Asset Protection and Estate Planning Perspective on the Importance of Holding Investment Properties in an LLC

Rachel A. Quinley

By Rachel A. Quinley



llcMost small business owners today are aware of the importance of forming a legal entity before beginning their business operations. However, more individuals and families are turning to rental properties as an investment strategy, and they do not necessarily think of themselves as small business owners. But that is exactly what they are. It is critical to ensure that if you or your family own rental or other investment properties, you protect your personal assets from liability by setting up a legal entity to be the owner of the properties.

The best option for most of these types of small businesses is to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Limited Liability Companies require less formality than corporations and are generally less costly to form. They also offer the benefit of pass-through taxation. Though liability insurance offers protection, the one-time cost of setting up an LLC is typically less than the cost of an umbrella insurance policy over time. However, there are still coverage limits with an umbrella insurance policy: If the rental property is owned in your individual name and your liability exceeds the coverage limits, your personal assets could be at stake. LLCs shield their members from personal liability when formed and operated properly.

If you are going to own multiple properties, it may be wise to form a different LLC for each property to shield each property from the liabilities of the other properties. You will want to consult with an experienced attorney to make certain that you are following the correct procedures in establishing your LLC, such as registering the LLC with the Secretary of State, creating an operating agreement, and obtaining a tax ID number for the business.

As you can see, LLCs are extremely useful as a means of asset protection. They are also a great tool for estate planning purposes. Continue reading »

Essential Points to Follow When Entering Into or Renewing Your Lease

Michael J. McKitrick

By Michael J. McKitrick



leaseIn spite of the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, your lease remains critical to your business. Commercial leases are complex transactions and should be undertaken with great care.

Following these basic points will make the lease renewal or new lease go smoothly. Continue reading »

Eviction/Foreclosure Moratorium Changes and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Final Rule on Foreclosure

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn June 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) extended its eviction moratorium order which was set to expire on June 30, 2021.  According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the eviction moratorium will now expire July 31, 2021 and is intended to be the final extension.

Just a few days later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by a group of landlords to allow a federal judge’s decision to block the eviction moratorium to go into effect nationwide while litigation disputes continued to vacate a stay order from Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich that declared the CDC moratorium unlawful (see “Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich Vacates CDC Nationwide Eviction Moratorium”). Washington-based U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of the landlords in May 2021 but put her ruling on hold pending the government’s appeal in the case. The landlords appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower appellate court rejected their request to unfreeze Judge Friedrich’s ruling. The landlord groups, led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, sued to challenge the moratorium, arguing that the CDC exceeded its authority under a federal law called the Public Health Service Act. They wrote in court papers: “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.”  The groups said an eviction ban is no longer needed for public health reasons in light of declining COVID-19 cases and deaths. They also cited the CDC’s May 13, 2021 announcement that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors. Continue reading »

Mergers and Acquisition Activity: A Post Pandemic Surge?

Michael J. McKitrick

By Michael J. McKitrick



mergers and acquisitionsMany post-pandemic signals indicate that Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity has increased and is expected to continue to increase. Listings for sales of existing businesses surged in 2021, according to Rob Schmitt, a business broker at the St. Louis Group. Reasons for this increase include:  (1) post-pandemic stability; (2) low interest rates; (3) low capital gain rates; (4) access to government benefits like the PPP program; (4), retiring baby boomers; (5) robust stock values; and (6) the presence of capital on the sidelines waiting to be put to use.

Conditions are favorable for willing sellers and buyers in the M&A arena. Some businesses, including retail and hospitality, have not yet recovered from the pandemic. While some may not consider these to be good subjects for M&A activity, their valuations are low and may present attractive opportunities. There are also sellers who have experienced both the 2008-2009 financial crisis and COVID-19 and have decided that they will not wait any longer to exit. On the other hand, many companies look to expand operations in this favorable environment.

The process typically begins by contacting a M&A specialist, investment banker, business broker or similar advisor to determine how to position your business for sale, or, if you are a buyer, what acquisition candidates exist. After the initial match, Continue reading »

Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich Vacates CDC Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn May 5, 2021, Federal District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in Alabama Association of Realtors, et al.  v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., determined the Federal Public Health Service Act, which governs the federal government’s response to infectious diseases such as COVID-19, does not provide legal authority for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium. Originally set to lapse on December 31, 2020, the eviction moratorium is set to lapse on June 30, 2021. Judge Friedrich reasoned the Public Health Service Act unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium and issued an Order advising that the current CDC nationwide eviction moratorium issued is vacated.

