IRS Eliminates Valuation Discounts for Family Owned Entities: TAKE ACTION NOW!

family entity valuation discounts estate planning attorneyNEWSFLASH: The IRS has issued regulations limiting or eliminating the use of valuation discounts for family owned or controlled businesses and entities.

One of the key benefits of Family Entities over the last several years has been the opportunity for significant valuation discounts for estate and gift tax purposes for clients with taxable estates. Last year, we advised  in our Estate Planning Newsletter that we expected the IRS to issue regulations limiting or eliminating the use of valuation discounts for family owned or controlled entities. Earlier this month, the IRS finally issued those proposed regulations. The  regulations are set to virtually eliminate the use of family entity valuation discounts as an estate planning tool.

However, there is still time to take advantage of valuation discounts. But, you need to act now. 

What is a Family Entity?

A Family Entity is exactly as it sounds — a company (limited liability company, corporation or partnership) that is owned and controlled by the organizer and the members of his or her family.

What Are Valuation Discounts?

Traditionally, ownership interests of a Family Entity have been valued at a reduced or discounted value. The basis for the discount is lack of control, lack of marketability, and other factors that result from the entity structure.  An ownership interest in a Family Entity is often valued at 20%-40% less than the actual fair market value of the underlying asset. This means that you could transfer an asset to a Family Entity and then later transfer your ownership interest in the Family Entity (either through lifetime gifting or at death) at a value significantly less than the fair market value of the underlying asset.

The use of family entities to obtain valuation discounts is a well-tested Estate Planning tool. Other methods of Estate Tax Planning often do not provide the same benefits. Because this method of estate and tax planning has proven so effective, it is imperative that clients with potentially taxable estates take advantage of Family Entity Valuation Discounts before the new IRS regulations take effect.

What’s the Hurry?

Entities created and funded prior to the enactment of the new IRS regulations will be governed by the current (more favorable) rules. But, there is very little time left to take advantage of Valuation Discounts. While it is not yet clear exactly when the new regulations will become final, many Estate Planning Attorneys believe they could become effective as soon as December 1, 2016.  No one can be certain of the date, which is why you should act now.

Our Advice to You

  • We recommend that any client wishing to take advantage of Family Entity Valuation Discounts as an Estate Planning strategy do so well before December 1, 2016.
  • If you already have a Family Owned Entity, this is a good time to consider whether additional gifts or sales of ownership interests would be beneficial in order to maximize the value of the gift or sale.
  • Anyone with a current Family Entity should contact us  to discuss taking further advantage of the current IRS regulations.
  • If you are concerned about the value of your estate for Estate Tax purposes or  if you are interested in learning more about Family Entity Valuation Discounts, please contact us at (901) 372-5003 or email us here so we can determine if a Family Entity can yield significant tax and other benefits for you and your family.

Estate Planning Newsletter

If you would like us to add you to our Estate Planning Newsletter mailing list, please email our Estate Planning Coordinator, Janet Hill  at jhill@wisemanbray.com.

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WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003   Office

www.WisemanBray.com

2 Dead in Apartment Shooting at Wingood Manor Apartments in Memphis

apartment shooting at wingood memphis crime victim lawyerWell, it happened AGAIN.  There was an apartment shooting at Wingood Manor Apartments this past weekend.

According to news reports, yet another apartment shooting occurred in Memphis over the weekend that left 2 young fathers dead: Irving Guy and Joshua Irby.

Of course, not all crime can be prevented, and not all crime that occurs at an apartment complex is the fault of the property owner.  However, we represent crime victims and their families, and in prosecuting civil cases against apartment complexes for wrongful death and money damages, we often find that large, out of town owners fail to employ reasonable security measures that could have prevented innocent people from becoming victims of violent crime.

 Read about one of our recent Memphis Apartment Shooting cases here.

  • If you or someone you know has been injured or killed at an apartment complex in Memphis, call Wiseman Bray PLLC for help at (901) 372-5003. We are lawyers for apartment crime victims and their families.
  • Visit our page on Apartment Crime Law.  Sign up for our blog posts here.

