Kimberly M. Hanlon is a Minnesota attorney offering comprehensive services in the areas of estate planning, small business law, probate administration, and guardianship.
She has a different approach to lawyering than most of her colleagues – everything from how she approaches client relationships to how she advises people. Kimberly believes that the business-as-usual model for law firms doesn’t work for people, so she took on a whole new way of serving clients.
Come and see what makes our firm different – we have a fresh approach to traditional legal dilemmas.
We are a different kind of Estate Planning and Small Business law firm
It is not enough for a law firm to say they are different. They actually have to be different, to come from a totally different mindset, to have a totally different business model, and to have a totally different way of working with clients. We don’t just say we are different – we actually are.
The traditional experience, whether you are looking for estate planning or small business law, is to go to an attorney when you need something specific handled, like a will or a trust, or incorporation documents or a contract drafted. That attorney listens attentively, drafts whatever it is that you need, charges you for the document (and you may or may not have known the cost in advance), and then you go your merry way.
Maybe you will get a holiday card from your attorney (if you are lucky), but otherwise you don’t hear from them and they don’t hear from you. Of course, why would you call them? If you called them, that would start the billing meter running again.
Then, life happens, your circumstances change, the law changes, and your whatever-it-was legal document is no longer doing its job.
If it’s an estate plan, your estate is going to have to go through probate, despite your intentions otherwise, or your estate is now taxable, or your disabled beneficiary is now going to lose their ability to get the help they need. All sorts of things can happen that affect your estate plan.
If it’s a business matter, things happen even more rapidly and operating without the right legal advice can get you into a lot of trouble. The wipe-you-off-the-map kind of trouble.
You think you are protected because you went to see that lawyer whenever-it-was in the past, but really it’s a false sense of security.
Wouldn’t it be better to have an ongoing relationship with your lawyer, so when life happened and things changed, you could call and find out if those changes impact you? And wouldn’t it be better if your lawyer knew you well enough to know when changes in the law might impact you, and let you know about it?
Wouldn’t it be better if you had someone to call when a legal situation came up, and they could send you to the attorney they know and trust who handles that area of law if they couldn’t help you themselves? It would be like having a lawyer in the family. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Well, that is what we do and that is how we are different. Yes, we draft documents – but those documents are a by-product of our relationship with our clients. Really, we are trusted advisors and we are in it for the long-haul. We aren’t interested in drafting your documents and then hanging you out to dry. We want to be your lawyers for life.
Want to know what that looks like? For estate planning, look at our Personal Family Lawyer page and our Estate Planning Services page. For small business owners, look at our Creative Business Lawyer page and our Small Business Legal Services page.
Do you own a family-owned business? You have come to exactly the right place. We combine the best of our estate planning know-how with the best of our small business law know-how to make sure you are protected on both fronts.
If you think that sounds better than just having a document drafted and then being left to fend for yourself, give us a call.
There’s more to starting a business than just a good idea–you need equipment, a workforce, and working capital in order for the ball to really get rolling. If you are like most business owners, taking out a loan to pay for it all could be a necessary evil. However, it is vital that you take the time to understand the effect any liens could have on your business: the problems they might cause and what alternatives you may have.
A lien is essentially the way a lender stakes out a spot in the queue for repayment in case of you can’t pay on the loan. As these liens honored in the order they are filed, lenders want to be in the highly-desirable first lien position.
So, as you take out additional loans to pay for the costs of business, each lender you seek out gets in that line. The risks posed by being further back in line encourages lenders to demand higher interest rates on your business loan, even if only in the second or third slot! Make absolutely sure to go over your pre-existing loans and determine that the capital you need is coming at a price you can afford.
A short-term loan can pose another set of risks–chief among them the blanket lien. A blanket lien provides your lender with the right to seize other assets following default. If this kind of lien is at the head of the pack and you fail to pay the loan back, you will find it all the more difficult to pay off your remaining debt.
Fortunately, the process of determining the status of your company’s liens is far easier than in the past. Lenders are required to file a UCC-1 financing statement upon filing a lien that will be posted online. Simply visit your state’s Secretary of State website and follow the instructions–you can visit Minnesota’s secretary of state here.
Never forget to read the fine print–or, better still, hand it to your attorney for review before jotting down your signature. Too many business owners suffer unexpected losses when a clause hidden deep in the details leaps out to bite them. Take care not to be caught off guard.
Having a business attorney that understands the individual needs and unique circumstances of your company is key to helping your business thrive and prosper. If you are interested in learning more about legal protection strategies for your business and how we work with you as a partner in protecting your company, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.
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It’s always hard to plan for an event you would rather put off and, well, death certainly falls into that category for many of us. If you’ve procrastinated on giving much thought to the particulars you are hardly alone, but a well-thought-out estate plan is one of the kindest things you can do for your family.
When the time comes, your family will already be preoccupied by the grief and pain of your passing; spare them the additional burden of having to rummage through all your affairs to find the personal and business paperwork they’ll need–that’s hardly a memory you would like to leave behind.
