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.
You may not live there all year ‘round, but your family cabin or lake house has probably become a home away from home. Full of cherished family memories, it has unique value worth above and beyond that of the land it is built on. The vast majority of cabin owners look to pass on the same opportunities for togetherness and joy to the next generation–but it doesn’t always go as they had planned.
The most important first step in deciding how to leave behind your cabin is communication. Discuss with your family what they envision for it in the future and be sure to cover the three most important points:
- Who will visit, when?
- Who will maintain the property?
- Who will pay for expenses, mortgage costs, taxes, etc.?
By fleshing out everyone’s expectations on the matter and working out a system, you lay the groundwork for avoiding conflict in the future.
Plus, it may simply be that your heirs have no interest in it–this can be difficult to accept given all the memories it holds for you, so discussing this early on can avoid a lot of hurt feelings in the future.
Once you have established how it will be used, it is time to set up the legal framework that will ensure the system you worked out is carried through. The bequests in a will alone do not have the ability, legally, to do this properly. Instead, a Cabin Trust, Cabin LLC, or Co-Ownership Agreement will allow you a vast toolset to build your cabin’s future to your exact specifications.
For example, a these tools can help your loved ones in a number of ways:
- A family member can be recognized for work they put into keeping the spot in good repair.
- Costs can be divvied up as you wish–either equally or proportionate to the amount each person spends at the cabin each year.
- A scheduling system can be set in place ahead of time to avoid conflict over time spent at the cabin – especially for holidays and other high demand times.
- Housekeeping rules can be established to ensure that all cabin users agree to a condition the cabin must be left in, or even just how to decorate!
- If a family member wishes to sell their piece, the others can be given first opportunity to buy it up.
- You can leave money behind, specifically allocated for all the cabin’s expenses.
- A secondary inheritance plan can be in place in the event that one of the original inheritors passes away.
If you have a cabin, lake home, or other property that you are looking to pass on to the next generation and would like the advice of a skilled estate planning attorney, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. Feel free to call us at 612-206-3701 or leave me a message via our contact form.
If you are a Twin Cities resident, you also have the unique opportunity to hear Kimberly speak on this topic at this year’s Lake Home and Cabin Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center from February 6-8. Kimberly will be presenting the top ten things you can do to keep your family from fighting over the cabin in the future.
Image Courtesy of Gualberto107 | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you are a parent, you probably have plenty of experience talking with your child about what they should or should not do, getting their assent, only to find the agreement cast to the wind mere days later. Unfortunately, not everyone grows out of breaking their promises–particularly if they stand to profit.
An exchange of emails or an amicable discussion on the golf course may just be the kiss of death for your company. The only thing that can truly hold your counterpart to his or her word is to fully document all the terms you agreed upon. Without clear evidence of the exact details of the agreement that you believe has been violated, the erstwhile other party will feel zero repercussion for his breach of your trust.
There is more than one way to enter into a contract–with some notable exceptions, verbal agreements are just as binding as written ones. Making a verbal agreement believing that it isn’t binding is just as dangerous, if not more, as entering into a business agreement without written documentation. Depending on the facts of the situation, an exchange of emails or friendly words could very well unwittingly land you in the midst of a business relationship you didn’t intend or other obligations–followed by a firestorm of litigation with nothing to help you prove your side of the story.
If money will change hands, a written contract is an absolute necessity. The protections of a contract are extensive and can include provisions for:
- The resolution of conflicts outside of the courtroom, with the help of binding arbitration or mediation;
- The state whose law will be applied to the case, and where the conflict will be handled;
- The reimbursement of your attorney’s fees, in the event you emerge from the dispute the victor;
- The clear documentation of the expectations both parties hold of one another –goods/services rendered, due dates, prices, and more.
You must never do without a contract merely because you trust the person you are doing business with. As much as they may have your interests in mind at the beginning of the relationship, it’s impossible to say what dangers the future might hold. Ultimately, the best ward against what could happen is a written contract, particularly one crafted and reviewed with the assistance of an experienced attorney.
We help business owners avoid costly legal disputes by crafting agreements and procedures to ensure you have all your bases covered. To learn more about our personal approach to business planning, call us today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.
Image courtesy of Surachai | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the most common issues facing small businesses is how to govern relationships with independent contractors. This is not really surprising, since many small businesses use independent contractors to perform critical operations like website development, marketing, bookkeeping and other important work that keeps the business functioning and growing.
To protect your company’s future, you must have written agreements in place with each independent contractor you hire – yes, even if it is your best buddy from college performing the work. Here are the key terms you want in your independent contractor agreement:
- Full description of the services being provided by the independent contractor
- Description of payment terms, including fixed fee or hourly, how and when payment is rendered
- Description of how out-of-pocket expenses will be handled
- Detail of what materials or equipment will be furnished by the company vs. what the independent contractor will supply, including office space
- Statement that agreement constitutes an independent contractor relationship
- Statement that the independent contractor has the proper licenses and permits to perform the work you are contracting for
- Statement that the independent contractor is responsible for paying their own state and federal income medicare, social security, and other taxes
- Statement that the independent contractor will not receive any benefits you provide employees
- Statement that the independent contractor carries the necessary liability insurance
- The terms by which the agreement can be terminated by you or the independent contractor
- The terms by which you and the independent contractor will settle any disputes
- If applicable, an ownership of intellectual property clause that the work or product you are contracting for belongs to you
- Indemnification clause that states the independent contractor indemnifies you for any violation of patent, trademark or intellectual property infringement by him or her
We can help you develop a tailor-made written independent contractor agreement specifically suited for your business as well as other written agreements you should have in place that govern your relationships with employees, vendors and customers.
