCW Sept 18th presentation-Considerations for starting Partnerships



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