The nationwide eviction moratorium was initially put in place in September 2020 under the Trump Administration and has been extended three times. Judge Friedrich indicated there was “no doubt” Congress intended to empower the CDC to combat COVID-19 through different measures, such as quarantines, but not a moratorium on landlord evictions.  Other federal courts have been divided over the CDC landlord eviction moratorium, with some also finding the CDC exceeded its authority, though none formally blocked its enforcement. The March 25, 2021 blog post “CDC Eviction Moratorium Declared Unconstitutional by Texas Court” discussed other recent rulings in Ohio and Texas: Continue reading »

2021 Missouri Real Estate Taxes – And Appeals

William J. Bruin, Jr.

By William J. Bruin, Jr.



The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an extreme financial hardship on most, if not all, Missouri families. As such, many owners of real estate are investigating how best to reduce their outstanding financial obligations and save resources wherever possible.

property taxGiven this crisis, one obvious area to investigate is real estate tax liability. Missouri reassesses all real estate every odd-numbered year (e.g., 2019, 2021, etc.). In even-numbered years, local Missouri assessors normally allow values to remain unchanged from the prior odd-numbered year. 2021 is a reassessment year for all Missouri local assessors.

Real Estate Assessment

Real estate assessment is the process of local county assessors placing a fair market valuation and classification on all real estate. Missouri properties are divided into three classifications: commercial, residential, and agricultural. If the assessed valuation changes during the reassessment, the assessor sends out a Notice of Assessment to the taxpayer.

Appeal of Real Estate Valuation

Valuations are typically available in late spring to early summer. If you disagree with the county assessor’s valuation, you can appeal the property tax.  Appeals must be filed on or before the second Monday of July. In 2021, all appeals must be filed on or before Monday, July 12, 2021.

To file an appeal, obtain the proper real estate tax appeal forms (generally found on the local Board of Equalization (BOE) website). File the forms and submit evidence to support your opinion of the fair market value on your property to the local BOE.

Assessed Valuation

Once the fair market value of the property has been determined, the assessor must apply the appropriate percentage to the fair market value. In Missouri, commercial property is assessed at 32% of the fair market value as January 1 of the reassessment year. Residential property is assessed at 19% of the fair market value. Finally, agricultural property is assessed at 12% of the fair market value.

Real Estate Taxes 

The tax on real property is determined by the assessed valuation of the property multiplied by the actual tax rate set by the local government where the property is located.  Tax bills are generally mailed out annually in late fall with payment due on or before December 31. If real estate taxes are not paid when due, the taxes become a lien on the property with interest and penalties possibly added after January 1 of the following year.

Real Estate Tax Appeals: The Local BOE and Beyond Continue reading »

CDC Eviction Moratorium Declared Unconstitutional by Texas Court

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn February 25, 2021 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted plaintiffs’ (landlords’ and property managers’) Motion for Summary Judgment, ruling that decisions to enact eviction moratoriums rest with the states. In Lauren Terkel, et al. v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al., the court ruled that the federal government’s Article I power under the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce and enact necessary and proper laws (Necessary and Proper Clause) “does not include the power” to order all evictions be stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium order in September 2020 which was set to expire on December 31, 2020. Initially extended to January 31, 2021, the Order was then extended to March 31, 2021.  The CDC Order “generally makes it a crime for a landlord or property owner to evict a ‘covered person’ from a residence” provided certain criteria are met. Under the CDC Order, the tenant(s) must submit a Declaration, signed by the tenant(s) and served on the landlord, and requires the tenant(s) to make their best efforts to obtain governmental assistance before they can obtain status as a covered person to avoid an eviction. The landlord is not required to notify the tenant that they can execute a CDC Declaration to obtain status as a covered person.  The CDC’s Order also grants the Department of Justice (DOJ) authority to initiate criminal proceedings and allows the imposition of fines up to $500,000 against landlords who violate the Order after receiving a CDC Declaration from all tenants on the premises. Continue reading »

