Kimberly Hanlon Small Business and Estate Planning Attorney

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.


 

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Romance in the Workplace

Though the heady days of Spring have long since passed, there may still be love in the air around your business. If that love were entirely devoted toward the job there would be no need for concern, but employees looking for or finding romance while on the clock may leave your business with a broken heart and empty pockets.

This is not to say, of course, that a little workplace romance will necessarily land your company in hot water. In truth, trying to put a stop to any and all flirtation would hardly pass in this day and age: the sheer number of portrayals of office romances in TV and film reflect a societal consensus that it’s okay to find love in the workplace. Plus, people spend a lot of time at work interacting with their peers and sometimes emotional attachments arise naturally – and you can’t regulate human feelings. But none of this is to say that there aren’t actions you can take to thwart costly litigation, not to mention to protecting the peace of mind of your team members.

Some 43% of human resources managers have documented incidences of office romances in the last year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The primary threat to your business and to the wellbeing of your employees is when the attraction is one-sided–the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace may put your company in court if it hasn’t done enough to prevent it. Moreover, the bottom line of your company suffers when gossip and resentment create a negative work environment.

So what actions can you take as business owner? As with many things, clear rules can be a lifesaver. There is no room for ambiguity when defining what is inacceptable in your workplace and what the consequences will be. Employees should know that any romantic relationship requires making the employer aware–especially if it is between a supervisor and his or her employees.

Having put these policies in place, it is vital that employers acquaint their employees with the rules and instruct them on the actions they should take, particularly when it comes to sexual harassment training.

Lastly, the final key to effective policies is uniform enforcement at all levels of the organization. Seeing that the rules can be ignored by anyone with seniority will greatly affect morale in your work environment and lead your business towards costly legal consequences.

Whether big or small, your company is better off having clear-cut rules on romance in the workplace. The devastating costs of an employment lawsuit means even a company of fewer than ten people will benefit from taking the time to craft an effective policy.

To learn more about maintaining good employment law practices, 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.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of stockphotos/freedigitalphotos.net

 

Kimberly Protects Your Family

If you were to judge them by its popular portrayal in television and film, you might think that estate planning is a domain reserved for the super-rich–or even villainous misers who care for nothing more than their monetary fortune. Like many depictions in popular media, the truth in the real world is far from how it’s reflected on the screen. The average person, like you, places value not in the sheer quantity of their wealth, but in the welfare of your loved ones. That means not only passing your assets on, but also safeguarding your health care and passing on your human assets, like your stories and your values, as well.

1. Your health. Many young people don’t give any thought to estate planning, falsely characterizing the process as something they are “too young for”. Unfortunately, no one can count on life always turning out that way and an estate plan that’s properly designed for a person’s stage of life will benefit and protect people at any age. For instance, one primary objective of an estate plan is addressing your medical needs in case you cannot make healthcare decisions for yourself. Everyone would benefit from naming an individual to make the big decisions in their care and leaving directions as to their wishes in regards to those decisions. You need someone to take a stand for your wishes, but they may not be able to without the proper legal documentation.

2. Probate. Unless your family is especially eager to have a front row seat in very public court proceedings, along with the expense and all–you need to focus on keeping control out of the hands of a Judge who is a stranger to you, your family, and what you value. An ancillary benefit of successful estate planning is keeping your family out of any situation that might fit in a bad soap opera.

3.  Family feuds.  Little tears loving families apart like money. Without an estate plan and a trusted adviser to guide your family members through the process, the distribution of the assets left behind can get personal. Saddest of all, the relationships in the family can be irreparably harmed over stuff, and often the monetary value of the stuff involved may be trivial or even zero. In my considerable experience being brought in to mediate the consequences of a lacking or absent estate plan, one of the biggest flashpoints happens in the family basement where priceless items of zero monetary value–the knickknacks, souvenirs, and anything else of sentimental value, are stored. If you don’t want your family to fight, plan your estate.

4.  Beneficiary forms.  There are a number of assets that you likely hold that can be better transferred than using your estate plan. Beneficiary forms govern things like IRAs, life insurance, retirement plans, and annuities, specifying the recipient of the account holder’s assets upon the his or her passing. You’ve put in the money, make sure it goes to the right place.

5.  Kids and parents.  Remember: Estate planning is necessary at all ages. If you have any dependents, be they minor children, elderly parents, or a person who has special needs, you will want them to receive the best possible care in the event of your death. See our previous blog post on “Your Kids are Your Greatest Treasure” for more on how to set up a Kids’ Protection Plan.

