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Title: The National Black Lawyers Names Christopher Campbell as a Top 100 Member

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Harris Shelton today announced that Christopher Campbell has been selected for inclusion into The National Black Lawyers Top 100 Black Lawyers in Tennessee. Campbell’s primary practice areas include health care liability defense, construction defense, insurance defense, transportation and carrier defense, and municipality/educational defense.

This honor is given to only the top 100 African American lawyers in each state or region with reputations for providing excellent legal representation in their respective practice areas. Membership into The National Black Lawyers is by invitation only and is based on current member referrals and independent research.

“This recognition of Christopher is yet another reason we were confident in choosing him to transition into managing our relationship and ongoing projects with Baptist,” said Harris Shelton Member Max Shelton. “Christopher is an experienced trial lawyer with over 24 years of experience. His attention to detail, extensive knowledge of the law, and ability to manage relationships are all such good qualities in a leader. We are pleased that the National Black Lawyers recognizes this, too.”

The National Black Lawyers is a professional organization that celebrates legal excellence and promotes their attorneys as subject-matter experts, facilitates the exchange of timely information to enable their members to maintain their status as leaders, and represents a strong national network of top African American attorneys.

“I am glad to see the National Black Lawyers recognize Christopher for the skills he brings to his clients, including Baptist,” commented Greg Duckett, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corporation. “We look forward to working with him in the future and are pleased to know he will be at the forefront of our external legal efforts and setting the standard as a Top 100 attorney.”

To learn more about The National Black Lawyers, visit www.nbltop100.org

Title: An overview of eminent domain law in Tennessee

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Perhaps you own land that has been in your family for generations. Or, taking it one step further, you operate a profitable business on the land and have no intention of ever selling it.

Now, imagine that one day, you receive a letter in the mail telling you the government is taking your land to build a new interstate. What are your rights? 

Defining eminent domain

There are several key points to understand about eminent domain. First, the government has the power of eminent domain, which is the inherent ability of a sovereign entity to take private property for the use of the public. The government’s eminent domain powers are absolute and total, limited only by the United States constitutional mandate of public use and just compensation.

Although specific eminent domain laws differ from state-to-state, Tennessee’s Constitution states that “no man’s particular services shall be demanded, or property taken, or applied to public use, without the consent of his representatives, or without just compensation being made therefore.”

Who can exercise the power of eminent domain?

The right of eminent domain may be legislatively delegated by the state to a county, municipality, public service corporation, private corporation, or even an individual, subject only to the constitutional limitations that it is exercised for a public use, and that the owner receives just compensation for the property rights taken and any limitations imposed by the specific statutory authority.

The power of eminent domain has been delegated to counties (section 29-17-201) and to municipalities (sections 29-17-301 and 29-17-901). It has also been generally delegated to any person or corporation authorized by law to construct railroads, turnpikes, canals, toll bridges, roads, causeways, or other public improvement works, under the provisions of state code section 29-16-101.

What are the legal requirements for exercising the power of eminent domain?

Under Tennessee law, property can only be condemned for a lawful public use. The condemning party must possess the proper delegation of eminent domain authority from the State to condemn property. In all situations, if the right to condemn exists, just compensation must be paid for the property being taken.

Condemning authorities must also obtain an appraisal of the property to be taken. They must file and record right-of-way plans, allow the property owner to examine the required appraisal, and negotiate in good faith with the property owner.

Can I challenge the right of the government to take my property?

Successful challenges to the government’s right to take are rare. In most cases, the taking is clearly for a public purpose, such as a new road, a sewer, or a power line. However, there can be exceptions, and you should speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as possible if you have questions about the government’s right to take your land, because the time for challenging the right to take is short. 

Assuming the right to take is not challenged, then the sole issue for the case becomes obtaining the just compensation that’s due to the property owner for the property taken.

How is just compensation determined?

Article 1, Section 21 of the Tennessee Constitution requires the award of fair cash market value of the property taken to the property owner. 

Additional compensation is provided to property owners in condemnation proceedings under Tennessee statutes. Tennessee Code section 29-16-114 states that just compensation includes the value of the land or rights taken without deduction and incidental damages, if any, to the remaining property of the owner. Generally, a property owner has the right to demand a jury to determine the just compensation due.

How is fair market value defined?

Fair market value of the property taken is to be established as of the date of taking. The date of taking is the date the condemning authority obtains legal possession of the land, which occurs after a petition for condemnation is filed — assuming the right to take is not challenged.

Fair cash market value means the amount of money that a willing buyer would pay for the property and that a willing seller would accept, when the owner is not compelled to buy, and the landowner is not compelled to sell. In determining fair cash market value, the jury in a condemnation case is instructed to consider all the property’s legitimate potential uses.

