Flint, Connolly & Walker is pleased to announce that its senior partner, Doug Flint, has been selected to the 2018 Super Lawyers list.

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information, visit www.superlawyers.com.

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Printed in Cherokee Tribune on December 3, 2017

Knowing Your Rights About Property Tax Assessments Could Save You Money

In most Georgia counties, the deadline for paying real property ad valorem taxes occurs in December of each year; however, many Georgia property owners are not aware of certain opportunities, which occur much earlier in the year, that they can use to potentially reduce their property tax burden.

Ad valorem taxes are generally assessed on each parcel of land in the State.  These taxes substantially impact family budgets, real estate rental values, and even the cost of goods sold by local business owners.  The actual amount of property taxes is primarily dictated by two factors:  millage rates and assessed values.

The millage rate is the amount per $1,000.00 of assessed value that a parcel of property is taxed.  For example, if the millage rate is $5.00, then property with an assessed value of $100,000.00 will be subject to $500.00 in ad valorem taxes (less any applicable exemptions, etc.)  Millage rates are variable, and each local government’s governing board establishes the millage rate that will be assessed to property owners in their jurisdiction that year.

Assessed values are determined by a County’s Board of Tax Assessors, which operates under the oversight of the Georgia Revenue Commissioner.  Each Board of Tax Assessors is required to determine the fair market value of all of the real property within the county on an annual basis.  The property valuations are performed by County employed appraisers for the specific purpose of determining assessed values, and Georgia law requires that the assessments be performed uniformly and equally within the county.

Given the relationship between millage rates and assessed values, it is not uncommon for local politicians to reduce the millage rate and laud their decision as a “tax cut”, when a corresponding increase in assessed values by the county’s appraisers actually results in a significant tax increase for its citizens.  In an effort to create a check-and-balance on the potential for County Commissioners and Assessors to manipulate correlation between millage rates and assessed values, the Georgia legislature provides property owners with tools to challenge the assessed value of their real property.

Georgia law defines “fair market value” as “the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept for the property at an arm’s length, bona fide sale”; in virtually every Georgia county and municipality “assessed value” is 40% of that fair market value.  Consequently, the linchpin of properly assessing a parcel of property is to accurately determine its fair market value.

County assessors do not have the resources or manpower to individually appraise each piece of property on an annual basis; instead, they must rely on categorical “group” assessments to determine assessed values.  However, all property owners know that the fair market value of land can be influenced by countless factors, and often those factors will not be accurately reflected in the “group” assessment model used by County assessors.

In recognition of this fact, the Georgia legislature adopted a statute specifically allowing every Georgia owner to file a real property tax return on or before April 1st of each year to assert a fair market value for his/her property; although the Board of Assessors is not required to accept the value set forth in the return, it must be considered by the Board when it issues its final assessment.  This is an important first step for an owner to establish and, if necessary, challenge the assessed value of his/her property.

Regardless of whether a real property tax return is filed, in April of each year the Board of Assessors sends a “Notice of Assessment” for each property parcel to its owner.  The notice is not a bill–only a statement of the proposed fair market value, assessed value, and estimated tax.  A property owner then has 45 days from the date of the Notice of Assessment to file an appeal to challenge the property valuation.

After an appeal is filed, the matter is typically referred to the Board of Equalization (“BOE”), which is designed to operate as an independent panel that holds hearings on valuation disputes between county assessors and property owners.  Property owners are allowed to attend the hearing and present evidence, including live testimony of real estate experts, to challenge the County’s assessment of value.  If a property owner is dissatisfied with the ruling of the BOE, Georgia law allows him/her to file an appeal to the Superior Court within 30 days of the date of the BOE’s ruling.  Georgia also has a statute whereby taxpayers are able to recover their attorney’s fees and court costs from the county when they prevail in Superior Court.

Georgia homeowners, business owners, property developers, and other individuals are often impacted by inaccurate property tax assessments, and the Board of Assessors has a statutory obligation to fairly and accurately determine the fair market value of each parcel of property that is subject to taxation.  As such, property owners should educate themselves and talk to their professional advisors about the details of the concepts addressed in this article, so that they can better protect their property rights, and their wallets.