Instead, take the time to bring all of it together in one easy-to-find location. The following items are best placed into a single file that your family is aware of. Otherwise, your unexpected death or health crisis may well cause even more stress.
Advisors – Have you worked with financial advisors in the past? Attorneys? How about life insurance agents, CPAs, etc.? Furnish your loved ones with the names and contact info of anyone with information that might be important.
Bank Accounts and Safe Deposit Boxes – You should make your family aware of the names of any banks you hold accounts in and the relevant account numbers. Don’t forget online banking! Provide the PINs, passwords, and web addresses that hey will need. Provide the contact information of any personal banker and, if you have a safety deposit box, record the name of the bank and the account number, not to mention the box’s contents and the location of its key.
Investment And Retirement Accounts – You will need to give your inheritors all the information they need, much like above. Give them the name of your brokerage, your personal broker, the location of your statement and, of course, the account and PIN numbers.
Insurance – Keep a portfolio containing the details of each of your policies–whether health, home, car, life, or long-term care–and provide the contact information for each account’s corresponding agent. Don’t forget the account numbers!
Health care – Leave behind the contact information for any physicians you work with regularly, as well as information on your Medicare or other gap coverage you may have.
House – Is your home still mortgaged? If so, be sure to provide the important details: who is the lender and when are payments due? Indicate the location of all deeds and property titles. If you have any home service providers–cleaning help, lawn care, etc.–include their contact information.
Credit Cards – Make a photocopy of both sides of each credit card and provide balance and payment information.
Vehicles – Your loved ones will need information on where titles and registration information are kept, as well as a photocopy of your driver’s license.
Personal – There may be friends and neighbors who you would like to be made aware of your passing, so include a list with their email and phone contact information. Of course, your own email account log-ins and passwords should be provided. Read more about planning your digital estate here – Planning for the future of your digital estate.
This last bit of planning on your part will go a long way toward helping your family cope in the immediate aftermath of your death or incapacitation.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of your wealth to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.
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The only thing that compares to the American entrepreneurial spirit is our litigious tendencies. The two often go hand in hand, as business relationships involve one of the more contentious points in life. An otherwise minor friction can erupt in flames with the right kindling–money!
If you work alongside a partner to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality, it is important that you set certain safeguards in place. Disagreements will arise–nothing can stop that–but a founder’s agreement is essential to both mitigating the friction that can arise and making sure it doesn’t result in your fledgling business burning to the ground.
Any properly-structured founder’s agreement will follow the following guidelines:
Assign roles and responsibilities. You and your co-founders likely have different areas of expertise. The businessperson; the marketing expert; the computer geek–whatever your role, you each bring to your business a unique perspective that can empower your business to reach higher.
Take care, however, not to be stepping on each other’s feet. By defining specific roles and responsibilities for each individual and sticking to them, you can avoid much of this risk. Not every minor decision need be submitted to a group vote, particularly if the specifics are so technical as to leave your colleagues incapable of informed input. Knowing your specific areas of responsibility will ease the growing pains experienced by every new business while establishing a dynamic system that will help your business survive the years–even decades–ahead.
Allocate ownership. Money isn’t the root of all evil, but it sure does open the door for all kinds of disagreement. Though your entrepreneurial aspirations may be driven more by passion for the work than the money it brings in, everyone still wants to feel that they receive what they deserve.
How equity will be split among the founders must be decided and put in stone at an early stage–definitely before the profits start to roll in. Particularly if the roles/contributions of the founders are unequal, negotiations over each partner’s share can be delicate. Still, just imagine the far less sanguine discussions that will take place when your partners discover their income is not as they had expected! Don’t forget to determine market vesting terms in the event that one founder leaves or there is a split.
Assignment of intellectual property. Dealing with intellectual property is a must for every business, yours included. Whether a product, trademark, or some proprietary technology, it is vital that the right to that property be assigned, or at least licensed, to the business for it to thrive after the departure of a founder–if your business partner walks away from the lemonade stand with the pitcher, all you are left with is dozens of empty cups. Don’t let the principal component of your business be pulled out from under you.
Whether you’re starting or already running a business, the best time to hire a lawyer is before you need one. Having a business attorney that understands the individual needs and unique circumstances of your company is key to helping your business thrive and prosper. If you are interested in learning more about legal protection strategies for your business and how we work with you as a partner in protecting your company, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.
What was your first experience in business? What obstacles did you overcome? Let us know in the comments below and we may feature your story in next week’s newsletter!
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Gifting assets to avoid estate taxes is one of the most basic, age-old tricks to estate planning and the strategy has many, many proponents. But this approach–like many strategies to avoid taxation–isn’t nearly as simple nor foolproof as it appears on its face. Like a lot of dodgy advice, this “easy trick” is handed down through the ages by those with very little knowledge of the area. If not handled properly and at the right time, that gift may very well create an array of unforeseen problems for both you and the unfortunate recipient of your gift!
