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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America is aging, and so is its workforce. Older Americans increasingly choose to remain on the job, or at least take on a part-time position for something to do for a bit of spending money. A full one-third of the workforce in the United States will be over 55 years of age less than three years from now, according to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor. Chances are, you aren’t immune to the progression of time yourself–and as a small business owner you probably hope to retire one day. Some people sell their business, others turn it over to their family, while others wish to see it continue to grow with new talent at the helm.

When taking this route, it is vital that you are aware of the risks to this approach. Lawsuits alleging age discrimination are not infrequent, particularly when promoting or hiring executive management staff in a highly-competitive workplace. How can you keep your business protected and avoid such a lawsuit in the first place? A Law.com article provides the following tips:

Avoid Litigious Employees, Call Kimberly M Hanlon, LLCLoose lips sink ships.  The office rumor mill spares no one. If you give voice to your musings of hiring or promoting younger and cheaper talent–particularly if those musings are denigrating of your more mature staff–you had might as well paint a target upon your chest. Several court cases over the last year have handed large victories to employees could cite examples of their managers expressing a wish to rid the ranks of “white-haired” men and women.

Don’t use the “R” word.  Similarly, bringing up the subject of retirement plans with potential candidates can land you in equally hot water if the inquiry is “unnecessary or unreasonable.” Yes, you do have the right to pose the question as a part of business succession planning, but employers need to avoid anything that may be construed as ageist language.

Pick from a large pool with a success training program.  Expanding the skillset of your employees not only makes them more valuable to your business, it ensures that you have plenty of options to choose from when thinking of business succession–and thus lower risk from any individual complaint.

Document performance regularly.  Once a year is the maximum time span that should pass between performance reviews, particularly as you begin thinking of succession. Charting an employee’s performance can alert you to those candidates that are the most promising and those you may wish to avoid–and data to point to as evidence for the impartiality for your decision in case of a lawsuit! Ask your employees about their short- and long-term goals and you may find that they fit into your company’s future plans.

If you conduct business succession planning as part of your company’s routine business practices, you stand a better chance of avoiding an age discrimination claim when it comes time to make management changes.

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.

What is the most important quality to look for in choosing someone who will take your place? Let us know in the comments below and start a discussion!

Image Courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do Your Parents Need the Protection of Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC?Though only the worst of the worst would prey on the elderly, the sad truth is that the financial exploitation of elders by unscrupulous individuals continues relatively unabated. The nature of these crimes leave many unaware that their parents have been victimized until it is too late–prevention is the best defense.

Fortunately, no small amount of resources have been devoted toward combating this scourge. The Investor Protection Trust has conducted a number of studies on the subject, including one finding the top three avenues of financial exploitation:

  • Theft of funds or property by family members
  • Theft of funds or property by caregivers
  • Financial scams by strangers

Their survey revealed that one of every nine seniors has been victim to financial abuse!

You parents shielded you from danger as a child; you owe it to them to stand by their side as they face this challenge. Below are the five keys to their protection–even doing just one could make the difference.

FIND a financial abuse prevention seminar. If they are part of a senior center or organization, it is likely that they have easy access to these kinds of programs. Pick one out together that is convenient for you and your parent(s) to attend and put it on the calendar.

AUTOMATE your parents’ finances. Many potential sources of income–pensions, retirement, investment income, and Social Security–can now be deposited directly in a savings or checking account at no extra charge. Your bank likely offers services online that will free them entirely from the hassle of writing a check for each and every bill at the end of the month, to say nothing of immediate access to their banking information.

COMMUNICATE with them frequently. Yes, if you’re reading this, you probably are good at keeping in touch with your parents. But are you asking the right questions? It can be vital to know if they have been solicited by anyone who called, visited, or emailed. If you live nearby, visit in person. They’ll be happy to see you and you may get a fuller story than you would over the phone.

INVEST a percentage of their retirement income into a low-cost, immediate-fixed or inflation-adjusted annuity from a reputable insurance company. This will provide a guaranteed lifetime income that cannot be lost to fraud or abuse.

KEEP your parents’ savings in their former employer’s 401(k) plan. The federal government maintains strict regulations to ensure that employees get the benefit they paid for all those years. These plans may even offer the best investment deal possible.

If you’d like to learn more about 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.

Can you offer any additional tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Courtesy of Toa55 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

 

Your business has grown, but what happens after you're gone?How many countless hours of your life have you devoted to making your business succeed? That time spent balancing your books and juggling tasks–not to mention all that time spent thinking about your business during your “off hours”–demonstrates a heroic dedication that sets you apart from the pack.

Yet you, like many small business owners, are probably doing your best to keep estate planning out of your mind. Particularly if your venture’s upward momentum back in the “good old days” was abruptly set to perpetual idle by the Recession, you find that adding one more problem to solve is hardly the most appealing prospect.

