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.


 

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

A Long Road Awaits..., Keep it a Safe OneTo all the parents who’ve just seen their child accept his or her high school diploma, congratulations! You’ve put in eighteen years of effort toward their achievements–full of both fun and frustration–and the time draws nearer for them to set off on their own. Yet still you wish to ensure them the best life possible, to protect them as you always have.

But before they leave your nest, whether to a distant college or even an apartment down the block, you must know that their departure will take with them many of the legal parental rights you held before they turned 18.

Under the law, a person’s eighteenth birthday is a stark dividing line: a child one day, an adult the next. The legal rights you held to access their health care, school, or banking records without their permission are yours no longer. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will ensure your peace of mind and their safety as they venture out into the world:

Create an advance healthcare directive.  In the event of accident or illness that results in your child’s incapacitation, you will require an advance healthcare directive if you wish to access their medical records or make medical decisions in their place. When the unexpected happens, this can be invaluable. Additionally, in order for medical professionals to share information with you, you must ask your child to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form–don’t be powerless should tragedy strike.

Use technology.  Modern technology can sometimes cause more problems than it solves, but I’m happy to say this is not one such case. Smart phones–be they Android or iPhone–truly merit the name: rather than keep important medical documents such as those mentioned above in a crowded filing cabinet to be forgotten, an app called My HealthCare Wishes can give you copies of what you need, immediately as you need it. Released by the American Bar Association, the app allows you to store an advance directive and other important documents on a smartphone.  The app comes in two versions:  the Lite version stores a PDF version of an advance healthcare directive and HIPAA form; the Pro version ($3.99) provides more functionality, including the ability to email documents.  The app is called My HealthCare Wishes and is available from the iPhone App Store or on Google Play for Android devices.  There are also online solutions like DocuBank.com that store medical records and allows those to be accessed by medical professionals anywhere in the world.

Add an ICE app to your child’s phone.  Though most modern smart phones now feature them as a default, be sure to install an ICE (In Case of Emergency) app to your child’s phone that lists your contact information and also create an ICE listing in his or her phone contacts with this information.  Your child is much more likely to always have their phone with them than to carry a printed card or document and medical professionals will be able to contact you straight away.

For more information on protecting your family, call our office to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best ways for you to ensure the security of your loved ones.  Come on in anytime this Summer for a Family Wealth Planning Session and we’ll waive our $750 planning fee PLUS create a free healthcare directive for your young adult or child.

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

The IRS and many state governments have stepped up their enforcement action against the misclassification of employees as independent contractors by business owners. One friend of ours was recently fined $150,000 for Worker’s Comp Fraud stemming from the unintentional misclassification of employees as independent contractors.  It is of great importance that you keep these guidelines in mind and know the difference when it comes to your hiring practices.

The following are the three general characteristics that can be used in determining the status of employment:

Behavioral control – Whether a business directs or has direct control over how the work is done, either through providing  explicit instruction, training or by other means of controlling how a person performs work.

Financial control – Whether a business directs or has control over the financial and business aspects of a worker’s job.

Relationship type – The working relationship between a worker and the business owner (and how each perceives it).

The Small Business Administration classifies an employee as Kimberly Hanlon helps protect your business from unforeseen riskssomeone who:

  • Has specific, employer-dictated duties
  • Is performing work that is controlled by the employer
  • Has been trained into the work being performed at the behest of the employer
  • Works only for one employer

A worker that can be classified as an independent contractor will be one that:

  • Operates under a separate business name
  • Invoices for his or her work
  • Has his or her own equipment
  • Determines his or her own hours
  • Maintains separate business records and financial accounts
  • Has his or her own employees
  • Performs work that is temporary
  • Has a written contract

Employers face stiff financial penalties for misclassification of workers, including fines, interest and penalties. Even harsher penalties can follow, should the misclassification be determined to be willful.

To have us take a look at your employment 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.

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