David L. Walker, Jr. is a partner with Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP.  He focuses his legal practice to collaborate with business owners, mid-sized and closely held corporations, as well as real estate owners, developers, and contractors. David has a depth of knowledge in the areas of construction law, contracts, probate law and estate administration, and various matters related to the business operations of employers and business owners.



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We are excited to welcome our newest associate attorney, Anthony Cammarata, Jr. to Flint, Connolly and Walker. Anthony is pictured (second from left, front row) at the swearing-in ceremony on November 6 with Chief Superior Court Judge Jackson Harris at the Cherokee County Justice Center.

Anthony graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law. He is proud to call Cherokee County home. Anthony grew up with his parents and two younger sisters in Canton, Georgia and graduated from Cherokee High School. Anthony is licensed to practice law in all Georgia State Courts.

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Printed in Cherokee Tribune September 2, 2017

My mother recently mentioned that her homeowner’s insurance premium had gone up.  She has lived in the same house for thirty years, and although housing values in her neighborhood have recovered since the economic downturn, values have not appreciated much since she and my father bought their house as a new construction in the 1980s.  My mother’s comment piqued my curiosity, prompting additional questions about the details in her insurance coverage.  Her insurance company valued her house for coverage purposes at more than $20,000 over that which any house in the neighborhood has ever sold, and over $100,000 more than the estimated value of her house.  Additionally, the wooden shed in my mother’s back yard that could be purchased from a home improvement store today for $1,500, was valued by her insurance company at $30,000. While her insurance company had reasons to justify the rise in coverage on her house, the reality of the situation is that my mother would likely never rebuild her home in the event of a catastrophe, and the extent of insurance coverage was unnecessary.  In short, my mother had too much insurance coverage for her needs.  The gradual increases in insurance coverage over time led to an increase in premiums, and for years she never gave her insurance coverage a second look.

In assisting clients with their legal problems over the years, I have come to know that my mother is not alone, and many people often overlook their insurance coverage.   In this fast-paced world, most people realize the importance of having insurance, but many do not take the necessary time and care to ensure they have the right coverage for their circumstances.  This can result in more expense than necessary and less money in your pocket, as in my mother’s case, occasioned by higher premiums due to automatic increases in insurance coverage beyond what is actually necessary.  While the possibility of cost savings on premiums is certainly a viable reason to reassess your insurance coverage, the possibility that you or your business are underinsured, or have less coverage than you really need, should be a more serious motivation.

From car accidents to lost jewelry, insurance coverage limits can make a huge difference for individuals.  I have encountered clients who find themselves in the position of having little or no coverage for sizeable losses.  Lost diamond earrings inherited from your grandmother can easily exceed the value of your jewelry coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy and leave you with no ability to replace them.  Car accidents can result in injuries and damages that quickly outpace a common $100,000/$300,000 car insurance liability policy, exposing your personal assets and income to a potential claimant.  For example, a few years ago, I learned of a doctor with a six-figure income who had not changed her car insurance policy since she was in college.  When she was found to be at fault for a car accident that resulted in permanent injuries to another person, her minimum insurance liability coverage of $25,000 did not even come close to covering the medical expenses that she was obligated to pay, and she was faced with filing bankruptcy or paying off a huge liability.

Lack of sufficient coverage is no less serious for businesses, but often businesses face a different problem with insurance coverage.  Being underinsured does not just apply to limits of coverage in your insurance policies, but it also includes the types of coverage, as well as the exceptions to coverage.  You may often hear from an insurance company that “you’re in good hands” or that your insurer is “like a good neighbor.”  However, when an accident occurs, often your insurance company may initially deny a claim, choosing rather to point out technical reasons that your accident is excluded from their coverage.  Few things can be as traumatic for a small business owner than hearing from your insurance company after an accident involving one of your employees that you will have no insurance coverage at all.  The business you may have spent your life building is suddenly in jeopardy.  This happens far too often, and frequently it occurs as a result of overlooking the fine print of your insurance policy.   It is also important to note, however, that insurance companies can often overreach in determining that a loss is excluded from coverage under your policy, and receipt of a letter denying coverage from your insurance company does not necessarily mean you have no coverage.   Many times your insurance advisor or an attorney can assist you in securing coverage even if your insurer has initially denied coverage.