6.  Managing assets.  Who would best be put in charge of the entirety of your assets? A spouse or other family member may not always be capable, so choose someone you know will manage your money wisely. That way the money will be there when those you love need it.

7.  Business succession.  Are you a business owner? What will happen to your ownership shares once you’re no longer there? For the sake of your business and your heirs, it is vital that you put in place a foolproof succession plan.

If you would like to have a talk about guiding your loved ones through estate 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.

Is there anything we’ve missed? Comment below and start a conversation!

Image courtesy of pakorn/freedigitalphotos.net

ID-100128578What kind of legal agreements does your business need? That’s a good question, and you’ll be glad to know you’re hardly the only one looking for a good answer to this question. Though you should understand that a great deal depends on the sort of business you operate, there are four foundational legal agreements without which no wise business owner should operate.

We live in a litigious culture and every relationship your business has, necessary though it may be, is a potential source of dispute. A clear legal framework is your best protection. These four agreements are key to keeping your business protected and following the law:

1.  Owner Agreements.  An owner agreement is unavoidable if you are in business with another person, no matter the business structure you’ve chosen. Whatever the form–partnership agreement, operating agreement, founders’ agreement, or shareholders’ agreement–this document will detail the core operation issues of your business from the specific distribution of ownership, to compensation and capital contributions, and even the procedure to follow if one owner decides to pull up stakes.

2.  Employer Agreements.  From its very first employee to the 999th and beyond, a business must lay down a clear set of rules to govern the relationship between your business and those it hires–including independent contractors. Job performance standards and other expectations you place on the employee are of particular importance here. Such rules will help ensure a harmonious relationship between your business and its employees, while offering you solid legal grounds for termination.

3.  Vendor Agreements.  Just as the greatest military minds have seen the logistics going on behind the frontlines as at least as important to victory as the battles fought, so too are your business’ lines of supply vital to your success with clients and customers. To ensure the needs of your business are met as agreed upon, formal agreements contracted with your vendors and suppliers are imperative. When you nail down the issues of exclusivity, indemnification, and liability limitations, the faults of your supplier need not cause you undue damages.

4.  Customer Agreements.  Though they may not think of it as such, every sale made to a customer enters you into a contract–a contract that, properly-made, will provide both your business and the customer with legal protections. If your business engages in online sales, it is also necessary that you have sound, public documentation of your terms of service and privacy policy to detail what customers can expect from your business.

If you are interested in learning more about business protection strategies, 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.

Are you a business owner? Which of the four foundations of business agreements have proved most important to your success (or guarded most against its greatest threat)? Leave your response in the comments below.

Image courtesy of nirots/freedigitalphotos.net

Disastrous ConsequencesThe passing of Casey Kasem last June left many fans mourning the renowned radio host and iconic voice of Scooby Doo’s beloved slacker, Shaggy. After counting down America’s Top 40 hit songs for decades, he left behind a fortune of $80 million and, tragically, the seeds of a storm that would engulf his family. A torrent of recriminations erupted between his surviving spouse and his three sons from a prior marriage, miring his estate deep in a legal feud before his body was even laid to rest. This is why I do what I do–to keep your family and many others out of court and brought together by love, not torn apart by conflict.

In 1980, Kasem took a woman 22 years his junior, Jean, to be his bride. One child was born of the marriage, named Liberty. There were also three more children from Casey’s first marriage: Kerri, Mike, and Julie. Reports show that even in the months prior to his death, any family unity that had existed was fast breaking down. Events unfolded to include a missing persons report filed with the police and a legal battle over Kasem’s care, and then after his death another family dispute over his remains, including a private investigation as to his body’s whereabouts.

It may read like a story straight out of an overly-dramatic soap opera but the series of incredible events have proven all too tragic for Casey’s children. Their father’s remains lie beyond their care while the money he intended for them sits locked up in the court system–and likely will remain there for years to come.

Situations like this can be avoided by even the most rudimentary estate planning. Done sufficiently in advance of death or incapacitation, solutions can be found that all sides can agree to. Unfortunately, this scenario is not entirely uncommon when an older man takes a new, significantly younger wife and has children from a previous marriage.