 

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com

 

 

Wiseman Bray Wins on Motion to Dismiss

motion to dismiss

Wiseman Bray PLLC is happy to announce a victory in a business litigation case. Our strategy? A Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss. Our client, a former officer and employee of a factoring corporation, was wrongfully sued in his individual capacity by a former customer of his employer. Our client served as Chief Financial Officer, and had merely signed agreements on behalf of the company. The Plaintiff alleged that our client’s employer had misapplied payments and committed other improper acts in connection with their Factoring and Buyout Agreements.

Our Strategy

The Complaint contained numerous allegations against the factoring corporation, but its only mention of our client was that he was an officer of the company, and that, as an officer he was somehow responsible for implementing the policies and procedures that damaged Plaintiff.

After our firm was hired to represent the former officer, we carefully analyzed the Complaint filed against him in Federal Court. In our judgment, the claims in the lawsuit were neither valid nor properly stated, so we filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.

What is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim?

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is filed at the very beginning of a case which argues, essentially, that a plaintiff’s claim is either not legally correct, or that insufficient facts have been alleged to suppose an otherwise valid legal claim.

When such a motion is filed, the judge must assume that all the allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint are true, resolving any and all doubts in favor of the plaintiff. For obvious reasons, then, such motions are usually very difficult to win. The corresponding benefit is equally obvious, though, because dismissal at this early stage allows the client to avoid most of the costs of litigation.

The Court’s Ruling in Our Case

The Federal District Court judge agreed with our argument and granted the Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of our client. In dismissing the breach of contract claim, the Federal District Court Judge said:

A corporate officer cannot be held liable for a corporation’s debts merely because he exercises dominion or control over the organization. Schlater v. Haynie, 833 S.W.2d 919, 924 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1991). Likewise, a corporate officer signing a contract on behalf of corporation does not bind himself to the contract. Bill Walker & Associates, Inc. v. Parrish, 770 S.W.2d 764, 770 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1989). Instead, a court will only hold an officer liable on a contract if it appears that the officer signed the contract in his personal capacity.

Here, Plaintiff has alleged no facts showing that [the former officer] was a party to the Factoring Agreement in his personal capacity. The Factoring Agreement’s signature page clearly shows that [his] signature was in his capacity as CFO. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) Additionally, he is not even a signatory to the Buyout Agreement. Plaintiff’s Complaint instead apparently attempts to hold [the former officer] liable because he exercised control over [the corporation’s] actions.  However, Tennessee law does not allow this. See Schlater 833 S.W.2d at 924. Therefore, its breach of contract claim against [the former officer] fails.

In dismissing the Plaintiff’s additional claims of conversion and fraud, the Judge went on to say:

A director or officer of a corporation does not incur personal liability for its torts merely by reason of his official character; he is not liable for torts committed by or for the corporation unless he has participated in the wrong.’” Cooper v. Cordova Sand & Gravel Co., Inc., 485 S.W.2d 261, 271–72 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1971).

Here, the only allegation against [the former officer] himself is that he “was responsible for implementing the policies and procedures that damaged Plaintiff,” or, in other words, acted as an officer of the corporation. Because Plaintiff’s Complaint lacks any reference to any tortious conduct on the part of [the former officer], it fails to state a claim against him for both conversion and fraudulent inducement.

This case was handled by Civil Litigation Attorneys Chris Patterson and Erin Shea.

Need a Business Litigation Attorney?

Call us at 901-372-5003 or visit our website to learn more about our services as business litigation attorneys.

