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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A Business Needs a Solid Legal Framework, Call Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC

If there’s one thing the Great Recession taught us, it’s that we need to be able to make opportunities for ourselves, even in the face of widespread struggle–and many people do just that every day. According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, for the past few years approximately 300 of every 100,000 U.S. adults have started a business, with about 500,000 new businesses being started in each month. Though many definitely find the time to be right to be an entrepreneur, how many of these businesses will succeed in the long run?

The numbers are be daunting. A full half of all small businesses close up shop within the first five years of opening their doors while some others struggle to eke by, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. Business is filled with countless potential pitfalls and you can never prepare for every contingency.

Yet there are common behaviors among those that make it past the worst of it, hit their stride, and go on to succeed. Planning in advance and seeking professional advice is absolutely essential if you want to be prepared for whatever life has to throw at you, and are two of the behaviors common to those who endure. Key to your success is to intentionally take the time to plan out your business’s future otherwise your time will be gobbled up by the day-to-day business of running it.

As you plan out your business model, remember to turn to an experienced Creative Business Lawyer for crafting the legal framework for your company. No matter how successful your business is, lacking this piece of your business’ foundation risks everything you’ve built—and more!—being swept away in a lawsuit.

You need components like:

  • Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization
  • Bylaws or Operating Agreements
  • Buy/Sell Agreements
  • Business Succession Planning (it’s never too early to start!)
  • Employee/Independent Contractor Agreements
  • Intellectual Property Planning
  • Insurance reviews
  • Tax strategy

Think first and foremost of the structure of your business–sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC—and seek out solid legal advice. The different ownership structures each entail differing tax implications and varying protection for your personal assets from business liabilities.

We recommend a LIFT™ Startup Session. Normally, this session is $1,500, but mention this article and if we still have room on our calendar this month, we will discount your session by $500. Contact us today at 612-206-3701 or via our online contact form.

Image Courtesy of iosphere | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Capture a final message for your family with the help of Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC

Diamonds are, as they say, forever.

In last week’s post, we mentioned how more and more people are requesting that their dearly departed’s Facebook page be memorialized for eternity. However, if you prefer something far more tangible, a new process has been perfected to beautifully immortalize ourselves or our loved ones: transforming cremated ashes into a diamond.

A Scientific Breakthrough

A recent profile in The Atlantic covered one of the first companies to do just this. Algordanza is a Swiss firm based in a quiet little hamlet nestled into the Alps. Their machines have found a way to replicate the Earth’s natural process of forming diamonds out of carbon with massive amounts of heat, pressure, and time–but have managed to cut down the time required from many millennia to a mere three months. How’s that for scientific progress?

The forces applied to the remains are enormous: 800,000 pounds per square inch brings the temperature up to a whopping 2,500°F for the entire duration. No wonder diamonds are so hardy! A person weighing 180 pounds becomes only five pounds when cremated and is further reduced to a one carat (0.2 grams) diamond. Receiving some 800 urns each year, the company charges between $5,000 to $20,000 USD and, with rising demand, you can expect the prices to go up.

A Singular Color

Much as we are all different in life, so too are we unique in death. Every diamond produced has a particular color that reflects who that person was, a product of the trace elements that make up each of us in varying amounts. Different factors–metals in the body, the effects of chemotherapy, and more–alter the pigmentation of the end result.

Most of the diamonds produced so far are blue-ish in color, stemming from one of the principle elements that make up our bones and teeth: boron. Particularly if the deceased had blue eyes, this can take on a special significance to the family.

The company, Algordanza, does without artificial coloring, as additional chemicals or other treatments would be incorporating something false. A company spokesperson told The Atlantic that, “We do not believe in manipulations. As soon as you have additives, there’s something in a diamond that doesn’t belong.”

What people then do with the diamond is entirely up to them. Though it is most common to set the diamond in jewelry, others have taken more personal steps like burying the diamond in a special place or even tossing it into the ocean to drift freely with the currents.

An Option in America: LifeGem

This American company offers a process very similar to that of Algordanza. Again, the carbon elements found in the cremated ashes are harvest and subjected to extreme heat.This heat purifies the carbon into graphite and leaves it prepped for the diamond press. With additional heat and enormous pressure, a rough diamond is produced.

LifeGem’s experienced diamond cutters the cut, polish, and certify the diamond for authenticity. As the process is identical to the formation of a real diamond, simply on an accelerated time scale, each bears the same brilliance, luster, and hardness of mined diamonds.