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and Extension of the CDC Halt to Temporary Evictions to Prevent Further COVID-19 Spread

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumUpdated 4/1/2021

On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued an Order under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The CDC Order was deemed to terminate by December 31, 2021; however, the December 27, 2020 Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement extended the moratorium until January 31, 2021. After an extension in January until March 31, the eviction moratorium is now extended until June 30, 2021. However, In Terkel v. CDC, a Texas District Court determined the CDC Order was unconstitutional. The Department of Justice field an appeal in Terkel. Since the DOJ appealed the Texas case, it would be wise for landlords to continue to operate as if the CDC Order is constitutional and in effect, especially outside of Texas. However, this does not prevent landlords from requesting an evidentiary hearing and contesting whether the tenant(s) met all the criteria in the CDC Declaration to obtain status as a covered person. If not, or if the tenant(s) did not serve a CDC Declaration on the landlord, then it appears the landlord can proceed with the eviction.

To invoke protection from the CDC Order, all tenants on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract must execute the CDC Declaration and give notice to their landlord. The landlord is not required to notify the tenant(s) about the CDC Declaration.

Failure to execute the CDC Declaration by all tenants prohibits any potentially covered person from being protected from an eviction through the CDC Order if  solely for failure to pay rent.  A landlord can still evict a tenant for any other breach of the residential lease while the CDC order is in effect. Continue reading »

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill Allowing for Prejudgment Interest on Personal Injury Claims

Steven A. Ahillen

By Steven A. Ahillen



personal injuryIllinois law traditionally has not allowed for prejudgment interest on personal injury claims, but that rule is about to change. On January 13, 2021, the Illinois legislature passed House Bill 3360. The original purpose of the bill was to amend Illinois law relating to mortgage foreclosures and abandoned residential property. However, Senate Floor Amendment No. 1 modified the bill to introduce prejudgment interest for personal injury claims in Illinois.

Prejudgment interest on personal injury actions was not available under the common law, so generally it is only allowed when authorized by a statute. Illinois HB 3360 provides that in all actions for personal injury or wrongful death, the plaintiff shall recover prejudgment interest on all damages set forth in a subsequent judgment at the interest rate of 9% per annum.

Of note is when prejudgment interest begins to accrue under the bill. Among the jurisdictions allowing prejudgment interest on personal injury claims, a plethora of approaches has emerged for determining the starting point. Some states require the rejection of a formal demand with specific requirements (such as Missouri, § 408.040 RSMo.), others from the date of the loss (such as Florida, Fla. Stat. § 687.01), or still others from the date of the filing of the complaint (such as Michigan, Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.6013). Continue reading »

Financial Relief for Your Troubled Small Business Clients

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



bankruptcyIt’s no secret that many small businesses are facing financial troubles these days, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the rapid and unpredictable twists and turns of the current economy. This article will discuss, in two parts, the various ways in which a financially troubled business can seek financial relief, ranging from informal negotiations and state statutory remedies to filing a Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy case, so that attorneys can provide general assistance to their small business clients, or refer them to an insolvency attorney if appropriate.

Part I: Negotiations and State Statutory Remedies

Informal Workouts

If a debtor is on good terms with its creditors, especially its primary lenders, it may be able to earn itself out of its financial troubles. The secured creditors, of course, must be treated with full respect for their security interests in the assets of the debtor. Unsecured suppliers of critical goods and services also must be treated with care, as their cooperation may be needed at some point in the future.

It is often useful for a debtor to obtain an appraisal of its assets, both real and personal, from well-respected appraisers experienced in their fields. The appraisal should value the assets at three levels: forced liquidation value, orderly liquidation value, and fair market value. These values will enable the debtor to intelligently discuss the likelihood of collection in different situations.

Another useful action would be to hire a consultant. Sometimes business owners cannot see opportunities for improvement which are right in front of them, simply because they think that the current practice works well. The consultant can help the owner review the company’s operating procedures, cash flow procedures and pricing structure to look for opportunities to increase profitability.

The consultant also could prepare projections of future profitability for the company, based upon the opportunities which are discovered. Armed with the collateral valuations and projections, the owner can show the company’s creditors a plan for solving its problems.[1] That is much more effective than simply asking for more time or engaging in stalling tactics.

Statutory Remedies

1. Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors

Continue reading »