The market value of the property is to be determined without regard to any increase or decrease in value because of the announcement or construction of the public improvement for which the property is taken.

What if only part of my property is taken? Am I entitled to recover damages for the remaining part? 

In a partial condemnation case, a case in which the owner is left with remaining property, the owner is entitled to any decrease or diminution in the value of the remaining property as additional damages. These incidental damages (known in some jurisdictions as “severance damages”) to remaining property are measured by the difference in the remaining property’s fair cash market value immediately before and immediately after the taking.

Many factors have been recognized as relevant to the determination of incidental damages, including the loss of its use for any lawful purpose, any unsightliness of the property or inconvenience in its use, any impairment to the owner’s access to the property or between the property and nearby streets and highways, and any other consideration that could reduce the fair cash market value of the remaining property.

If the taking will cause me to lose my business, can I recover for my loss of profits and loss of the business? 

In general, no. The Tennessee Pattern Jury Instructions guide a jury “not to include in your verdict any sum for loss of business or inconvenience to business, if any.”

Am I entitled to compensation for moving personal property and equipment because of a taking?

To the extent that the condemnation of any parcel of real property requires the removal of furniture, household belongings, fixtures, equipment, machinery, or stock in trade of any person in rightful possession, regardless of whether such person has a legal interest in said property, section 29-16-114 requires that the reasonable expense of the removal of such property shall be considered in the assessment of incidental damages.

The reasonable expense of the removal of such property shall be construed as including the cost of any necessary disconnection, dismantling, or dissembling, the loading and drayage to another location not more than 50 miles distant, and the reassembling, reconnecting, and installing at that location.

Am I entitled to recover attorney fees, expert fees, or other litigation costs?

Unlike the law in many other states, attorney fees, expert witness fees, and other litigation expenses and costs incurred by an owner in defending a condemnation action are generally not recoverable. According to Tennessee Code sections 29-17-106 and 29-17-912, there are two exceptions to this rule: If the final judgment is that the acquiring party cannot acquire the real property by condemnation, or if the proceeding is abandoned by the acquiring party.

It should be noted, above all, that the specifics of legal issues vary between individual cases. No general guidance can substitute for the advice of a skilled eminent domain attorney, whose advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity after learning of possible or impending action.

This article was written by Kannon Conway and originally appeared in the Memphis Business Journal.

Title: Amber Griffin Shaw Named Town of Atoka Attorney

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh is proud to announce that Amber Griffin Shaw, managing partner of our Covington, Tennessee, office, has been appointed attorney for the Town of Atoka. The city of more than 10,000 citizens is located in Tipton County, just north of the Shelby County line.

“It is an immense privilege to serve as legal counsel for the Town of Atoka,” said Shaw. “And it’s equally as exciting to have a front row seat to the growth and forthcoming projects that will make a tremendous impact in this vibrant community.”

Over the last five years, Atoka has consistently been named the most affordable place to live in Tennessee by SmartAsset. In annual research studies, towns of more than 5,000 people are ranked on an affordability index weighing property taxes, homeowners’ insurance fees, and mortgage payments relative to income.

As Ford’s Blue Oval City electric vehicle manufacturing plant gears up to open just 25 miles from Atoka, Shaw is preparing for potential legal challenges and the increase in population and infrastructure it brings.

“I am looking forward to assisting Atoka as it continues to plan for more people to relocate, a variety of new improvements, and the development of standards that will provide a desirable place to live and work for many years to come,” said Shaw.

For 15 years, Shaw has honed her skills as a lawyer across West Tennessee, representing individuals, counties, and municipalities in a wide variety of circumstances. Shaw has been awarded membership in a variety of categories presented by The National Trial Lawyers including Top 40 Under 40, Top 25 Products Liability, and Top 25 Personal Injury. Shaw has previously been named Tipton County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Woman of the Year and Memphis Area Legal Services Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.

Title: In memoriam: John Ryder

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It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Harris Shelton member John Ryder. For more than two decades, John was an integral part of the firm, loved and admired by his partners, working tirelessly for his clients in bankruptcy law, commercial litigation and election law.

John received his Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University in 1974 and served as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School teaching election law. His highlight-filled career included time spent working as a delinquent tax attorney for Shelby County and an assistant county attorney, as well as a member of the Shelby County Home Rule Charter Commission.

He also served as General Counsel to the Republican National Committee from 2013-2017 and as Chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association from 2017-2018. During that time, John was honored as the RNLA Lawyer of the Year. In 2018, he was nominated by President Trump to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and served as Chairman of the Board.

