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Michael C. Zahrt

1700 East Beltline, N.E.
Suite 200
Grand Rapids, MI 49525-7044
T 616.726.2223
F 616.726.2299


Mike is a business and estate planning lawyer in the Grand Rapids office of Foster Swift and is the current leader of the firm's Agri-Business sub-practice group. His area of expertise is business succession planning. This involves not only transitioning businesses to the next generation of ownership, but also serving as outside general counsel to the business and estate planning counsel to its owners and former owners.

  • Business Formations and Transactions. Mike assists individuals and businesses throughout numerous industries in a variety of matters, including entity selection and formation; drafting shareholder and operating agreements, taxable and tax-free purchases and sales of businesses (stock purchase, asset purchases, and mergers), and detailed analysis of a variety of federal income tax matters, including corporate, partnership, individual, and transfer tax issues.
  • Business and Farm Succession Planning. He identifies tax efficient exit strategies for the owners of a wide variety of businesses to achieve their goals (including estate tax planning), including the sale of a successful business to fund the owner's retirement or charitable goals and passing a family-owned business on to the next generation. This often includes planned gifting, estate planning, and part-gift/part-sale transactions. Mike is also familiar with the particular needs and goals of family-owned farming operations and the unique planning challenges in that industry.
  • Estate Planning. Mike assists individuals with estate planning needs on a wide range of matters including drafting of wills, revocable living trusts, charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts as well as intentional grantor trusts/intentionally defective trusts.
  • Estate Administration. Mike represents trustees in the administration of trust estates and personal representatives in the administration of probate estates, providing counsel to clients on their rights and duties under Michigan law when serving as a fiduciary.
  • Agri-Business. Mike works on a variety of agricultural and cooperative law matters. This includes assisting with cooperative formation and governance, compliance with the Capper-Volstead Act, contract drafting and review, entity selection and governance for farm operations and detailed analysis of state and federal tax issues.

Mike received his undergraduate degree from Calvin University and his Juris Doctorate from the Michigan State University College of Law. He graduated summa cum laude and was a Dean King Honors Scholar. Mike attended Michigan State on a full tuition scholarship and was an active member of the MSU Law Review for two years.

Honors & Recognitions

Best Lawyers in America© 2021-2022, 2024 "One to Watch" (Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law)


Memberships & Affiliations

  • Start Garden
    • Mentoring Program
  • Wedgwood Foundation
    • Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors
  • Church of the Servant CRC
    • Stewardship Committee Member


Representative Matters

  • Drafting a variety of transactional documents, including the purchase of business assets valued at $500,000, a stock purchase of more than $350,000 and the purchase of commercial real property.
  • Developing administrative procedures and spending requirements to achieve charitable goals while complying with applicable laws, including the establishment of a scholarship program, a Christian private operating foundation to perform missionary work, and a supporting organization for the benefit of local area Christian organizations. 
  • Reviewing the organizational documents of for-profit and non-profit organizations for discrepancies or inconsistencies, revising the documents as necessary to ensure they reflect the client's goals and comply with state and federal law.
  • Assisting in the creation of a business succession plan for the owner of a family business that transferred ownership of a company to children involved in the business while also providing income to the owner's spouse and non-business children and eliminating an estimated estate tax liability of over $175,000.
  • Assisting in the creation of a farm succession plan for an operation with assets exceeding $10 million, including the selection and creation of business entities to hold and transfer farm assets.  The succession plan gradually transferred responsibilities to the next generation while also providing a reliable source of income for the older generation and off-farm children.
  • Assisting in the estate plan of an individual with a net worth of more than $11 million, utilizing gifting strategies and an irrevocable life insurance trust to accomplish the client's estate planning goals while eliminating potential estate tax liability.



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News & Events

Speaking Engagements

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Tax Planning for Farm Losses
Tax Planning for Farm Losses
Qualified Opportunity Funds
Qualified Opportunity Funds

Legal Strategies for the Michigan Farmer

The Corporate Transparency Act and You
The Corporate Transparency Act and You
Entity Selection
Entity Selection
The Value-Add Component of Auctions
The Value-Add Component of Auctions

Small Business Resources

Tax Planning for Family Businesses
Tax Planning for Family Businesses
Record Retention
Record Retention