It is important for you to take time and sit down with an insurance advisor or business attorney to review the insurance needs of your family and business.  More often than not, when dealing with insurance matters, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Michael Bain is an attorney at Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP and assists individuals and businesses in a range of legal matters affecting business, insurance, and real estate. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law and has practiced in metro Atlanta for his entire career.

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Printed in Cherokee Tribune June 11, 2017

When the State selects property for a highway project – whether it is a widening project, a new roadway, or a change to an existing roadway – the owner of the property affected by these plans has some very important concerns.

What can be done to stop this process? Does a property owner have to accept what the government offers for the property? The project that is being planned will seriously affect private property owners – what can be done about this?

First and foremost, all property owners need to understand that the “negotiator” the State sends out to talk to the property owner about a DOT project is working for the State and does not have the owner’s best interests in mind.  The “negotiator’s” mission is to acquire property as cheaply and as quickly as possible.  Property owners should understand that there is more money in the DOT’s budget for the acquisition of property and that a portion of the negotiator’s pay is based on how cheaply each parcel of property can be acquired. Do not fall for the tactics of the negotiator.

Second, depending on how early in the road planning process a property owner learns of the State’s plans for his/her property, there are often things that can be done to lessen the negative impact that the DOT’s project will have on the property.  It is extremely important to make known to the proper individuals at the DOT as soon as possible in the planning and acquisition process the negative effects and mitigating factors that could be undertaken to improve the situation.  Every affected property owner is encouraged to obtain the assistance of a professional to present to the necessary individuals at the DOT the potential impact and modifications that would lessen or eliminate the harm to one’s property.

Third, if it appears inevitable that the State will proceed with the acquisition of the property, know the law.  Property is taken by the State for use by the DOT in a proceeding known as a “condemnation.”  This process is allowed by the Constitution and Georgia’s laws under the principles of “eminent domain,” a legal doctrine that has existed since the days of kings and queens and royal land grants. In the case of a condemnation by the DOT, a Petition for Condemnation and a Declaration of Taking are filed with the local Superior Court by the State.  Most citizens do not know that the Declaration of Taking actually serves as a conveyance or deed to the property that the State wants to take.  This instrument may only be reversed by the Superior Court, and only in cases of bad faith, fraud, improper use/abuse/misuse of the State’s condemnation powers, or other similar grounds.  The timing of such an attack on the State’s attempted condemnation is critical.

Fourth, if the State is permitted by the Court to proceed with its condemnation, property owners are entitled to several different forms of compensation.  Most of the time, the DOT’s negotiator will only offer a single type of compensation:  Money for the actual property taken.  But property owners need to know that there are many other forms of compensation to which they are entitled.  A condemnation almost always affects the rest of a landowner’s property that is not taken by the DOT – maybe this is loss of access, diminished access, irregularity of the remaining lot, inadequacy of the lot for future improvement or future development, damage to other features of the property such as septic systems, wells, water lines, outbuildings, fences, landscaping…the list of possible harm goes on and on.  A property owner is entitled to compensation for issues such as these; this form of compensation is called “consequential damages.”  Experts need to be brought in to evaluate and quantify these types of damages in order to present a claim to the court for this kind of compensation.  Sometimes the amount of consequential damages is determined by how much it will cost to fix the problems created by the DOT and the State’s project.  In other situations, the amount of consequential damages is determined by how much less property will be worth as a result of the damages.  (Sometimes it is both.)  A condemnation also frequently affects a landowner’s operating business.  In such cases, the landowner is also entitled to an additional amount representing business loss damages.  Finally, if a landowner’s residence is imperiled by virtue of the DOT’s project, that landowner may also be entitled to an additional amount for relocation expenses and replacement housing expenses.

The management of a condemnation case is complex and confusing.  Most of the laws pertaining to eminent domain are set up to the benefit of the State and not the private property owner.  This seems unfair because a property owner never “asks” for his/her property to be taken.  It is a burden that the property owner bears, theoretically for the benefit of all.  Unfortunately however, the government is almost never sympathetic to the plight of the private property owner in eminent domain situations.  This is why it is extremely important to get legal help when faced with a case against the DOT.

