Archive for September, 2014

Non-Profit provides Legal Advocacy to Homeless Victims of Crimes

September 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I just read this article about a non-profit legal advocacy group helping Homeless Victims of Crimes

I always find it exciting to hear about groups or individuals who are truly trying to identify an unmet need in society and then run full speed ahead to meet that need, particularly for the oppressed and vulnerable in society.

In Grand Rapids I think of Goodwill of Greater GR providing job placements to people in GR with employment barriers – I was doing a mock interview with an individual who was in Goodwill’s job placement program – at the time I conducted his mock interview he had just got out of serving 15 years in prison – talk about a guy with employment barriers!

I also think of Wedgewood Christian Service’s Manasseh Project caring for victims of sex trafficking here in West Michigan. and HQ (twitter feed – providing for runaway and homeless youth who fall through the crack.

I can’t help but mention Mel Trotter Ministries, providing for the hurting, homeless and drug addicted in Greater Grand Rapids.

The above article resonates with me as a lawyer – to care and advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. Like the article says, homeless and runaways are more likely to be victims of crimes, and also more likely not to report those crimes.

In Grand Rapids, like everywhere, there is always more work to be done for the vulnerable people in our community.




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How to Talk to Your Kids About Homelessness

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Great Blog Post by Mel Trotter Ministries


How to Talk to Your Kids About Homelessness.

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Homelessness

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment


Kids say the darndest things.

Do you remember that old comedy series? The one hosted by comedian Bill Cosby in the late 90s? Bill Cosby would ask a few children – usually between the ages of 3 and 8 – several innocent questions throughout the course of the hour-long program. The children would then respond to the questions, usually in the most unexpected and adorable ways. Each response incited great laughter from the audience and – most often – an embarrassed, did-my-child-really-just-say-that? stare from the parents.

A great example here.

Kids say the darndest things.

But they also ask some incredibly apt and appropriate questions too. Kids are curious and smart. They’re observant, and at some point in their young life – inevitably – they’ll probably notice the man or woman on the street corner and ask why?

When that happens, we’re here to help.

Here are several points…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Real Estate update: Mortgage Performance Continues to Improve

September 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Good news from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – Mortgage foreclosures are way down, about 48% from a year ago, and mortgage defaults are declining as well.

You can see the full report here


This is a good sign for our economy. It is also a good sign for private investors who are looking at real estate investment opportunities.


Categories: Uncategorized

Michigan Business Law Update: Entrepreneur in Residence Program to Assist Small Business

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

House Bill 4998 has made some movement, which would create an Entrepreneur in Residence Program to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The entrepreneur-in-residence project’s goals would include the following:

a) improving outreach by State government to the private sector,

b) strengthening coordination and interaction between State government and the private sector on issues relevant to
entrepreneurs and small business concerns, and

c) making State government economic development programs and incentives simpler and easier to access, more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of entrepreneurs and small business concerns.

See the full bill analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency from last Friday here:

This Bill has been idle for a while, having gone through a first reading in the House back in September of 2013. It passed the house and is hanging out in a Senate Committee after the Senate Fiscal Agency produced the above report. You can see the whole history of this Bill here


Businesses: Certain Non-Profits Now Have Easier Time Applying for Federal Tax Exemption

September 18, 2014 1 comment

Great news for Small Non-profits – the Federal Government is making it easier, more cost-effectively and potentially quicker to gain 501(c)(3) Exemption.


The IRS just came out with its IRS 1023-EZ form, you can see the instructions by going to the follow link

Some of the highlights:


1. Only 501(c)3s are eligible.


If you are looking for tax exemption under any other provision of the IRC you need to still complete out the full application.


2. LLCs are not eligible.


Although LLCs can gain tax exempt status, LLCs cannot use this new application.


3. User Fee is only $400 and application is completely online.


This is less than half of the full application cost ($850), put it must be paid when you file online.


Questions? Comments?







Categories: Uncategorized

Churches and Real Estate Law: Leaving a Denomination can be Expensive.

September 16, 2014 Leave a comment

About a year ago I wrote a post about Messy Legal Issues Involving Church Property – you can see it here

My article was really a comment on the unique manner in which Michigan law views real estate disputes when churches decide to leave a denomination.

– in a nutshell, Michigan law looks at how the church is organized – if it is  organized under a hierarchy, courts will direct the church and the hierarchy to follow their governing documents. If the church is “congregational”, essentially a more loose affiliation with a denomination, then courts generally will apply Michigan real estate law.

I just noticed this recent article about a Mega Church leaving the PC USA Denomination and the church will need to pay Millions of Dollars to the denomination, you can see that article here.

I won’t delve into the specific reasons this church decided to leave the PC USA, (if you are interested on the specifics,  I would think Rev. Kevin Deyoung’s Blog would be a good resource).

Regarding the legal issues governing this outcome, the article  notes that the Church Real estate had a “reverter clause’ in the deed.

Simply put, the church agreed, contractually, that in the event the church left the denomination, the church property would revert back to the denomination.

This is an example of the majority of state’s rules on how to decide church real estate disputes – by real estate law. Courts know that they should not interfere with church polity – the rules that govern churches and denominations, but when the issue is one of real estate law, real estate law should govern.

All that being said, this article is a good reminder, particularly for those churches in Michigan, or any other state applying the minority jurisdiction to church property:

If you are thinking of leaving your denomination, ask two questions:

1. Is your denomination “hierarchical” v.s. “congregational”?

2a. If your denomination is hierarchical, what do your governing documents say (e.g. – book of church order)

2b. If your denomination is congregational, what does the deed to your real estate say? (e.g. – is there a reverter clause in the deed?)

questions? comments?