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.
If you own a small business, you know just how important planning can be. The difference between a good business and a great business may rest entirely on their laying out a set of concrete goals and a means to achieve them–not to mention being ready to respond to unexpected events and emerge unscathed.
Similarly, you already have a plan in place for your retirement, something to see you and your loved ones through when the time comes to pass the reins to someone new. But you’re not just the average Joe off the street: you’re a business owner. Though it depends on the particulars of your company and your employees, you may feel you bear the responsibility of setting in place a framework for those you employee to craft their own retirement plan.
You may do this for a number of reasons–a desire to attract the best talent or a simple compassion for those who make up the lifeblood of your business being high among them–yet actually putting a plan in place can be daunting. Will the system you put in place be fair to your employees? Will the tax benefits outweigh the erosion of your company’s liquidity?
To know what is right for your company, consider some of the most common retirement options for small businesses:
- SIMPLE IRA. SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRAs aren’t your traditional 401(k) plans. Your employees are limited to a smaller yearly contribution that your business is required to match. Owners of this planning are unable to borrow money from their account and no tax-free options akin to a Roth exist.
- SEP IRA. Looking for something without too many bells and whistles? A SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Plan) IRA involved zero employee contributions, meaning the employer makes all the investments. While there are no loan, catch-up contributions, roth, or profit-sharing options to this kind of plan, a SEP IRA allows earnings to grow tax-deferred and, most importantly, requires significantly more relaxed tax reporting.
- Traditional or Solo 401(k). The classic, most commonly recognized kind of plan, a 401(k) entertains a great popularity with small business owners. But is it for you? Employers have the option to both match employee contributions and provide them loans in return for tax benefits. Employees over the age of 50 benefit from a versatile set of tools for planning their retirements, including catch-up contributions and Roth.
If your business qualifies, consider a Solo 401(k) for their notably higher contribution levels.
As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can help you sort through the options that are right for you, your family and your business and we are glad to work as a team with the professionals setting up your retirement plan. If you don’t already have someone to set up your retirement plan, we would be glad to give you a referral to the awesome people we work with. Call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit so we can help you identify the right retirement plan options for you, your family and your business. Normally, this session is $1250, but if you mention this article and we still have room on our calendar this month, we will waive that fee. Give us a call at 612-206-3701 or leave us a message via a our contact form.
Image Courtesy of cooldesign | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“A planned life is a dead life.”
While the legendary Hollywood actress’s words may hold some truth for our lives, they certainly do not for our deaths. On August 12, 2014, a stroke tragically ended the 90-year-old Bacall’s life. Her long life had been one of both great happiness and great wealth–she left behind an estate valued at over $26 million to three children, six grandchildren, and even several great grandchildren. While her inheritors surely won’t bemoan the wave of wealth coming their way, a lack of effective estate planning means that wave will hit far more painfully than she would have wished.
Bacall, remembered for her modelling, movie, and Broadway careers, married men who equalled her own fame: the equally legendary Humphrey Bogart and, later, actor Jason Robards. Coming in at $10 million, the New York apartment in which she passed made up over one-third of her entire estate. Having the entirety of New York City strolling through the place–peaking through the drawers and going through the closets–is probably not something she ever desired, but even legends have their estates put on display without proper planning.
While Bacall’s will is relatively tame, few prefer to have the specifics of their plan made common knowledge. The entirety of her estate is now up on public record for all to see. Instead of relying on a revocable living trust to govern her estate plan, she issued a will. While the popular media’s take on estate planning focuses almost entirely on the reading of a will in front of a large gathering of family and friends, such a superficial understanding of the process applied in real life can be a nightmare for the deceased’s loved ones.
The issue isn’t merely a matter of public exposure. Without the appropriate tools in place, her estate will incur an far larger tax bill than it would have otherwise. Being a resident of New York, Bacall’s estate is subject to both state and federal taxes, as is a trust left to her by Humphrey Bogart before his death in 1957.
The problem of taxation is compounded by a shortage of liquid assets in her estate at the time of her death. Leaving only $100,000 in cash (you read that right–a meager .003% of the entirety), her heirs will suffer under the tax burden when the time comes to pay up. The consequences of this have already made themselves felt: her three children are rushing her artwork to auction as they are given only nine months from the date of her death to pay the estate taxes.
