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.
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
At Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC, we are so confident in our ability to serve you well that we guarantee you will be happy with your service, or you can adjust your bill and pay us what you think our service was worth to you, all the way down to zero. We cannot guarantee any particular outcome in a case, but we can guarantee how you will be treated and the quality of work that we produce for you.
Most of us, when we hear the words “trust fund”, we roll our eyes—but should we? Hollywood soap operas have for decades portrayed trust funds as a haven for only the children of the wealthiest families. You’ll be happy to know that the reality is far different from its TV portrayal: in fact, trusts have long been a reliable and cost-effective option open to individuals from a wide range of incomes who wish to have a little more personalization to their estate plan.
What is a trust?
At its core, a trust fund is nothing more than a vehicle for the transfer of assets. It differentiates itself from a will in that a trust can be designed to achieve certain goals, above and beyond merely sliding the cash of the deceased into their heirs’ accounts.
If you are a parent of minor children, or would prefer that your beneficiaries not be burdened with the trouble of going to Court upon your incapacitation or death, a trust may be just what you need. Below are several reasons why you and millions of Americans just like you can benefit from a trust, as outlined in a recent article from the Motley Fool: Trust Funds: They’re Not Just for the Rich, and You Might Need One.
Many people don’t realize that the court process after a death—known as probate—offers more trouble than simply taking the time out of your schedule to attend. In fact, this probate process has the potential for a serious violation of your privacy. Any assets left behind in a will go on public record. Probate also poses a serious time commitment for the beneficiaries, something especially undesirable when there are medical bills to pay off.
A trust, on the other hand, allows you and your family to retain your privacy and proceed with relative swiftness.
Provide for Minor Children
If you are a parent and have looked into planning your estate in the past, you will know that minor children are unable to inherit directly. Instead, a trust is formed with a named manager, or trustee, who ensures that your children are provided for in the way you would have wanted.
Note that a trust can come in handy with adult children, as well. It allows you to shield the inheritable assets from any number of potential threats: creditors, legal judgements, contentious divorce, or even the child’s own bad habits when it comes to handling money.
Get a little something for yourself.
What would happen if you were incapacitated and unable to be responsible for your own finances? Obtaining a court-appointed conservator can take precious time, especially if the process may be disputed by another interested party. With a trust established, you can simply name a trustee and rest confident that your needs will be taken care of.
Protect your blended family
Remarrying can prove far more complicated than many had anticipated, particularly if one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage. This goes for estate planning as well. A bypass trust allows for both your current spouse and your children from a previous marriage to receive your assets tax-free upon your death.
Where to go from here
By now, you’ve likely realized that a trust has the flexibility to ensure that your assets end up in the right hands, in the right way. But can a trust fit your unique situation? Contact us today for a free consultation, and I would be happy to run over the options we offer to you. You can call us at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Many business owners put such extraordinary effort into their business over their lifetime that they want to see it carry on after they’re gone. If you are one of those who want to ensure that your business continues to survive and thrive, a little extra foresight and planning are in order. Seeing your family business through a smooth transition in leadership requires more from you than simply handing over the keys to the front door; it is absolutely essential that you provide clear guidance with a fully-fleshed out succession plan.
3 Critical Points
When you start to draft up a plan, make sure to emphasize the following areas:
The family businesses that pass on through multiple generations are those that think out the compensation plan for the inheritors. Many first-generation business owners who’ve reaped the rewards of their labor want to pass them on to their descendants and choose to rely on their children’s work compensation as a vehicle for the inheritance.
Bad idea. Setting a child up with a salary inappropriate for the position he or she holds tends to dampen their work ethic and leave them unappreciative of all the labor that running a business requires. Not to mention that having an unmotivated person in a key position can tank a business.
There are a variety of alternative options that will guard against this. Rather than tying non-business assets into their pay, a trust will allow you a far greater degree of influence over how they move forward with their lives. See my previous posts on the advantages of trusts, here.
In the same vein, it is critical that your children learn to prepare for their own financial futures. If big things like home ownership, parenthood, and retirement still await them, you want to be sure that they are ready to step out into the world on their own.
One essential part of this is to establish their familiarity with the company’s financials. By leaving them with the ability to look at their future earnings potentials with a clear sight, they will be more capable of planning for the future.