LifeGem offers more options than Algordanza, including transforming a pet’s remains, or locks of hair from those who prefer being buried to cremation.

At Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC, we can’t offer you diamonds, but we can assist you in leaving something just as cherished behind – a recording of your own special message for those you love. Whether you wish to relate a beloved memory or simply give a few final words of encouragement, we can help you pass that down for the generations to come.

Call our office at 612-206-3700 or reach out 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 ways for you to ensure your legacy of love for your family.

Image Courtesy of Mr. Lightman | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will your loved ones have access to your digital assets once you're gone?

Today, whether we are young or old, a significant portion of our lives are lived online. The internet has long since departed from its ‘nerdy’ origins to become a part of our everyday lives. No matter how you surf the Net–online banking, bill paying, or simply connecting with distant friends–you have no doubt accumulated an impressive array of digital assets.

There’s a term that didn’t exist in the last millennium! Your digital assets consist of a variety of things: everything from the vitally important (like account information and passwords), to the personally precious (like photos, videos, and more). When you pass on, all that will continue to exist, yet risks being lost forever if your loved ones lack full documentation of what you have and how to access it. What will become of your digital assets?

Though you surely will not have much use for all that data once you are gone, you still need to consider what will become of it all. All too frequently in the last decade, we have heard stories of families pining after the little things lost: photos, emails, and even social media accounts.

Policies of Major Websites

Fortunately, many of the major websites have adopted policies aimed at granting families the option to access or simply deactivate their deceased loved one’s online accounts:

  • Google

    Google’s vast line of online products and services are all centralized to a single user account. If you have one, it may greatly cut down on the amount of log-ins and passwords you will need to provide your loved ones.

    Recently, Google finally addressed the problem of dealing with your digital estate: the Inactive Account Manager allows Google users to designate a beneficiary who will receive access to all their Google products after the passing of a set amount of time (don’t worry, you can pick and choose if you’d prefer some not be unlocked).

  • Facebook

    Your personal Facebook page can serve as an online memorial to your life, frozen forever in time. Facebook requires that your loved ones or friends submit a request to their Memorialization Page and requires that they provide evidence of the passing with a death certificate or published obituary.

  • LinkedIn

    Similar to Facebook’s, LinkedIn has an online form allowing your loved ones to remove your LinkedIn profile from the website. The required information you will need to provide is more extensive than that required by Facebook, please see the form for full details.

  • Twitter

    Twitter is the youngest of these services and unfortunately provides the least ease of use. The company requires that your loved ones mail a copy of the death certificate, of the obituary, of your ID, and proof that the individual truly owned the account. We hope that this will change in the future, but it may simply be easier to leave the login info behind and have your loved ones delete it manually, as outlined below.

  • Yahoo

    Yahoo also requires a more burdensome process, and unlike Twitter does not have its age as an excuse. It will be necessary that your loved ones mail paper copies of the death certificate, a document appointing you the executor of the estate or personal representative of the deceased, and a letter with the Yahoo ID of the deceased. Yahoo does not allow for the transfer of any information or preservation of the account. Please see below for an alternative that is easier on you and your loved ones.

An Easier Alternative?

While some online services provide a simple process, a great many will force your loved ones to jump through hoops to finally deal with your digital assets. Fortunately, there is an easier way:

  • Document:

    Many people already have a list of their online accounts and passwords for their personal use, either on paper or in a digital document. Afterall, balancing the dual needs of having a secure, varied passwords and actually remembering them all is difficult. You might add to this a list of the locations of other important documents on your computer or backed up elsewhere. Just make sure they know where to find this list!

  • Decide on keep or delete:

    Leaving your loved ones access information for your online banking may be vital, but maybe you don’t really care about the preservation of the more frivolous sites you’ve no doubt accumulated over time. Go over what really matters and decide on what needs to be tossed before leaving your list behind for your family.

  • Designate a digital executor:

    Do you already have an executor named in your estate plan? Unless you wish otherwise, they will be the one to deal with your digital assets after your passing. DO NOT write your accounts and passwords in your will! Your will will be a matter of public record upon your death and will be targeted by identity thieves.

    If you have already named an executor in your estate plan, you may want the same person to handle the disposition of your digital assets. If not, then designate someone in your will to handle this task. Do NOT include your accounts and passwords in your will! These are public documents and can easily be stolen by identity thieves. Leave your list somewhere safe and perhaps protected with a password, itself.