Douglas Flint is a senior partner at Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP and focuses on representation of private property owners to protect and defend their property rights.  The firm has handled hundreds of condemnation cases and in excess of 100 cases against the Georgia DOT.  He graduated from Emory University School of Law and has practiced in north metro Atlanta for the entirety of his career.


The backbone of the American economy is small business.  Most small businesses in the U.S. are family- owned and many have been in existence for decades.  One of the most challenging tasks I have faced in my career as a business lawyer has been developing strategies to help families arrange for the transfer of their business to others — be it a child, another family member, or another party, to ensure the survival and continuity of the business.  This short article will touch on some of the main issues that a lawyer and his/her client should consider.

Family business owners typically seek to set up an orderly and affordable succession of the business when they decide to step back from the responsibilities of the day-to-day management of its  operations; however, they also have a keen interest in ensuring that the business will continue to provide for the needs of themselves and their spouse in order to keep them comfortable during their retirement years. Failure to properly plan for a smooth succession during the owner’s lifetime can lead to extraordinary costs, monetary losses, and even loss of the business itself.  In the past, experts have determined that over 70 percent of family-owned businesses do not survive the transition from founder to second generation ownership.  In my experience, given proper planning with ideas in advance of what is desired, a business succession plan may usually be put in place that minimizes expense and trouble, often to the mutual benefit and profit of everyone involved.

There are five primary considerations that anyone planning a family business succession should take into account:

First, determine the business owner’s long-term goals and objectives for the family business.  Sometimes continuation of the business does not make sense or is not attractive to others in the family.  The business may very well have a greater value to the owner and his/her family if it is sold instead to an outside party.

Second, determine the financial needs of the business owner and his/her spouse, and develop a viable plan that ensures their financial security.  The reason that a business owner toils his/her whole life to build up a business is to support themselves and their family, so transitioning to another owner should not defeat this purpose.

Third, decide who will manage the business and develop a management team. It is important to remember that management of a business and ownership of the business are not necessarily the same. Responsibility for the day-to-day management of the business may be placed in one particular child or relative, or even an outsider, while ownership of the business may be left to a group of children, a trust, a combination of relatives, or sometimes even loyal employees.  Regardless of its composition, it is not necessary that the ownership group be active in the business.

Fourth, determine who will actually own the business in the future and decide how to transfer the business to those individuals.  Such a transfer may be accomplished by a gift, sale, bequest, or other means, and many factors, including but not limited to the tax consequences resulting from a particular type of transfer, will influence the decision.  This decision may be further complicated where only some of the owner’s children are active in the business (such that he/she prefers to vest ownership in those children alone), but the owner may lack sufficient assets outside of the business to enable him/her to leave an equal share of their estate to each child without including an ownership interest in the business. A business succession plan must therefore provide a way to transfer wealth to the children who are not involved in the business. Business owners should also determine the most effective means of transferring ownership and the most appropriate time for the transfer to occur.  In this process, the business owner must decide if he/she will continue to control the business after the transfer of ownership is complete and also whether he/she will continue to receive economic benefits from the business after the transfer of ownership (this will depend on the resources of the business and the financial needs of the business owner and his/her spouse).

Fifth, minimize transfer taxes associated with the business transfer and ensure that the owner has an appropriate estate plan. Estate taxes alone can claim up to 40 percent of the value of the business which can often result in a business having to liquidate or to take on debt just to stay in business! To avoid a forced liquidation or the need to incur debt to pay estate taxes, there are many legal strategies that may be put in place by the business owner to minimize or eliminate estate taxes.  If there is any good news concerning taxes, it is this:  In 2014, the State of Georgia abolished all estate taxes; therefore, the only taxes that Georgia business owners currently need concern themselves with are federal estate taxes.

If you own a business and are thinking about the future of it, talk to your lawyer before it’s too late.

An experienced lawyer and businessman, Douglas Flint is a senior partner at Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP and assists clients, both individuals and businesses, in a range of legal matters affecting business and real estate in litigation as well as out of court.  He graduated from Emory University School of Law and has practiced in north metro Atlanta for the entirety of his career.