The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch recently released a powerful analysis, naming four of the standard estate planning tools that would have gone a long way toward avoiding this all-too public drama:

Revocable trust.  Everyone–whether their fortune amounts to $80 million or $80 thousand–wants to see their wealth put in the hands of those they love. By putting these assets in a revocable trust, the owner’s wishes will be protected and, so long as he or she retains the legal capacity to make financial decisions, the specifics can be changed to match those wishes as they evolve. The assets are dispersed among the beneficiaries as documented in the trust upon the owner’s death, while avoiding the very public trouble of a probate. A trust provides a far more secure form of wealth transfer than a will, as a will is far more easily thrown into contest by an objecting party.

Life insurance.   It can be a good idea to reduce potential for friction by separating the benefits going to different groups entirely. For example, leaving the proceeds of a life insurance policy to provide for a surviving spouse while giving the estate to the children of another marriage, or vice versa.

QTIP trust.  No, we don’t mean cotton swabs. With a Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) trust, a surviving spouse can also be provided for incrementally over a period of time by a separate set of assets that will then be passed on to the children from the first marriage, or whoever else is chosen, upon that spouse’s death.

Family meeting.  Of course, the cheapest way for a family to avoid a feud is to communicate openly. Everyone should be aware of their beneficiary status and what steps come next following the passing of the estate owner. Estate planning attorneys are the ideal mediator for these meetings. Given their wealth of experience and incomparable knowledge of the law, an agreeable resolution for all parties is sure to be easier, particularly if there is any potential for conflict.

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 without conflict or concern.  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.

What do you think of the unusual drama surrounding Casey’s passing? Do you hold fond memories of his long and well-acclaimed career? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Knowledge is Power

Many first-time business owners procrastinate on hiring a business attorney, often to their own disadvantage. The motivation to wait is understandable. After all, if you’ve never brought in a lawyer to deal with the legal aspects of your business before, how are you to know who would be the best fit for your company? Will they deliver the exact services you need at a price you’re willing to pay?

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here are 8 rules to follow when choosing your business lawyer:

1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Too many entrepreneurs skimp on the essentials as they get their projects off the ground. Some may see things through without a hitch, but we know too many who have had a festering problem blow up in their faces and nearly burn their business to the ground. Even those who for years believe themselves in the first group can never be sure what decisions made and contracts written early on will come back to haunt them. Hiring a business lawyer from the get-go will put you and your business on a firm legal foundation.

2. Talk money. For any professional you hire, whether they are an electrician, a private detective, or a business lawyer, it is is vital that you talk about costs and fees from the start. Transparency in what they charge and when will keep you and them within a reasonable budget. As you consider different candidates, be sure to gently press each on money issues. Will their firm demand a flat-fee, in advance, or will they surprise you at the end of the month with an unexpected invoice charging $150 for a six-minute phone conversation? As your business grows, you will need to effectively communicate with your lawyer; you don’t want to be afraid to contact them for fear of the costly bill.

3. Bigger isn’t (necessarily) better.  Though you may find several large firms that specialize in your industry, the extra time and attention your business would receive from a smaller firm may better serve your needs. Plus, smaller firms are generally more cost-effective!

4. From the horse’s mouth.  Many large firms will put small business owners in front of a person serving more as a sales representative, rather than an attorney. Their goal is to sign you up, but your goal should be to size up the individuals who will actually be handling your file. Don’t be badgered into anything; request some time to speak directly with the attorney or attorneys who would be working with you.

5. Ants vs. grasshoppers.  The moral of Aesop’s fable of the industrious ant and the lazy grasshopper should inform your hiring decision: the lawyer you want will be one who doesn’t wait for winter to fall before he finally kicks himself into gear; you need someone who will maintain consistent involvement with your business. By regularly checking in, an attorney can address legal challenges ever before they even really arise.

6. Treat it like any other job interview.  You wouldn’t ask a prospective employee how much they want to be paid the moment they sit down in your office for an interview, nor should you do the same with a lawyer. You want to first be sure that the attorney can make a persuasive case for why he or she would be right for the needs of you and your business. Ask the hard questions and don’t be afraid to communicate what it is that you need from the relationship.

7. Get the whole picture. With your hard work, you know your business can carry on for decades, potentially lasting long after you’ve gone. Any business lawyer worthy of your business should be able to speak to your its legacy and continuation.

8. Communication is key. Though legalese is sometimes unavoidable when dealing with legal matters, a lawyer is no good for you if they cannot–or are unwilling to–explain the legal issues confronting your business in plain language. You need to be able to understand the advice you pay for; your business is counting on it.

To learn more about what a good business lawyer can do for your company, 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.

Do you have experience in seeking out a business lawyer for your firm? How did it go? Would you add anything on to the list? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

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