Call our office to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit, so we can advise you on the proper use of written agreements to keep your company protected through effective risk management.
Image Courtesy of Salvatore Vuono | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Fire, tornado, earthquake–if you are the owner of real estate, chances are you have already protected yourself against the monetary impact of any natural disaster. However, too many Americans remain unaware of the cost risks of lawsuits and probate court until they and their family must suffer the consequences.
If you own rental properties, you probably already know that certain tenants can be a natural disaster in and of themselves! While a particularly unkempt and unreliable tenant can be a tiresome burden, the threat posed by a lawsuit from a tenant can be dramatically worse.
Even if you don’t rent out a home, cabin, or lake home and have complete control over all your properties, here’s one unfortunate thought to consider: your eventual death may result in stormy courtroom proceedings between the people you love over rights to your real estate investments.
Don’t fret–there are two great precautions you can take. These two common estate planning tools are essential for real estate asset protection:
- LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) Many individual property owners don’t even think to consider incorporation, but it can prove invaluable for any income-producing property. By placing the properties in control of the company, your personal assets are afforded significant protection and, an added bonus, an extra degree of privacy (the listing is in the company’s name, not your own). Once established, maintenance of the LLC will need to be be done properly at risk of losing these protections, but the steps are not particularly difficult–especially with the help of a Creative Business Lawyer!
- Trusts If you only rarely or never rent out your property, a trust is most likely the better-fitted choice. A number of different trusts exist, but two have particular benefit to property owners: the Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QRPT) and the revocable trust.
The QRPT is irrevocable, leaving it inalterable without the consent of its named beneficiaries. A QRPT typically sets a fixed period in which the owner will use the property, before passing it on to his or her heirs. If you fear your estate may exceed the exemptions set by the estate tax–$1,400,000 in Minnesota in 2015–this is a popular way to reduce the size of your estate prior to death.
If you need some more flexibility, go with a revocable trust. A revocable trust can be changed at any time and does not require the consent of the named beneficiaries. You can even see the trust last through the generations by using a special kind of revocable trust, called a dynasty trust. Beyond simply having control over where your assets end up after your death, a revocable trust will keep your assets away from the courtroom–and thus off public record. You control the assets while you live, and after you die, control remains entirely within the hands of the people you choose.
Best of all is that you can set up both LLCs and trusts to protect your real estate assets as the specific property warrants. Depending on your individual circumstances and wishes, we can help you craft a plan that will suit you and your loved ones perfectly.
Call our office today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form 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.
Image Courtesy of hywards | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The unexpected death of Joan Rivers on September 4, 2014 was a shock to us all. Legendary comedienne, she spent her long life bringing laughter to millions of Americans with frequently irreverent roasting of her fellow celebrities (actress Elizabeth Taylor, in particular!). The 81-year-old was well known for her peculiarities, but the one that is alleged to have led to her death was her unique penchant for plastic surgery–a botched surgery stole her light from our lives.
Alive, Rivers reveled in exposure. Few were safe from her acerbic wit and the private lives of her peers never remained so for long with her in earshot. However, her attitude toward her death has now been shown markedly different. Unlike many unfortunate celebrities, her fortune–approximated to be over $150 million–purposefully avoided falling into the public eye. The reason? Joan thought ahead and kept much of the distribution of her wealth under wraps by use of a family trust.
She did, of course, leave a number of tantalizing tidbits behind that have got the gossip columns gabbing. Announced in late 2014, the barebones of the will were made publicly available. In it, Rivers named three co-executors to manage her estate: her daughter, Melissa Rivers, and two of her closest friends. Distributions of any remaining assets were left to the trustee of the Rosenberg Family Trust (established using Rivers’ married name) after all taxes and expenses had been made. Interestingly, she took a highly aggressive stance to prevent familial discord: anyone who made to contest the contents of her will would be entirely disinherited.
Other named beneficiaries of the trust include a number of charitable organizations, Rivers’ niece, nephew, grandson, and five employees. None of the amounts were specified.
Given her 81 years of experience in life, Rivers had no doubt seen enough of the trainwreck scandals that can follow a celebrity’s death and decided that her name would not be among them. Her apt estate planning left her most personal wishes out of the tabloids and protected her loved ones from too much unwanted media attention or contentious court battles. In using a private trust, she provided her daughter “the broadest and most absolute permissible direction” over the disposition of the trust estates.
You don’t need to be as rich and famous as Joan Rivers to make use of the tools proper estate planning offers. You want your loved ones to be protected and provided for, and a trust might be just the way to do it–some of the most notable benefits include:
- Far greater control of the specifics of the distribution of your estate following your passing–including the “how” and the “when”;
- Reduction of Estate and Gift Taxes;
- Complete avoidance of the probate system–saving you the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars that it can cost;
- The designation of a manager of the assets in your trust upon your death–or, if you would like, your incapacitation;
- The potential for broad-reaching protection from creditors;
- A level of privacy above and beyond that afforded by a will, which must go through probate.
The best way to learn about establishing a trust for your family is to talk with us about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Whether you are looking for immediate assistance or are simply looking into the matter for the first time, give us a call at 612-206-3700 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.
“Joan Rivers 2010 – David Shankbone” by David Shankbone – Cropped from Joan Rivers at Musto’s 25th Anniversary. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joan_Rivers_2010_-_David_Shankbone.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Joan_Rivers_2010_-_David_Shankbone.jpg