We handle other kinds of cases as well, including: personal injury, apartment crime injuries, auto accidents, premises liability, wrongful death, contract drafting and review, general civil litigation, estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, business planning, and business entity formation.

erin shea lawyer memphis

Erin Shea

motion to dismiss lawyer

Chris Patterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com

Top 8 Things to Know About Tennessee Residential Property Disclosure Law

property disclosure lawyer in memphis tennesseeIf you are thinking of buying or selling a home, you may have questions about the basics on Tennessee property disclosure law. The Tennessee Residential Property Disclosure Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 66-5-201, et. seq., requires the Seller of a home to provide the Buyer with a Property Disclosure Statement.  Despite this law, there is still a large amount of civil litigation arising from defects discovered in a home after the Buyer has moved in. Be aware of these top things to know about Tennessee real estate property disclosure law:

Tennessee Property Disclosure Law

  1. Sellers are required to disclose the condition of the home, including any “material defects.” What does “material” mean? Generally, any fact or condition that might affect a Buyer’s decision to purchase the home.
  2. Sellers are only required to disclose based on the information they have.  Sellers are not required to have a home inspection, hire experts, or conduct an independent investigation to discover everything that might be wrong with their home.
  3. The Disclosure Statement is not a warranty. The disclosure form is not a substitute for a thorough home inspection.  If you are the Buyer, you shouldn’t just rely on the disclosure form. Hire your own home inspector.
  4. Some sellers are exempt from making disclosures. Common exceptions include sales or transfers between co-owners, new construction, purchases from lenders after foreclosure, auction sales, or if the Seller has not lived in the home within the 3 years before the Closing.
  5. Sellers are NOT Required to Repair Items listed in the Disclosure.  If you are the Buyer, be aware that Sellers don’t have to fix anything listed as broken or defective. If you want an item repaired, you must contract for it. In other words, both Buyer and Seller must agree in the final contract that an item will be repaired by the Seller before closing.
  6. Sellers ARE required to update their disclosures before closing. Sellers must update to address any material changes that have taken place since the original date of disclosure, or to confirm to the buyer that the original form is still accurate. Tenn. Code. Ann. 66-5-205.  If you are the Buyer, you should not close on a home without seeing an updated Disclosure Form signed and dated by the Seller.
  7. Representations in the Disclosure Form are those of the Seller only, and not the Real Estate Agents.  The Disclosure Act applies only to Sellers.  An agent can’t be sued under the Disclosure Act for information contained in a Seller’s disclosure form unless the agent is a signatory. Tenn. Code. Ann. 66-5-202; 66-5-208. However, real estate agents have certain disclosure duties pursuant to the Tennessee Real Estate Broker License Act of 1973.   Under the Real Estate Broker License Act, a real estate agent is required to “[d]isclose to each party to the transaction any “adverse facts” of which the licensee has actual notice or knowledge.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-13-403.  What are adverse facts? Both Acts define adverse facts as conditions or occurrences generally recognized by competent agents that significantly reduce the structural integrity of improvements to real property or present a significant health risk to occupants of the property. Tenn. Code Ann. § 62–13–102(2); § 66–5–206. However, the definition of adverse facts found in the Real Estate Broker License Act also contains a third prong, for conditions or occurrences that “have negative impact on the value of the real estate.” Tenn. Code Ann. §62-13-102(2). See Ledbetter v. Schacht, 395 S.W.3d 130, 136 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012).
  8. Any lawsuit against a Seller for a misrepresentation in a Disclosure Statement must be filed within one (1) year.  Any cause of action based directly on the disclosure law statutes will be lost if not filed within one (1) year from the date the buyer received the disclosure statement or the date of closing, or occupancy, whichever occurs first. Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-5-208.

Discovered a problem after closing?

If there is “trouble in paradise” with your new home and you think the Seller or a Real Estate Agent made a misrepresentation concerning the home, speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

While a lawsuit is not always necessary to resolve a legal issue, remember there are deadlines within which to file a lawsuit, if necessary.  An experienced litigation attorney can advise you of your options based on the particular facts of your situation.

Want to speak with an Attorney?

The attorneys at Wiseman Bray PLLC are experienced litigation and contract lawyers. We understand real estate transactions and sales, and we know the disclosure laws applying to both home sellers and real estate agents and brokers in Tennessee.  Call us today at (901) 372-5003.