If you started from scratch, you are likely well aware that there are few things you can set in place and expect to run flawlessly. When the established policies are simply overlooked or deliberately broken, you need some mechanism that puts them back in place. This doesn’t mean you need to be a broken record–repeating the same thing too many times and many will begin to simply tune it out.
Instead, create a dialogue. By truly engaging your employees (or your children, for that matter) in a dialogue as you set rules in place, you will find that they gain real buy-in and much more awareness of just how important they are. Emphasize why things are done a certain way and communicate about the end goals, not just the mechanics of the rules and procedures. Speak with your children as you hammer out your business succession plan. This will leave them significantly better prepared to take on the diverse array of challenges that every business, all on their own.
We Can Help
If you are a small or mid-size business owner, 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. We can help you plan for the successful transition of your business when the time is right.
When Marlise Munoz arrived at the hospital on the night of November 26, 2013, she was already dead. At 33, this dutiful wife and mother to a toddler son fell victim to a sudden pulmonary embolism. Despite both her husband, Erick, and her being experienced paramedics, there was nothing he could do when he found her.
Though he succeeded in getting her breathing again for a short time, she remained entirely unresponsive upon arrival at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Two excruciating days of life-support later, an array of medical tests confirmed everyone’s worst fears: Marlise was dead.
Yet her story and the debate over what would be done with her went on to take the nation by storm.
No Advance Healthcare Directive Compounds an already Unfathomable Tragedy
Making your wishes clear
What might have been a private tragedy, borne quietly by her friends and family, turned into a firestorm due to one complicating factor: Marlise was 14-weeks pregnant. Along with her parents, Erick Munoz, her husband, spoke carefully with doctors and came to a difficult decision. Marlise, with her extensive experience taking care of the dead and the dying, had made one point very clear: she did not want her body to be kept artificially alive, no matter the circumstance.
Unfortunately for her family, Marlise had never written an advanced healthcare directive or a living will that would have been unambiguous about her wishes. Instead, the management of the hospital refused their request that she be removed from life support, citing the Texas Advance Directives Act, which states that:
“A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment…from a pregnant patient.”
Even if she had written a directive, many lack any specific statement on pregnancy. Pre-made templates are particularly dangerous, leaving extensive ambiguities that may be used to contravene your wishes. At my office, I work closely with you to draft a plan that covers all the issues that you and your family need addressed. For women who are planning on starting a family or bringing a new joy to the one they have, this includes language that would speak specifically to issues surrounding your pregnancy.
Fighting for Closure
Marlise’s family had no other choice. They were forced into court and onto the national stage, to endure a media firestorm focused on their personal tragedy. Activists on both sides of the debate pushed and pulled, inflicting awful insult upon their grave injury.
Judge R.H. Wallace of the Texas District Court ordered that the hospital finally declare Marlise dead and that her remains be released to her family on January 24, 2014. As every scan run made clear that Marlise showed no signs of life, her family’s attorneys successfully argued that she could no longer classify as a ‘patient’ in any way. Days later, her family finally received the privacy that the hospital and media attention had deprived them of—they said their heartfelt goodbyes and buried Marlise on the 26th.
A Lesson to be Learned
While this example may be extreme, it is hardly the only instance in which a person’s wishes are denied legal protection when the worst occurs. Without a well-executed advance healthcare directive, you and your loved ones stand at risk of lengthy disputes that would be challenging to deal with in the best of times, let alone after such a tragedy.
To read more on Marlise’s story, click here.
We can help
If you want to ensure that your family is protected, get in touch with my office today. You can call us at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form. We typically charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session [link], but have made space for the next two people who mention this article to receive the complete planning session at no charge.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Every day, millions of Americans express the same desire: “I wish I were my own boss.” Few actually run with the idea; fewer still succeed. Just what is it that enables these daring entrepreneurs to overcome the real challenges of going into business for themselves?
Vague cliches like ‘hard work’ and ‘determination’ only go so far–often leaving the foolhardy to launch themselves from the cliff and only belatedly realize that no flapping of arms, no matter how dedicated, will enable them to fly. There is more to business success than a plain desire to succeed.
Namely, an astute assessment of the challenge that awaits you. Below are three bits of advice that will help you to arrive at a plan of action for future success.