Here’s some good news: though estate planning is never simple–especially when a business is involved–there are a four easy questions that can help you determine where you’re at and what you need. Wouldn’t you prefer to look ahead, down that long, winding path of life, and know with certainty that your loved ones (your business included!) are taken care of?

Contact a Creative Business Lawyer like me for a consultation and pose these questions:

I have written a last Will and Testament – can you review it with me to make sure it’s correct?

Of course! Bring your existing Will with you when you visit, and we’ll let you know what it says (along with what it means). Many times there are only minor changes that need to be de done, and a whole new Will isn’t needed. A simple Codicil (which is a fancy word for “amendment of a Will”) can update your directions.

Do I need a buy-sell agreement for my business?

Say your business partner passes away. Would you really look forward to going into business with their spouse or children? Probably not, so set about establishing a buy-sell agreement immediately in cooperation with the other owners of your business. With the appropriate structure, a buy-sell agreement enables your deceased or disabled partner’s ownership interest to be purchased by the other owners or by the business itself. Get this done sooner than later or risk exposing your business to significant uncertainty.

Do I have a taxable estate?

That depends on its size. Current federal exemptions are relatively generous, imposing the tax only on assets valuing above $5,340,000 for those who die in 2014, but remember that Minnesota estate tax exemption is significantly lower at $1,000,000. Remember, only those assets above the exempt portion are subject to this tax. However, take care to fully appraise your existing estate – your taxable estate includes business interests, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, retirement accounts, life insurance policy proceeds, and property held in revocable trusts. Your net worth may well be more than you initially estimate and you want your family to know whether the tax will affect them or not.  Speak with a Creative Business Lawyer about both whether you qualify for the tax and what avenues are available for protecting your assets if you do.

What should I set up for my kids? They’re under 18 right now and if I die unexpectedly, what can I do to make sure they’re provided for?

If your children are still in school, now might not be the best time to drop a fortune in their laps. A trust or trusts can be established for the inheritance you are passing to your children, protecting them from overindulgence or poor financial planning. Grandchildren, too, can be designated in a trust that skips the generations. There is a wide array of options for trusts, so there’s no reason you can’t keep your 19-year-old from heading to Vegas in his new sports car on the wealth you spent your entire life building. Consider a monthly stipend until they have reached a certain age, or even placing the requirement that they first finish college. You want to support them, not spoil them.

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.

By Runner1928 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Kimberly M. Hanlon LLC helps families have THE TALK with their elderly parentsYou probably didn’t know it as a kid, but if your parents ever sat you down for “the talk”, they were probably dreading the conversation. If you’re a parent now, I’m sure you’re familiar with these vital, yet squirm-worthy topics that you want to have your child hear from you, before it’s too late.

As you are reading this now, you’re also getting to the age in which the roles are reversed–you have an intensely awkward subject you know you need to bring up with your parents, one that you probably would like to put off as long as you can: Money.

More specifically, your parents’ money. That money that may become yours one day. And maybe not.

The topic involves so many social taboos that neither you nor they will want to talk about it. The thought of the shift in the power dynamic alone is likely enough to make them uncomfortable, let alone concerns of mortality that lurk ever present in the shadows. Just remember: It is your business–you are most likely the one(s) who will need to deal with all of the financial issues your parents leave behind in the event of their incapacitation or death.

As always, knowledge puts you on the firmest ground. If your parent’s finances remain a closed book, you are placed at a great disadvantage–an already difficult job will become even more so.

Need a conversation starter? Tara Bernard of the New York Times recently penned a great article on the subject. Here’s her advice on questions to ask yourself:

What do I need to know? There’s more than just the location of the will (important though that may be). Do your parents have executed powers of attorney, advance health care directives, or a trust? What about life insurance and other assets? Where is the policy located? Do they owe debts? Are their bills paid by check or online? Make sure to have a portfolio of their various accounts, along with login information for websites and electronics.

Who can help me out? As mentioned above, your parents will probably be uncomfortable discussing these matters with you. Find out if their attorney or financial planner can be present to facilitate the conversation. Do you have siblings? Depending on your family dynamics, it may be good to bring everyone into the conversation–other times, it may be best left to you. Of course, calling an estate planning attorney with experience of the process from beginning to end can make the entire discussion much easier.

What’s my plan? Many people do not realize the expense of everything that comes in the wake of a parent’s passing–will you have cash on hand or will you need to get access to theirs as soon as possible? Luckily, the legal system does respond to people’s needs: guiding your parents to establish a revocable living trust can allow you to avoid the lengthy probate process entirely.

