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.
A good place to start from is the difference between a will-based and a trust-based plan. All estate planning attorneys may vary in the particulars, but certain fundamentals are universal.
A will-based plan is at its core more familiar to the average person. The key document, a Will, does not include a Living Trust. A Will can name guardians for your minor children, and name the person who will be responsible for handling your estate (your personal representative), and it can say who you want to get what (your beneficiaries). It cannot put conditions on when someone is going to get anything and it cannot make people do or not do certain things with the property you leave them. A Will must go before the probate court, which is a public proceeding, so the inventory list of everything you own, the list of every bill you owe, and who is getting what and how much is all available for anyone to see, including the press (if you are name-worthy) and people who want to market to (or even potentially exploit) your beneficiaries. Some attorneys may leave it at drafting a Will, but if you come to me and choose my Family Plan, which is will-based, your legal documents will include a Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, a Will and, if you have minor children, a Kids Protection Plan®.
A trust-based plan goes further–a Living Trust is a legal entity in and of itself, separate from you, and can hold title to your assets into the future. A living trust has the rules for dealing with your property built in, so you can put conditions on when and how much your beneficiaries receive, and when done with certain provisions, can protect your estate from taxes and protect your beneficiaries from creditors and future divorces. Because your living trust is separate from you and already has a legal mechanism in place for transferring your property and someone in place to manage it (your Trustee), it doesn’t have to go before the probate court. Therefore, the inventory of your assets, the list of bills that you owe, and what you are leaving behind to whom and how much is all kept totally private. It’s important that you have all your property held in your Trust, or else anything that would be subject to probate will have to go through that public process to get transferred into your Trust after your death, defeating one of the goals of trust-based planning. When you come to me, I will offer you my standard Trust Plan and the more extensive Wealth Plan. Both include all of the legal documents included in the Family Plan above, PLUS one or more Living Trusts.
And the practical difference?
The primary feature that distinguishes a trust-based plan from one that is will-based is that the trust-based plan avoids the court system entirely and allows you to make rules about your estate’s distribution. Where a will-based plan requires that your family go to a probate court to gain access to your assets and only allows for an unconditional distribution, a living trust is far more dynamic.
The probate procedure involves a significant cost that goes beyond its monetary expense: it is time-consuming even when the matter is urgent for your family; it brings a family’s private affairs out into the public domain; and, ultimately, it’s just plain unnecessary. This is the consequence of limiting your plan to a will, instead of using a trust.
There is more work for you to do upfront when first establishing a trust–the entirety of your assets must be placed in the ownership of the trust and life insurance assets must designate the trust as beneficiary (at least as contingent beneficiary as a back up)–but I am there to help you through that. Or even do it for you, if you would rather have me handle it.
Some attorneys may just leave it at that, but I don’t like to view estate planning as a static transaction. Your family’s circumstances will undoubtedly change in the years ahead, so I offer a free review process every three years or a membership plan for more frequent updates to ensure that your plan adapts to your changing life and even changes to the law.
During your Family Wealth Planning Session™, we will walk you through an assessment of whether a Will-Based Plan or Trust-Based Plan is right for you based on the specifics of your goals, your family circumstances, what you own now and where you are going in the future. One thing you can be sure of is that we will help you make the right decisions every step of the way.
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- Adhere to nonexempt status. The Fair Labor Standards Act was a landmark piece of legislation, but even more than 60 years after its enactment business owners still forget one of its principal obligations: employees spending over 40 hours per week on the clock are entitled to overtime pay. Though there are a few exemptions, the job positions at the average small business are unlikely to fall into the very narrow criteria for eligibility. Don’t forget, employees cannot waive their right to overtime pay.
- Exempt employee paychecks can’t be docked. If you do have exempt employees, remember that though they don’t receive overtime, your right to deduct from their paychecks in the event of late arrivals at work or a longer-than-allowed lunch is zero. Docking the paycheck of an exempt employee results in a sudden transformation: exempt one minute, nonexempt the next. Unthinkingly removing their exempt status will result in you paying for their overtime.
- Don’t discriminate. This should go without saying, but employers are strictly barred from discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender, national origin, disability, religion or pregnancy. Furthermore, Minnesota is one of a growing number of states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
- No working off the clock. Though an admirable show of drive if done without request of the employer, employees must not work off the clock. An employee must be paid for all the time he or she works or the employer may face harsh legal action.
- Make work rules about work. Rules are a vital component to any well-functioning workplace. By governing behavior and managing expectations, clear, reasonable rules will generate a positive work environment and protect you from lawsuits. However, take particular care to leave out anything that may lead to a discrimination lawsuit. The rules of a workplace should be about performance standards rather than the employees’ personal lives.