He has been listed in Best Lawyers since 1987. He received the Best of the Bar Lifetime Achievement Award from the Memphis Business Journal and is listed in among its Power 100. In 2019, he received the Peck Medal for service in the law from Wabash College.

John’s contributions to the legal field are numerous, and he will be missed not only for his professional accomplishments, but also his personal ones. He was incredibly kind and a friend to all he met.

Amidst his busy schedule, he still found time to support organizations that were important to him, including Opera Memphis, Rotary Club of Memphis, YMCA of Greater Memphis and Bridges.

John was married to his wife, Lain, for more than 40 years. They have two daughters and one grandson. He was also in the vestry at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Please join us in sending condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Title: Harris Shelton Managing Member Brett Hughes Selected as Fellow, Memphis Bar Foundation

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC, one of Memphis’ largest law firms, today announced that Brett Hughes has been recognized as a Fellow of the Memphis Bar Foundation.

Attorneys and judges are nominated to become Fellows in recognition of their distinguished service to the legal profession and their adherence to the highest standards of professional ethics and conduct. Each year, the Foundation selects a new class of nominees.

“As a long-time member of the Memphis Bar Association, it’s an honor to be recognized by the philanthropic side of the organization,” said Brett Hughes, Harris Shelton Managing Member. “The Foundation has an extended history of well-known Fellows, and I am humbled to be named a member of the 2022 class alongside an impressive group of legal talent.”

Hughes is the managing member of Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC. Before joining the firm in 1998, he served as an assistant district attorney general for Shelby County. He primarily works with businesses, including as an outside corporate counsel, to assist them with their commercial litigation, transactional, contract, employment, non-compete and insurance issues. He also frequently represents hospitals, healthcare professionals, lawyers, architects and engineers defending professional negligence claims, and assists individuals with their contract and personal injury matters.

Harris Shelton’s award-winning team of more than 50 highly skilled attorneys is licensed to practice in 12 states and covers a broad range of over 62 practice areas.

Title: Harris Shelton Announces Sara Garner’s Promotion to Member

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC, one of Memphis’ largest law firms, today announced that Sara M. Garner has been promoted to a Member of the award-winning group.

“Sara Garner is a dedicated advocate for her clients,” attributed to Harris Shelton attorney. “Her move to Member was a natural one, fueled by her unique background and varied legal experience. She works diligently to ensure that her clients are supported throughout the entire legal process. As a Member of the firm, I am confident she will continue to excel.”

Garner received her Juris Doctorate from University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2014. She previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Christian Brothers University in 2010. Before joining Harris Shelton as an attorney, Garner worked as an extern in the legal departments at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Prior to attending law school, she served with the Memphis Police Department for five years as a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Officer.

“Becoming a Member of Harris Shelton is undoubtedly the most exciting professional experience in my career,” said Garner. “Since graduating from law school, I have had the privilege to learn and grow under incredible leadership here. I look forward to making the most of this opportunity.”

Garner has received numerous awards for her work. This year, she was named in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch for her defense work in health care and medical malpractice law. This recognition is given to attorneys who are earlier in their careers for outstanding professional excellence in private practice. In past years, she has received two Excellence for the Future Awards from the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) for Professional Responsibility and for Advanced Legal Argument and Appellate Practice.

Garner is licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee and has been admitted to the U.S. District Court Western District of Tennessee and the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas. Her areas of specialty include medical malpractice defense, municipal law, and construction defense. She is a proud member of the Memphis Bar Association and the Tennessee Bar Association.

Title: Three things to know when updating your will

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April 4, 2022

Passing intestate, or with a will that fails to cover all the bases, presents an array of challenges especially acute for business owners and individuals with large assets.

Perhaps unlike tax planning, wills and estates are two items that Americans of all ages and backgrounds either put off or leave to chance. A survey by Gallup in 2021 revealed that only 46% of adults had a finished will. The research revealed a significant age disparity: Whereas people over the age of 65 were considerably more likely to have an up-to-date will, only about 36% aged 30 to 49 had one, and just over half of those above 50 did.

If the abruptness and profound tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored one lesson in estate planning, it is that time is not always on people’s sides. The consequences for not having a will at all, or for having one that fails to cover all bases, can be daunting and made more severe for people with businesses or large amounts of investments and personal property.

For those looking for straightforward places to start on developing or improving their estates, an experienced attorney should collaborate with them on three core areas. 

