In a recent court case, the Nebraska Court of Appeals considered whether a couple who, as part of their estate planning, placed real property into a revocable living trust could themselves file a property tax appeal to that Court.
As part of their estate planning, John and Rosemarie Huse transferred legal title to three agricultural land parcels in Dakota County, Nebraska into a revocable living trust, the Huse Revocable Trust. The Huses disputed the valuation placed on that land by Dakota County Assessor for the tax years 2012 and 2014. So, in his capacity as a co-trustee of the Huse Revocable Trust, John Huse protested the property tax value.
Mr. Huse’s protest was unsuccessful before the County Board of Equalization, so he appealed the Board’s determination to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. The Commission similarly denied Mr. Huse’s appeal, so he filed a second appeal with the Nebraska Court of Appeals. Before reviewing Mr. Huse’s appeal on its merits, the Court considered whether Mr. Huse could to file an appeal on the Trust’s behalf.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Huse, because he was not a licensed attorney, was not eligible to file a property tax appeal to the Court of Appeals on behalf of his own revocable living trust. This was true even if Mr. Huse and his wife were the only trustee and beneficiaries of the Huse Revocable Trust. In support of this rationale, the Court of Appeals cited to a recent ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court which held that the sole owner of an LLC was ineligible to represent the LLC in an appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeals did not, when reviewing the Huse case, state that trustees of a revocable living trust could not file an initial protest with a County Board of Equalization or that trustees could not file an appeal of the County Board of Equalization decision to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Each of these have their own rules regarding eligibility to file a protest or appeal.
What clients and their advisors should take away from the Huse case is that property tax protests and appeals are legal disputes. The rules regarding court filings and representation of an entity apply in those cases. Self-representation can mean that required court filings are mishandled or not made. In that event, a case can be lost before it is decided on its merits.
The McGrath North Tax Group regularly advises and assists clients with property tax protests and appeals. Feel free to contact any member of the Group to discuss a protest of a property tax value in Nebraska.