- Base pay on job requirements or on measurable performance. Do not let personal bias sway the compensation you offer an employee. The market typically defines the average salary for specific positions and two people with the same job, experience, and skills, should receive roughly the same salary, or you can structure pay to be strictly performance based, so that differences in compensation come from differences in each person’s actual achievement of specific, objective, measurable results. Either way you choose to do it – make sure you have made a level playing field.
To learn more about good legal 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.
Are there any more tips to add? Have you seen any instances in which one of these steps might have come in handy. Add your comment below and join in the conversation.
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Whether through final estate bequest or total lifetime gifts, heirs will benefit from the largest chunk of this wealth–$36 trillion–while charitable organizations receive the still grand amount of $27 trillion.
Most interestingly, that transfer of $59 trillion, already larger than any in history, is a conservative estimate. As time horizons lengthen, the precision of the data lessens–future Americans may be looking at an over $10-trillion-dollar margin of error in their favor.
Will your carefully accumulated wealth be in this grand pool? What plans have you made for either passing on or receiving inherited wealth?
As an estate planning lawyer, I know all too well that too many have hardly given their estate a second thought–some people only turn to a professional after reality has struck them and their families a hard blow. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I encourage families not to put off their planning for tomorrow. And remember, your estate plan isn’t a mere static document; as your circumstances change, your planning documents may quickly become obsolete.
My relationship with my clients continues well after the papers have been signed. You deserve the security that comes in knowing that your wishes will be followed. The dynamic legacy planning we put in place will give you ample control over the transfer of your wealth to future generations. I make sure you have electronic access to all your estate planning files, and offer a free review session every three years to help you with these three vital aspects of your plan:
- Your family won’t get caught up in an inescapable web of expensive, unnecessary, and public court processes if you have given proper attention to transferring ownership of your assets into your trust. One cannot simply establish a trust and go on one’s merry way; it requires proper funding to be valid and any probatable assets left out of the trust are subject to court process, defeating one of the main purposes of trust planning. It’s good to have regular oversight of your trust to match up to the changing character of your assets and your family.
- Your greatest treasure isn’t money – it’s your family and your health, and that treasure needs even more thoughtful attention. Guardians, both emergency and permanent, need to be selected to care for your minor children, and responsible trustees need to be appointed to maintain the security of your family’s inheritance. And, of course, you need to choose who you want to make your health care decisions should you not be capable of making them yourself. More importantly, your selection for all these individuals should be changed as time goes by and life changes – an appropriate choice at one point in time may not be the best choice a few years later.
- Likewise, your most valuable gift isn’t money. Your values, experiences, family history, and all the other indispensable intangibles that make up who you are as a person are what your family values the most, and those need not be lost to them after you’re gone. We help you leave that gift for your family. Today’s technology offers an opportunity like never before to reach out to the family you have now and the generations yet to come. I focus on what matters most–your values you hold, the stories you tell, the experiences you’ve been through–your death doesn’t need to be an end to these. Your messages to your loved ones may change or be added to as time goes by.
Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and have a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can help you look at what would happen now if something were to happen to you and ensure everything passes to your loved ones in the way you want.
What part of your life do you feel most vital to pass on? Share with others in the comments and start a conversation!
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Though the heady days of Spring have long since passed, there may still be love in the air around your business. If that love were entirely devoted toward the job there would be no need for concern, but employees looking for or finding romance while on the clock may leave your business with a broken heart and empty pockets.
This is not to say, of course, that a little workplace romance will necessarily land your company in hot water. In truth, trying to put a stop to any and all flirtation would hardly pass in this day and age: the sheer number of portrayals of office romances in TV and film reflect a societal consensus that it’s okay to find love in the workplace. Plus, people spend a lot of time at work interacting with their peers and sometimes emotional attachments arise naturally – and you can’t regulate human feelings. But none of this is to say that there aren’t actions you can take to thwart costly litigation, not to mention to protecting the peace of mind of your team members.
Some 43% of human resources managers have documented incidences of office romances in the last year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The primary threat to your business and to the wellbeing of your employees is when the attraction is one-sided–the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace may put your company in court if it hasn’t done enough to prevent it. Moreover, the bottom line of your company suffers when gossip and resentment create a negative work environment.
So what actions can you take as business owner? As with many things, clear rules can be a lifesaver. There is no room for ambiguity when defining what is inacceptable in your workplace and what the consequences will be. Employees should know that any romantic relationship requires making the employer aware–especially if it is between a supervisor and his or her employees.
Having put these policies in place, it is vital that employers acquaint their employees with the rules and instruct them on the actions they should take, particularly when it comes to sexual harassment training.
Lastly, the final key to effective policies is uniform enforcement at all levels of the organization. Seeing that the rules can be ignored by anyone with seniority will greatly affect morale in your work environment and lead your business towards costly legal consequences.
Whether big or small, your company is better off having clear-cut rules on romance in the workplace. The devastating costs of an employment lawsuit means even a company of fewer than ten people will benefit from taking the time to craft an effective policy.
To learn more about maintaining good employment law 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.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
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