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2013 newsletters

WEATHER THE STORM

WEATHER THE STORM

Superstorm Sandy and, before that, Hurricane Katrina were just two of many dramatic reminders that millions of us are vulnerable to destructive storms that cause injuries, deaths, and property damage on a scale that is often hard to comprehend. But even a comparatively minor storm that doesn't dominate the headlines can wreak havoc with those unfortunate enough to be in its path. Here are some tips for preparing yourself and your family for dealing with a damaging storm and its aftermath.

 

WHAT IS A REIT?

WHAT IS A REIT?

If investing in real estate appeals to you but you are not so well‑heeled that you can go shopping for investment properties like they were appliances, you may want to give some thought to investing in one or more real estate investment trusts (REIT). As you would with shares of common stocks, you can buy and sell different REITs, and having REITS in your portfolio of investments could be a good way to add some diversification. Another attraction for REITs is that you can invest in them with relatively small amounts of money, as compared with the sums required to buy the real estate itself.

WHEN IS AN EMPLOYEE A “SUPERVISOR”?

WHEN IS AN EMPLOYEE A “SUPERVISOR”?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the creation of a harassing hostile work environment based on the prohibited forms of discrimination, such as discrimination based on sex or race. To hold the employer liable for the harassment, the plaintiff must show that the work environment was so pervaded by discrimination that the terms and conditions of employment were altered. Isolated or trivial occurrences are not likely to be sufficient.

E‑MAIL IS BINDING

E‑MAIL IS BINDING

In law as in society at large, signing contracts on paper in ink (and maybe in triplicate) now seems so 20th century. If your reflex is still to regard e‑mail communications as only informal give and take, think again. A recent case demonstrates that if the necessary terms for an agreement are present in e‑mails, a binding agreement will result. If you don't want that outcome, you are well advised to make it clear in the e‑mail itself that no party will be bound until a final agreement is signed by all parties.

DEDUCTING THE BUSINESS USE OF YOUR HOME

DEDUCTING THE BUSINESS USE OF YOUR HOME

The federal income tax deduction for the business use of a home has a good dollars‑and‑cents upside for those who qualify. Some detailed questions have to be answered correctly to get to that point, however. Not surprisingly, the IRS publication on the subject makes use of a complex flowchart filled with “yes or no” questions to guide taxpayers to a determination of their eligibility for the deduction.

IDENTITY THEFT POLICIES FOR BUSINESSES

IDENTITY THEFT POLICIES FOR BUSINESSES

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has revised and clarified its “Red Flags Rule” to help covered businesses comply with requirements for preventing and responding to identity theft directed at their customers. The Rule requires many businesses and organizations to implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program designed to detect the warning signs (or “red flags”) of identity theft in their day‑to‑day operations.

HOA CAN REGULATE COMMON AREA

HOA CAN REGULATE COMMON AREA

Kirk owned a home in a residential community that was overseen by a homeowners association. His property abutted one of a handful of lakes in the community. Legally, the lakes were regarded as common areas controlled by the association. When Kirk bought his home many years ago, the only recorded document imposing restrictions on his use of the property was a two‑page document with general restrictions for all homeowners in the community. The only mention of the lakes was an irrelevant limit on how far a boat pier could extend into a lake.

PROTECT YOUR PLASTIC

PROTECT YOUR PLASTIC

As new technologies change the way we pay for things, criminals are managing to keep pace as they devise ways to separate you from your money. Doing what you can to protect yourself is one part understanding the technology and at least equal portions of vigilance and common sense. Still, we can all benefit from some reminders.

EMPLOYEES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

EMPLOYEES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Act of 1954 (FEGLIA) establishes an $824 billion program providing low‑cost life insurance for hundreds of thousands of federal employees. FEGLIA allows an employee to name a beneficiary of life insurance proceeds, and specifies an “order of precedence” providing that the employee’s death benefits accrue first to that beneficiary ahead of other potential recipients.

LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES—THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS?

LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES—THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS?

A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure that combines some of the best features of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. LLC owners, like their counterparts for partnerships or sole proprietorships, report profits or losses on their personal income tax returns. Like a corporation, however, the owners of an LLC have “limited liability,” that is, they are shielded from personal liability for debts and claims arising from the business.

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