Kimberly M. Hanlon is a Minnesota attorney offering comprehensive services in the areas of estate planning, small business law, probate administration, and guardianship. Come and see what makes our firm different – we have a fresh approach to traditional legal dilemmas.

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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.


 

Vacation TimeSummertime offers a wealth of opportunities for a nice vacation, and if you are like most Americans, no little amount of it will be spent with your older family members. Your parents, whether near or far, often-seen or not, will always look forward to a visit. Though it is a challenge to find a perfect time to bring up estate planning with your family, an easy-going weekend can be just the right time.

It is never easy to enter into such a critical conversation, but know that it’s one that has likely been in their thoughts for some time as well. Below are three guidelines that will, at the very least, prove a good start to the discussion:

Breaking the ice.  The suggestion that you’re looking to set up your own estate plan is one of the best ways to broach the financial subject with your parents. Detail the steps you’ve taken for your estate, then subtly segway into a question about their own. Seeing your effort can help them surpass the mental barrier that may have kept them from executing their own plan. If need be, stories of celebrities or others who have failed to plan appropriately–and had their families pay the price–can prompt them to consider the matter.

Easy going does it.  The saying holds true: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Gentle reassurance is far more effective than pressure; pressure generates a variety of negative feelings that will hamper any progress: stress, frustration, or even anger will only set the both of you back. Your parents undoubtedly value their financial independence and would value any reassurance you would have to give them. Proceed step by step, being sure they know you’re always available for assistance. Provide them the information they need to get things done on their own, but don’t push it on them.

Respect boundaries.  Finances are one of the great taboos many parents have in their relationship with their children–ceding power or even just information in the area can seem to them a deterioration in their status and a reminder of their years. In the event that your parents prove unwilling to pursue the topic to any extent, leave them knowing that the one essential thing you want most is that you can find the important documents when it becomes necessary, and that you are not attempting to impose your control in any way. You know that your goal is to make things as easy as possible for you and your siblings when something does happen, so see if you can convey this concern to them.

Sometimes initiating a conversation with parents about estate planning can be easier with the help of a Personal Family Lawyer®.  We can help with a Family Wealth Planning Session.  Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.

What do you think? Share with us in the comments below any experience you’ve had speaking about estate planning with your family–or even just plans to do so!

Image courtesy of Photostock/freedigitalphotos.net

Save Your Business From a Stupid Mistake

Establishing a business entity–be it an S-Corp, LLC, etc.–is a vital step for most entrepreneurs. Incorporation offers a range of beneficial effects: Protection of personal assets; lower taxes; and ensured longevity for your business.

Provided, of course, that you avoid the six rookie mistakes (as documented in a recent article at Entrepreneur.com) that will land you in a situation in which not even a corporation or LLC will protect your personal assets:

Providing a personal loan guarantee for the business.  Here’s the Catch-22 for the first-time entrepreneur: Lacking a solid base of investors, many turn to loaning their personal assets to the company until it is viable. Though it may be necessary and well-worth the risk, be well aware that your limited liability protection for that debt is forfeited.

Signing your own name on a contract.  Any signature you make for your company–whether on a contract or a purchase agreement–must never be merely in your own name. This may render a contract unenforceable or put your assets on the line for a purchase. This careless mistake is made by too many entrepreneurs. Always be sure to include the name of the business and sign in your business capacity so it is clear you are signing on behalf of the company.

Using a personal credit card for business expenses.  Using your personal credit card for any business debt leaves you personally responsible.

Violating the law.  Any violation of the law eliminates the protection afforded you by your LLC or corporation.  Misrepresenting yourself or your financial situation on a loan or credit application also counts here.

Incurring a malpractice or negligence claim.  Anyone open to personal liability litigation through a claim of negligence or malpractice–doctors, lawyers, and a number of others–must have a robust professional liability insurance policy to protect against these claims.

Failing to keep your corporation or LLC in compliance.  State laws lay out specific formalities that must be followed by both corporations and LLCs, and failing to comply to these formalities can lead to the loss of your personal liability protection. To ensure your business is compliant with these regulations, we offer a program for our business clients that includes regularly updating, since your needs and the needs of your business will tend to change over time.  We offer a service that proactively monitors your business on a regular basis, to ensure you remain in compliance and that your legal protections are always in place if and when you need them.

To learn more about maintaining your business compliance, contact us to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.  We take care of the legalities so you can focus on doing what you do best: building a firm financial future for you and your family.

Image courtesy of stockphotos/freedigitalphotos.net

Have you established a corporation before? What obstacles have you surmounted? Leave your story in the comments below!

Starting a Business is a Tough ProcessThe choice over which business entity is right for your startup should not be made lightly. The positives and negatives of each must be weighed against others–and you’d better be sure you go into the decision with the facts straight! Entrepreneur magazine recently wrote of seven deadly myths that have often misled even savvy business owners into a mistake that can hobble their new companies:

Myth: An LLC saves taxes.  The purpose of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is not to provide tax write-offs, but to protect the owner’s assets. An LLC performs best and serves its owner’s interest most when used for holding assets or for governing partnerships between owners or other corporations.

Myth: A C-Corp helps small business owners save taxes.  Large entities fit the typical profile for C-Corporations, as they require the unique structure provided for tax deductions–with few applicable to the average small business owner. Unless the business has very high revenues that allow the company to take advantage of corporate fringe benefits, the average small business owner will be better served by an S-Corporation, not least by avoidance of double taxation.