The first is to clearly establish bequests and inheritances, keeping their unique family structures and personal relationships in mind. The second, for business owners and partners, is to reexamine proprietorship or other legal agreements to determine who takes control and how assets will be settled. And the third is to maximize tax and charitable arrangements to ensure that survivors are adequately cared for once they are gone.

To provide background, regardless of whether a person dies with or without a will, probate court will play a role. With a will, the court will review provisions for the distribution of personal property, the resolution of debts, and matters like custody of minor children. Where a will does not exist, the state’s intestacy statutes will determine how these matters are settled, except for assets with inbuilt designations such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts. 

While survivors can petition the court to be named a state administrator, and thus given the responsibility of paying debts and distributing assets, they would be doing so according to intestacy laws. In practice, this can produce vastly different outcomes than what the deceased may have desired, or sometimes, what is even in the survivors’ true interests. Even at first glance, it is obvious how a variety of individual situations would not be covered. This makes the first recommendation particularly critical, not only in having a will, but ensuring that inheritances, guardianships and trusteeships are efficiently cared for. 

Wills and estate plans must be both tailored and periodically reviewed or adjusted to reflect family relationships and prevent conflicts of interest. This is not simply about ensuring assets do not end up in the wrong hands. A prime example is effectively “separating powers” by considering the appointment of a different estate trustee from the person named the legal guardian of minor children, avoiding a potentially thorny situation. 

Second, business owners should clearly emphasize the next steps for their company in the will. Sole proprietorship businesses, for instance, become effectively extinct if their owner dies with no will, with assets being liquidated to settle debts and tax obligations and then similarly distributed according to intestate statutes. While limited liability companies are clearer in theory, with rules existing under their operating agreements to determine what happens when a shareholder dies, intestacy law can still enter the picture for selling shares or inheritance tax issues. This may bring survivors into conflict with surviving shareholders, and impede on the business’s success in the long-term.

Third, more broadly, whether the person has a will or is just getting started, it will be important to review its tax and legal provisions carefully. This includes creating charitable trusts that minimize exposure to capital gains tax and reduce the estate tax burden, as well as maximizing charitable donations during the person’s lifetime. Survivors should be as prepared as possible to succeed, in the family business or otherwise, through clear discussions about what is contained in the will, and easing children and grandchildren into the roles eventually expected of them as early as possible.

A close collaboration with estate planning attorneys will produce the most optimal outcome, combining asset and wealth management knowledge with a nuanced understanding of the legal underpinnings of a will. This will be crucial for preventing or minimizing disputes. Existing wills should be regularly reviewed, too – even if nothing has happened to necessitate major changes.

While still living, people exercise maximum control over their legacies and positions in the world. But when they are gone, so is their control, with the fate of what comes next left to their survivors. This, above all, is the most powerful reason why “estate matters” should be at or near the top of priority lists this year.

Title: Harris Shelton Attorney Joe Hanover Recognized at Equality Trailblazers Dedication Ceremony

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Photo courtesy of the Downtown Memphis Commission

Harris Shelton was built upon the historical legacy of attorneys who’ve played pivotal roles in major legislative changes. The firm was founded as a result of the joining of two of the oldest law firms in Memphis – Harris, Shelton, Dunlap, Cobb & Ryder PLLC and Hanover, Walsh, Jalenak & Blair PLLC.

Joseph Hanover, partner of the latter firm, was posthumously recognized for his contributions to the Suffragist movement and the ratification of the 19th amendment at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Equality Trailblazers Dedication Ceremony that took place on Sunday, March 27. 

Hanover was a House of Representatives floor leader who kept pro-suffrage votes together. A Polish immigrant who came to the United States at 11 years old, Hanover became a well known attorney and humanitarian as his career advanced. He had deep roots in Memphis, and he attended area public schools and went on to earn his degree from the law school at the University of Memphis.

As a state, Tennessee played an important role in the movement, as it was the final one to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. During the Trailblazers Dedication Ceremony, a monument to 11 women and one man (Joe Hanover) was unveiled to the public. This public memorial honors Shelby County leaders who participated in the nonviolent efforts to win the right to vote for American women. 

For more information on Hanover’s life and accomplishments, consider visiting the monument located on the promenade behind the University of Memphis law school, or read “Why Can’t Mother Vote” for a glimpse into his work.

Title: Harris Shelton Announces the Addition of Two Attorneys to its Legal Team

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC, one of Memphis’ largest law firms, today announced the expansion of its legal team with two new attorneys. Louis Bernsen practices civil litigation, and Paul Matthews practices in various areas of business and corporate law.

“Harris Shelton has provided successful resolutions for our clients’ most complex and diverse matters for more than 100 years,” said Harris Shelton Managing Member Brett Hughes. “The addition of Louis and Paul to our team creates more opportunities to serve our expanding roster of clients in need of litigation and business law representation.”