Want to protect those you love? Ask these five questions before tying the bow on that proverbial gift box:
Why is the gift being made? I’m definitely not saying to avoid giving gifts to those you love. If your motivation stems entirely from simple generosity, that’s great! But using a gift as a means to transfer assets to achieve some estate planning goal can be hazardous. You will need to balance the benefits with a number of possible consequences. One example: five years of Medical Assistance ineligibility could be triggered by an improperly-handled gift–potentially complicating your long-term care expenses. Also, your gift may be subject to both Minnesota and Federal gift tax if not handled correctly. Give me a call or speak with your own personal lawyer to evaluate your options.
Are you keeping enough for your needs? Your gift shouldn’t reduce your ability to care for yourself in the years ahead. Make sure a gift of any real size is factored into your long-term financial planning.
Are you expecting repayment? If so, it’s not actually a gift. Nonetheless, if you are expecting repayment, does the recipient know that? If they aren’t made aware of the monetary expectations that come with the “gift”–ideally in the form of a clearly-worded promissory note–don’t look to the courts to decide in your favor when you seek repayment.
Are you expecting something else in return? Just like the above, it is highly risky to expect anything in return for a gift, particularly anything as essential as a place to live. It is often better to go a different route that will better fit your purposes–a trust, for example, places the gift entirely under your control until your passing (and beyond, if you wish to set requirements the recipient needs to fulfill). Another good option is a Transfer on Death Deed (TODD). If you are curious about this, I’ve written another article about why a Transfer on Death Deed is better than a Quit Claim Deed.
A pure gift, on the other hand, places the asset fully into the recipients legal control. If they don’t do what you want with it or, worse, your assets become trapped in a messy divorce or bankruptcy, you will have zero legal recourse.
Will the recipient benefit from your gift? If the gift is going to someone who has special needs and receives social services for those needs, any important benefits they receive could be barred to them if they receive the gift outright. Other issues–gambling, alcoholism, addiction, or just plain lack of financial common sense–could be made all the worse by an unconditional gift. Here, again, a trust will enable you to see that your assets are not squandered and, more importantly, be available to help your loved one put their lives on track in a safe and healthy way.
One of the best ways for you to gift assets is through a Wealth Creation Trust, which allows you to decide the best time for children or grandchildren to receive your gift and gives them the necessary time and experience to learn how to protect and grow the assets in the trust for future generations. It also can be structured so that additions to the trust are handled incrementally and in such a way to avoid gift taxes.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.
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Every day, dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs don the accouterments of the professional businessperson and go through the mechanics of starting a business. Of these, only a select few will make it through the first year.
How can you join these enterprising individuals?
You, like generations of entrepreneurs before you, need to ask yourself the following seven questions before committing considerable time and financial resources to what otherwise might be a pipe dream:
- Why do you want to work for yourself? If the first response that comes to mind is your dislike for the job in which you currently find yourself, be sure to give the idea much deeper thought. Motivation is far more effective when it is positive–ie. desiring to move toward something greater–rather than negative–ie. avoiding a job you’ve grown to hate. Passion is by far the greater fuel.
- Are you self-motivated? Often, it will seem that the payout of all the hard work you put into your business is ever further down the road. The first year may be the hardest of your life, so you must be certain that you possess the drive to put in the long hours and bear every burden. Self-motivation is indispensable.
- Can you multitask? Many who step away from a large firm to go their own way quickly realize just how much they had underestimated what was taken care of for them in the background. If you’re not already a jack-of-all-trades, be sure to have either the connections who can take care of the wide variety of tasks outside of your skillset, or the will to take on the challenges they pose yourself.
- Can you sell yourself? No business owner can afford to be anonymous. Customers, employees, and investors look for more than some mere product or service–they need to be sold on who you are. If networking and image management are not your thing, it will be vital that you are able to fake it until you make it.
- Can you support yourself during the ramp-up phase? Not every startup launches a multibillion dollar IPO within their first year of operation; will you be able to support yourself in the months and even years it may take your business to provide meaningful returns?
- Can you handle uncertainty? Say goodbye to your benefits package. A steady paycheck and a 3-week vacation will be hard to come by when you first go into business for yourself. A tolerance of risk is an absolute must if you wish to pursue the bigger rewards down the line.
- Do you have a passion for what you do? Passion contributes to your will to overcome the challenges you will face, but never forget that a personal dream means nada to the vast majority of people. Before you charge headlong into the unknown, make sure your idea has an actual market.
Not everyone is entrepreneur material, particularly those without a stomach for risk! However, one way to lessen these risks is to invite the advice and guidance of a qualified business attorney. Their years of experience at your side will help you see any pitfalls in the path ahead.
If you are interested in learning more about legal protection strategies for your business and how we work with you as a partner in protecting your company, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.
Have you ever started a small business? Is there something we need to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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