Though the apartment is to be sold per her will, finding a buyer who is willing to finalize the deal before time runs out will be difficult–particularly as potential purchasers will be well aware of the deadline. That $10 million valuation may succumb to the especially poor bargaining position. One other way to provide the liquidity required to pay estate taxes, funeral costs, and whatever else the death incurs is life insurance. Here, too, Ms. Bacall did without.
Another looming financial threat is the potential value of intellectual property–including even her likeness. Though her will requested that her children keep her personal effects, letters, and memorabilia in the family, her children will be hard set weighing her wishes for these items against the larger estate.
Managing her intellectual property into the future will also be a burdensome obligation, potentially devolving into litigation as has occurred to a number of other Hollywood greats–Michael Jackson among them. By establishing a trust, her family will better be able to handle these assets and come to harmonious decisions on their future management without succumbing to bitter recriminations.
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. You don’t have to be a Hollywood maven to want to avoid a public probate, estate taxes, or family conflict after you are gone. Call our office today at 612-206-3701 or connect via our 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.
Your business didn’t just fall into your lap, so don’t expect passing it on to a new owner will be any easier. Whether you are looking to retire or want to have a plan in place in the event of your passing, you will need legally-binding documents in place if you wish to see your dream outlive you.
It won’t require quite the same time invest as did getting your business off the ground, but you must be sure to tailor your plan to the specifics of your business and your desires for it. Will it be left to your heirs? Will your business partners buy out your shares? Will you find an outside buyer? Whatever your goal, there are a variety of pitfalls in the road ahead:
- Looking to sell? If you haven’t set your business up with the right LIFT Foundation (legal, financial, insurance, and tax), your business may be sellable for only a fraction of what it would otherwise be worth.
- Partner buyout? You need to make sure they will have the cash flow required to purchase the share of ownership left to your heirs, or have another plan in place like having the transfer be funded by life insurance proceeds designated for that purpose.
- Passing it down to your children? This is one of the hallmarks of the American dream, but in reality, it’s important to consider whether they want to work the business, and even if they do, whether they are competent to take over.
Each of these issues can be overcome with some planning and actions taken in advance.
You will find the expert assistance of an experienced Creative Business Lawyer® as invaluable in planning for leaving your business behind as they were in its beginning–whether a buy-sell agreement, a business succession plan, a business transition plan or a business preservation plan.
Done right, a buy-sell agreement will create a number of triggering events. Any circumstance in the lives of you or your business partners may be provided for–be it death, disability, divorce, or simply a desire to get out–and result in the actions you desire.
Whether part of a buy-sell agreement or a different type of plan, the specifics of the buyout can also be nailed down. Your plan can run the gamut from an aggressive payment plan that will be completed over two years or less, or a more conservative plan of five or more years. Obviously, it will be important that your company is not so tied down by payments that it can’t survive and thrive. One course of action is designating your business as a beneficiary in your life insurance policy, providing it the liquidity necessary to put your business protection plan into action. Turn to a Creative Business Lawyer® if you wish to see both your family and your business thrive for years after you’re gone.
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. Call us today at 612-206-3700 or send us a message via our contact page.
Image Courtesy of photostock| FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Estate planning in those cases can be especially complicated–even when all the members of a blended family get along! Creating the intimate relationship of a new family from two frequently causes some friction, particularly if there remains some unhappiness about the original divorce. Adding estate planning into that mixture only serves to intensify that discord, so much so that some people prefer to avoid the issue of inheritance entirely.
As an experienced estate planning attorney, I’m here to tell you: Having no plan is not a good plan.
Just in case you still have cold feet about confronting the subject, here are four basic components of any effective estate plan that are vital for your family’s future:
- Any ex-spouses do not inherit;
- Your own children are protected;
- Your current spouse is provided for;
- Any estate taxes are minimized.
I’ve created a video that explains the general concept for a strategy that meets all these goals. You can watch it here.
Your family is like no other, so shouldn’t your estate plan be the same? The assistance of an expert when drafting your plan will ensure that your particular circumstances are fully covered and that your family doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises after you’re gone.
This is all the more true for a blended family. While a huge array of advice exists online or in books, few are targeted toward blended families and none could begin to address the complexities. Even if you’re a fan of a tough do-it-yourself project, estate planning for your blended family does not make a good one.
A Personal Family Lawyer can provide you with the individual attention you need to create an estate plan for your blended family. If you’d like to learn more about estate planning for blended families, 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 us today at 612-206-3701 and mention this article or reach out via our contact form.
Image Courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young | FreeDigitalPhotos.net