Bernsen received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2021. Before joining Harris Shelton as an attorney, Bernsen served as a summer law clerk at the firm. Previously, he also clerked for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office and worked for the United States Attorney’s Office as a legal intern. Bernsen is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association and the Memphis Bar Association.

Matthews brings more than four decades of legal experience to Harris Shelton. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School and has received numerous awards for his work, including being designated as one of the Best Lawyers in America and one of the “Top 100 Lawyers in Tennessee” by Mid-South Super Lawyers. He’s also a published author, with writing including books and articles on legal and historical topics.

Both attorneys are licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee and have been admitted to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Additionally, Matthews is licensed to practice law in the state of Mississippi, and he has been admitted to the Eastern District of Tennessee, Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas, Middle District of Tennessee, Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, United States Court of Claims, United States Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and Sixth Circuits, and United States Supreme Court.

Bernsen and Matthews join Harris Shelton’s award-winning team of more than 50 highly skilled attorneys, licensed to practice in 12 states and covering a broad range of over 62 practice areas.

Title: Tax Talk: What Should I Be Looking Out for – During Tax Season and Beyond?

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March 28, 2022

The April deadline is approaching, though tax season has been well underway for some time. Small business filings under Form 941, for example, were due at the end of January to avoid penalties. Individual payers will be working with their tax teams to finalize their returns and implement any last minute changes. 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the tax process. The past two years of the pandemic, plus regulatory changes looming in the background, have put added pressure on people from planning, legal and compliance perspectives. As a result, at least one additional appointment with your tax attorney between now and April 18 can make a significant difference.

Until you are ready to file, and really throughout the entire year, there are a few broad things to be kept in mind.

Organize all of your due dates – or have someone do it for you

Particularly when their financial arrangements are complex, the last thing taxpayers want to do is overlook anything by accident, and then either be liable for paying penalties or caught up in an audit. This happens more often than you might imagine, and it is essential to have a safeguard if you are the main person organizing and filing your returns.

It is not a waste of your lawyer’s time, or that of a member of their team, to help you double check on due dates for federal as well as state and municipal taxes if applicable. 

Depending on your personal circumstances, this may include your required minimum distribution (RMD) dates for retirement accounts, filings for household employees, compensation filing dates for people impacted by natural disasters – and the separate June 15 date for taxpayers living or filing their federal income taxes from overseas. 

Double check on itemized donations and charitable contributions

For many people, their 1040-A lists can be relatively extensive. Remember that for cash contributions to charity, these can be deducted up to $600 for married taxpayers who file jointly, and $300 for single filers. But non-cash charitable contributions, involving gifts of property, are assessed separately. Those valued over $5,000 need to receive a qualified appraisal, the forms of which are then appended to your tax documents. 

Work closely with your tax attorney to ensure all of these provisions are completed properly and legally.

Determine if any special circumstances apply to you

The annual tax return will likely be accompanied by other documents outlining their assets, holdings and earnings. 

One example of such a situation is the filing of a Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) Report, which is required for anyone earning income from accounts outside of the United States. If you need to file this form, it, too, is due in April. On it, you will provide the largest monetary value of cash and other assets in U.S. dollars (rather than their local currency amounts). You generally have until mid-October to stay compliant if you miss the first deadline in April.

Ensure you are maximizing your allowable savings

For example, several states do not impose personal income taxes, but still levy sales taxes that can add up to a significant sum for many taxpayers over the course of the year. 

When itemizing, you are typically able to choose to either deduct state income taxes or sales taxes, depending on which route saves you the largest amount of money. Be aware, however, that the SALT (state and local tax) deduction cap – which is a subject of conversation in Washington right now – does mean that these write-offs are added on top of the property tax you pay, for a cap of $10,000 a year for joint filers.

The ins and outs of SALT deductions can pose challenges, and it will be beneficial for you to receive legal help in navigating them. 

Be aware of what’s ahead

Preparation will be key when it comes to additional tax changes beyond the filing date and getting geared up for 2023. 

Uncertainty is still in the air around the Build Back Better Act, posing the specter of changes in how Roth IRAs can be converted, for example. And while the estate tax exemption has already been raised, the current law will sunset in 2025 – meaning that it is in earners’ best interests to take full advantage of current rules while they still can.

Because of their experience in balancing maximized compliance with achieving the most advantageous and sound structuring, you should maintain a close relationship with your tax lawyer both during the next few weeks and past tax season. Change is a certainty in both life and taxes – but being caught by surprise does not need to be.