To review an existing estate plan or create one for yourself and your family that includes the management of your digital assets, call our office today at 612-206-3700 or via our online contact form to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Image Courtesy of vectorolie | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tread lightly when dealing with social media discipline, call Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC

The likes of Facebook and Twitter have given the public near infinite ability to voice their grievances and with it an opportunity for your employees to gripe online —and a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) threatens to make this headache for business owners worse.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act had been expanded to cover public speech on social media, and that expansion has been broadened following a ruling in a case brought against Triple Play Sports Bar & Grille. What this means is that an employee that “likes” a post on Facebook that is critical of his or her employer is wholly shielded from disciplinary action over it.

In the case against the bar, one employee posted a complaint about the employer’s handling of its payroll. And they may have indeed had a point— the employer was found to have made a mistake in its estimation of state tax withholdings, leaving the surprise of covering the extra tax bill for the employee. After one employee liked the post and several others left comments, the company fired the entire group.

These postings received protection from the NRLB because it determined them to be work-related, and thus covered under Section 7. Although the employer argued that the inflammatory nature of the comments ought to leave them unprotected, the Board disagreed.

Here, given that the initial frustrations voiced were founded in fact, the Board dismissed the employer’s categorization of them as defamatory. No distinction was acknowledged between the original poster and the subsequent comments, so all received protection.

This ruling is hardly the only one concerning social media use by employees in recent years. It is difficult to imagine the Board reining in such statements in the future, so business owners must put real thought into disciplining an employee for their social media activities. To be safe, employers should speak to someone well-experienced and up-to-date with employment law—a Creative Business Lawyer®, for example.

We help business owners avoid costly legal disputes through proactive business planning, including crafting agreements and procedures to ensure you comply with state and federal law. To learn more about our personal approach to business planning, call us today at 612-206-3700 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ Foundation Audit.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your Business Needs a Social Media Policy, Call Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC

The actions and attitude of your employees reflect on your business, whether in the workplace or on the web. That’s why so many have adopted policies governing how employees express themselves on social media–afterall, research shows that three of every four American adult Internet users are also users of social media. All businesses have had to adapt to a world in which the words of one employee could risk a firestorm of public criticism.

Take note, however, that the law regarding social media is evolving, too. Will your social media media guidelines be fully compliant with the laws?

Below are four vital points you need to know as you craft your social media policy:

  • NLRA rules on free speech

    All employees are guaranteed the right to free speech by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is responsible for issuing decisions on a broad variety of employment issues, including social media privacy. Often, the NLRB will side with employees, including those who were disciplined by their company for negative comments on social directed against their employer. What employees post on their personal social media accounts is, for the most part, outside their employer’s jurisdiction and imposing punishment on them for it is risky. This is especially so if an employee is talking about working conditions at your business – squelching talk about your workplace can be violating your employees’ rights to self-organize, collectively bargain, and engage in concerted activities under Section 7 of the NLRA.

  • Protecting your customers

    Your employees may be able to gripe about working for you in social media, but contacting and complaining to your customers is considered crossing the line. You can put in place policies that protect your clients from unwanted social media contact from your workers.

  • Protecting other employees

    While most forms of speech are protected, harassment on social media is not. You expect your employees to maintain a friendly work environment in the office, and you can let them know you expect the same collegiality on the Internet.

  • How to handle social media snafus

    The output of the company’s own social media accounts is entirely under the discretion of the employer. What should you do if one of your employees makes a big mistake on your social media account? Make sure you have rules about use and a plan in place to deal with fallout.

You may remember how US Airways briefly generated an uproar when one of its employees accidentally tweeted a profoundly lewd photograph to a customer in reply to a customer service complaint. However, the airline acted with transparency and their investigation showed that the mistake was an honest one–despite the initial national outrage, the employee was kept on. Sound strange? Well, by coming clean about the situation the company turned anger into a more sympathetic understanding.

Not so for fashion giant Kenneth Cole: the company’s Twitter account seized on a trending hashtag to advance its own brand name, realizing only after resounding condemnation that using the deaths of democratic protesters in Egypt during the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 was hardly the place for self-promotion. The company issued an apology, but potentially alienated hundreds of thousands of potential customers.

If you are an employer needing information on the development of employee policies and procedures that conform with state and federal law, contact us by phone at 612-206-3701 or via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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