Guage the time commitment
In business, an excess of either caution or daring can prove fatal, particularly when you are just getting off the starting line. Some choose to maintain their day job, at least at first, pulling in the steady income that will enable them to finance their aspirations. Others cut off all other commitments to dedicate the effort required to establish themselves in the market as soon as possible, harnessing the knowledge that they have no other option but to succeed.
Both risk failure: one in never quite achieving the spark required to build their business into a full-time, profitable venture, the other in flaring out before all their efforts have time to materialize. There is no hard and fast rule–the time required to attain success varies from business to business, much as does the time every person has to commit.
Take the time to plot out the path ahead and experiment with different strategies that can see you through the whole distance.
Build a warchest and spend wisely
With a timeline drawn out, you should be able to estimate just how much money you need in your coffers to see you and your loved ones through the lean period at the outset. Scope out all your options, everything from cutting back at home to pursuing potential investors. You need to know you have enough for you and your family to get by at a level you are comfortable with.
A meticulous budget is essential, both at home and in setting up your business, and modern technology offers a variety of low or no-cost options for boosting your efficiency and raising awareness. Just be sure not to skimp where it matters–if your customers walk away with an unpleasant experience or a cut-corner brings a governmental regulatory agency down on you, your business might not be long for this world.
With that in mind, be absolutely sure you are covered if things don’t work out. Thoroughly-implemented asset protection strategies will ensure that your personal assets are safe no matter what happens to your business. The softer the landing, the sooner you’ll be able to give it another shot.
To thine own self be true
Know your limits, then push them. If you haven’t already, run a personal inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, along with just how much of yourself you are willing and capable of giving to this monumental challenge. A little introspection beforehand helps you as your business moves forward and you face your first obstacles. Stretch your capacity, but be conscious of taking on more than you can bear.
Part of that means setting aside a time for yourself to ease the burden off of your shoulders. Good time spent with family and friends, regular physical exercise, and plenty of sleep will keep you in tip-top shape and ready to face the worst.Being an entrepreneur is incredibly demanding and no part of your business is more irreplaceable than you.
How I can help
I would be remiss if I were not to include a little self-promotion. The truth is that your business, no matter how small, operates in a complex legal and regulatory system that is equal parts essential shield and terrifying danger. Ignorance is no excuse for an oversight, so every successful business relies on a tried and tested business attorney to guide them through the processes of business formation, crafting legal agreements, intellectual property issues, and more.
I help entrepreneurs succeed through proactive business planning, including crafting agreements and procedures to ensure you comply with state and federal laws. To learn more about my personal approach to business planning, call my office today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ Foundation Audit.
With my years of experience as a Personal Family Lawyer®, I have seen plenty of families left to sort things out for themselves because their parents either failed to plan their estate or turned to the siren song of the new, “do-it-yourself” estate planning websites in a misguided effort to save money.
Whatever money “saved” in free online forms is frequently overshadowed by the problems caused to those left behind by an estate plan riddled with obvious mistakes or simple inefficiencies. Professional guidance really makes a difference with estate planning.
That sort of advice ensures that the following 10 common estate planning mistakes don’t add to your family’s sorrows after you are gone.
10 common estate planning mistakes
- Failure to leave any written documentation of your assets, including a list of your online accounts and passwords (click here to read more about digital estate planning).
- Failure to let family members know where to find important estate planning documents.
- Failure to name a guardian for minor children or choosing a guardian who lives far away without planning for temporary, local guardianship (solved with a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®—for a basic guide on how to get started, visit twincitieskidsprotectionplan.com).
- Failure to name specific recipients for your family heirlooms.
- Failure to designate beneficiaries for retirement and other financial accounts.
- Failure to name secondary beneficiaries.
- Failure to name alternative trustees or executors.
- Failure to properly fund or title assets to any trusts you have established.
- Failure to update your estate plan as life circumstances change.
- Failure to create an estate plan of any kind and instead leaving it to the court system to decide how your assets will be distributed.
All these mistakes can be easily avoided, but only with some forethought and action. Estate planning doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming, especially when you have the guidance you need, but handling an estate that hasn’t been given any forethought is difficult and overwhelming for those family members left behind, even for those estates that would be characterized as simple or small.
If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid common estate planning mistakes that could cost your heirs dearly, 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. 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.