Where do they keep it all? The important documents need to be kept safe, but accessible. A bank safe deposit box could require a court order to unseal, while all you need for a fireproof safe is the combination. Alternatively, they can bring you on as a signee of the safe deposit box and give you access to the key. Whatever they choose, make sure that there are reliable backups able to access the documents beyond only you.

If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, 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.

Have you spoken with your parents about estate planning yet? If so, share your own tip in the comments! If not, what would most help you start the conversation?

Image Courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Business in Legal Trouble? Call Kimberly Hanlon

Is your business just getting off the ground? I bet you’ve seen your share of mistakes–being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. In my years of experience growing my own businesses and helping other small business owners seize the the initiative and build their companies from the ground up, I’ve seen it all and want to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of these all too common pitfalls.

The New York Times–often a good a resource for entrepreneurs — ran a post on the top-10 list of the most common mistakes small business owners make. Read on:

  1.  Keeping it in the family.  Is your friend a PhD credentialed electrical engineer? If not, better to keep him out of a job that very much requires that background. Wanting to benefit your friends and family is human nature, but don’t let it threaten your business. Too often, businesses are burdened by the dead weight of employees who won their position not by merit, but because of their relation to the owner. The danger is broader than you might imagine: they may damage relations with clients and customers, they lower morale among employees who earn their pay, they make mistakes that could cost you big bucks, and overall represent a net loss to the company.
  2. Letting low rent take priority over success.  You may be running your budget lean-and-mean, but that doesn’t excuse or make up for choosing a sub-optimal location for your business. You need a location that will provide you with the best opportunity to generate new customers. You may notice that Louis Vuitton doesn’t locate a store amidst dilapidated tenements.
  3.  Buying used.  Buying used can save you cash the moment you buy, but what about the long run? How much time and money will have to be put into fixing used equipment? What impact will a machine that’s down for the count have on your customers and employees? Make sure to run the numbers and do your research–make sure that the odds of equipment failure are low for the model you’re purchasing, verify that the equipment is fully functional before you finalize the transaction, and budget in repair costs before they need to happen.
  4. Practically giving things away.  Is everyone in your region selling Product X for $9.99? Don’t think that pricing the same item at a dollar cheaper will necessarily win you new customers and higher sales numbers. There’s a reason economics classes don’t stop at Econ 101: the market is far more complex than your sticker price. Work out your minimum acceptable revenue first and take care when undercutting competitors. Use this tool to discover your Money Map Number: http://tool.moneymaptofreedom.com
  5.  Not spending on professional advice.  If you think it’s expensive hiring a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur! Behind that lower rate of a cheap lawyer or CPA are hidden costs that could ravage your budget. Do your research and find someone who will provide the best possible legal and financial advice for a reasonable fee. Don’t think you’ll get the best out of someone you pay for a one-time gig–build an ongoing relationship and you’ll have someone to count on. Work out some time in your month to seek out their advice and input on legal and financial matters; they may well spot a hidden opportunity or lurking danger that you would have otherwise missed.
  6.  Using your personal bank for business banking.  All banks have their areas of expertise, so make sure that yours knows how to serve the small business customer. If you follow the above rule and have chosen a good accountant, he or she will be able to guide you to banks in your area that cater specifically to the needs of small business owners.
  7.  Borrowing blindly.  Borrowing money may be worth it to ensure that your operations run smoothly, but too many take out loans for “must-haves” that aren’t. Make sure you can tell the difference between items you need and items that you want.
  8.  Not measuring your success.  If your business isn’t result-based, you risk spending a great deal of money on expensive business practices for little return. Collect data on every aspect of your business and calculate whether the money you spend on it creates a corresponding return (be careful to avoid measuring exclusively in directly-linked dollar amounts–it’s difficult to put a price on your relationship with customers or an aesthetic that draws people in!) This is true across your business, and especially so for marketing. Always find a way to ask new customers where they heard about you; was it that multi-thousand dollar ad campaign or simple word of mouth? Track everything.
  9.  Treating employees as friends.  Obviously, you should get along with your employees–it’s good for morale and it’s good for you.  But when you realize that the job just isn’t a good fit for one of your hires, don’t lollygag through months of indecision. Your business and profits will suffer if you don’t take action as it becomes necessary. Remember that confronting the problem need not necessarily have a negative outcome–an underperforming employee may well reform his or her ways.
  10.  Falling in love with your product or service.  A wonderful product or service is no ward against nor fix for bad operational decisions.  Be sure to balance your focus between your product and your team, as neither can survive without the other.

We can help you discover if you have what it takes to start your own business and guide you through the steps to successful entrepreneurship.  Whether you are new to entrepreneurship or already operating a business, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.

Is there an 11th pitfall I should have listed above? Tell me about it down below and start a conversation.

Image courtesy of Jesadaphorn / freedigitalphotos.net

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