Additional RESOURCES:

Read more about Lawsuit Deadlines: How Long Do I have to File a Lawsuit in Tennessee?

Can an Electronic Signature Form a Contract in Tennessee?

electronic signature contract attorneyDid you know that in most cases courts will recognize an electronic signature, and enforce contracts “signed” and created by e-mail exchange?

Oral vs. Written Contracts – Intro

Contrary to popular belief, a contract doesn’t always have to be in writing to be enforceable. Indeed, as explained in one of our prior blog posts,  a court will enforce an oral agreement except in cases involving certain types of contracts that are required to be in writing and signed by the parties.

Of course, even though an oral contract might technically be enforceable, there are plenty of reasons to get an agreement in writing.  Written contracts cut down on “he said, she said” disputes over exactly what was verbally agreed to.  Written contracts are also obviously preferable for any agreement that involves even a hint of complexity.  And, as noted above, in some instances a written contract with signatures in actually required pursuant to the Statute of Frauds.

So, then, how is a written contract actually formed and then signed?  Is there some formal scroll paper or signing ceremony where all the parties get together and take turns using the same quill pen and ink?

Hardly.

Forming a written contract can be as simple as exchanging an e-mail with typed written names at the bottom in a signature block.

Uniform Electronic Transactions Act

In 2001, Tennessee adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) to facilitate and govern transactions by electronic means. Whether the parties agree to conduct a transaction by electronic means is determined from the context and surrounding circumstances, including the parties’ conduct. Tenn. Code Ann. 47-10-105 (a)-(b).

Under Section § 47-10-107  of the Act,

(a)  A record or signature may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.

(b)  A contract may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because an electronic record was used in its formation.

(c)  If a law requires a record to be in writing, an electronic record satisfies the law.

(d)  If a law requires a signature, an electronic signature satisfies the law.

What is an Electronic Signature?

So what constitutes an electronic signature?  Pursuant to the UETA, an “electronic signature” is  “an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 47–10–102(8).  This can be accomplished simply by typing your name to the end of an email.  Here’s an example:

  • John Doe sends the following e-mail: “I hereby offer to buy 100 widgets for $1,000, delivery next Tuesday. Sincerely, John Doe”

  • Jane Brown responds as follows: “I accept your offer to purchase 100 widgets for $1,000, delivery next Tuesday. Best, Jane Brown”

This transaction is binding despite the fact there is no pen and ink “writing” or “signature.”

Does an Attorney’s Signature Qualify?

Yes. The signature of a party’s attorney is sufficient to meet the requirement of an electronic signature that binds the client. On this issue, the Tennessee Supreme Court in Waddle v. Elrod, 367 S.W.3d 217 (Tenn. 2012) explained as follows:

[A]lthough [the party] did not sign the email, there is no dispute that [her attorney] was acting as her agent when he negotiated the settlement. Had he written his signature on a printed version of the email, rather than typed his name at the end of the email, his signature would undoubtedly have been sufficient to satisfy the Statute of Frauds. The UETA, recognizing that all sorts of transactions are now routinely conducted by electronic means on a daily basis, obviates the need for a handwritten signature. [The attorney’s] typed name at the end of the email constitutes an “electronic signature.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 47–10–107(d). As the agent of [the party], [the attorney’s] electronic signature on the email confirming the terms of the settlement agreement satisfies the signature requirement of the Statute of Frauds.

Be Careful

Take great care when you conduct negotiations via e-mail, and you have your e-mail set up to include an automatic signature block.  If you don’t intend for your e-mail to constitute a formal offer or acceptance of an agreement, be clear about it so you don’t wind up facing an argument that you formally entered into an agreement when you never intended to.

Bottom Line

In most cases, handwritten ink signatures aren’t required and you do not have to have an original signature for a contract to be effective.

Need a Contract Lawyer?

We are contract lawyers in Tennessee. If you need help enforcing an agreement or contract, or if someone is wrongfully alleging that you entered into a contract, please contact us at 901-372-5003. Each case is unique and we can advise you based on your individual circumstances.

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com