Myth: Corporations provide better asset protection than LLCs.  It is not the entity itself that provides asset protection, it is the procedures that must be followed – i.e., following strict corporate guidelines, avoiding the commingling of funds, maintaining good corporate records – that creates the protective “corporate veil”. As long as you are following the right procedures, you will be protected whether you have a corporation or an LLC.

Myth: Setting up a Nevada or Wyoming Corporation will help save taxes and protect assets. No matter the state in which it is established, the states in which a company does business will impose a tax on its profits. Furthermore, if your home state is one of those that mandates registration in-state, like Minnesota does, that state’s laws will govern asset protection.

Myth: S-Corporations face a larger risk of being audited by the IRS.  While an S-Corp run by small business owners do not have to pay self-employment taxes, the IRS is no more likely to be focused on S-Corp owners. All that is necessary is to avoid undue attention is to pay careful attention to your payroll allocation each year–ensure that it is reasonable and your company will stand at no greater risk of an audit than any other company.

Myth: Sole Proprietorships are a bad idea.  Contrary to common assumption, a sole proprietorship can be the ideal business entity for someone only just entering the field. As your business is able to stand on its own two feet and starts to grow, the owner will be able to look at transitioning to other entities. However, as made obvious by the name, partners or investors do not go well with this kind of entity.

Myth: Using an online service to set up my business will save time and money.  These days, there are countless websites offering to set up your business for pennies on the dollar. Though tempting, you should know that you get what you pay for. Choosing the right entity could save you thousands of dollars in taxes and administrative costs–the input of a Creative Business Lawyer™ can be invaluable in setting you on the path to success.

If you’re a small or mid-size business owner, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.  Normally, this session is $1,250, but if you mention this article and we still have room on our calendar this month, we will waive that fee.

Image courtesy of stockphotos/freedigitalphotos.net

Keep Your Teen Safe This SummerWith summer here, more teen drivers are on the road than ever–if that’s not scary enough, one of them may even be yours! Teens are twice as likely to be in an accident during the summer, and studies show that alcohol is often an underlying factor.

Neuroscience has proven that the teenage brain does not consider risk as heavily as a more well-seasoned mind. Even the most obedient and well-intentioned teen will take bigger chances while behind the wheel–it’s simply how their brain functions. There’s no such thing as a safe teen driver.

Unsurprisingly, insurance companies and childrens’ hospitals support a great number of the studies into the driving habits of teens. One such study found that of all the fatal accidents caused by teen drivers on the road, three quarters centered on three deadly mistakes:

  • Excessive speeds in unfriendly weather conditions
  • Insufficient attention paid to the road in front or to the sides
  • Distraction by something – or someone – inside or outside the vehicle

One-car crashes make up more than half of all fatal teen accidents–due primarily to speeding. High velocity goes together poorly with inexperienced teen drivers’ tendency to misjudge curves or bumps in the road. Thousands of fatal accidents occur every year.

The best defense you can take against teenage driving tragedies is communication. Sit down with your teen and do your best to get across the danger of unsafe driving. Though largely symbolic, a contract between you and your teen does more than just put in writing a promise not to drink or use a cellphone while driving: it provides them a concrete point of reference that may well orient their thought process as they approach a risky situation. You can use this contract developed by the American Pediatrics Association and the Centers for Disease Control.

You may also want to send your teen to a safe driving school.  The American Automobile Association (AAA) is just one of several organizations that offer classes in safe driving for teens.

Our focus is the well-being and care of your family, no matter what.  If you would like to have a talk about protecting your family through legal planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

How do you plan to keep your teen safe this summer? Comment below and share your story.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

Avoid Litigation, Keep Confidential Information SecureIn the last year, Minnesota regulatory agencies have put great attention toward enforcing privacy laws. Businesses must be especially cautious to maintain the confidentiality of personnel files, medical records, and more. Ideally, you should give your personnel files no less care than a game-changing business plan.

Secure containers, from a locked filing cabinet to a fireproof safe, are a must for any confidential materials. Access to them is best limited to only those who have a legitimate business reason to access them, typically a manager or supervisor.

As far as an employee’s medical records are concerned, the consequences of violating their privacy can be catastrophic. Both must be treated per regulations in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the American Disabilities Act (ADA)

Medical records are required by ADA regulations to be kept entirely separate from personnel files, with equally strict confidentiality. The only individuals allowed access to these records are government officials, insurance companies requiring medical exams, first aid and safety workers should the employee need treatment, or the employee’s supervisor if a disability of the worker affects their work schedule or duties.

Employers are furthermore prohibited from gathering genetic information on employees by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). In the event that an employer inadvertently becomes party to this information, they are required to store it in yet another set of separate, confidential files.

Workplaces of over 50 employees who have their own, self-administered health plans are required to:

  1. appoint an internal privacy supervisor,
  2. issue and enforce policies and procedures to protect employee privacy, and
  3. notify employees of these privacy rights.

In order to avoid costly fines and litigation, you should consult with a Creative Business Lawyer™ to ensure compliance.

If you are an employer needing information on the development of employee policies and procedures that conform with federal and state law, contact us to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

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