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.
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
At Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC, we are so confident in our ability to serve you well that we guarantee you will be happy with your service, or you can adjust your bill and pay us what you think our service was worth to you, all the way down to zero. We cannot guarantee any particular outcome in a case, but we can guarantee how you will be treated and the quality of work that we produce for you.
You wouldn’t let your children get on their bicycles with only half a helmet; their protection is your number one goal. Yet many people make the mistake of leaving significant portions of their inheritable assets unshielded by the the trust they create. Even celebrities like Michael Jackson fall victim to estate planning lawyers that fail to do their utmost to see their assets (and, thus, their inheritors) protected.
If you have worked with another law office to set up your trust, it is imperative that your take another look at how your trust is set up. Did your previous lawyer assist in establishing the trust and then walk away? Without their further instruction about transferring assets into the trust, it may now be no more than an empty shell—sturdy, but with nothing to protect. Worse yet, a totally unfunded trust fails completely, meaning all that planning is completely undone just when your family needs it most. For your children to receive what they deserve, you must do everything possible to avoid probate.
Transferring Assets into a Trust
Different types of assets must be addressed in varying ways and is often challenging to those unfamiliar with the process. To be certain of your assets’ security, the input of an experienced estate planning attorney is essential. Here’s a basic outline that should help you start a conversation with your attorney about how to avoid probate conflicts:
A trip to your local county clerk’s office is required to file a new deed in the name of the trust and to see that it is properly recorded.
Stocks, bonds, mutual funds
Your broker, investment counselor, or transfer agent should be able to help you here. Fill out the documents they provide and run them by your attorney to make sure that the trust is properly identified as the beneficiary.
The Federal Reserve Bank allows you to reissue and re-title the bonds in the name of your trust. See their form, here.
You will need to close all existing accounts and provide for the transfer of their assets into a new trust account. Your broker should be able to provide the form you need.
Your company’s transfer agent will need to receive a ‘stock power’ form in order to transfer the certificates into your trust. A copy of your W-9 with your tax ID number is typically required.
Bank accounts, CDs
All accounts must be re-established in the name of your trust. CD’s can be particularly difficult due to many banks’ requirements that any transfer occur after their maturity date. However, you will be able to mark them ‘in trust for’ a beneficiary and conduct the transfer once the CD has matured.
How I can help you avoid probate
Your children and other beneficiaries deserve to receive everything they are due—that means they must avoid probate conflicts. With the help of an experienced and conscientious estate planning attorney, you can plan for the financial security of yourself and your family. At my office, I pride myself on my attention to my clients both before and after they’ve signed all of their documents. I stay engaged and conduct routine follow up to ensure the maximum has been done to see you properly protected.
You can learn more about how a trust might benefit you and your family by calling us to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family. Call today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form for your free consultation.
I look forward to hearing from you.
What good is a house without a solid foundation? Same goes for your business. No, I’m not talking about your building’s actual, physical foundation—though that’s important, too—but the business entity you decide upon for your company. Whatever you choose, the tax, legal, and operational implications will stick with your company for years.
It is hard to overstate the importance of choosing the entity that is right for your business. The various entities—sole proprietorship, partnership, limited-liability company (LLC), or corporation, each offer a different set of instruments and demand that a different set of rules to follow.
Choosing a Business Entity: Decision Time
So how do you make your choice of business entity? I’ve outlined six of the most important considerations for you, below:
Double taxation is a sore point for many companies. As a C Corporation, your company’s revenue is subject to a tax from your state and federal government, but you must also pay taxes on the personal income you bring in from the company.
An S Corporation or an LLC can avoid this entirely by being subject to pass-through taxation. Rather than impose taxes on both the corporation and the income of the owner, this allows the tax to rest entirely on income the owners and investors receive from the business. The downside, though, is that S-corp owners are subject to self employment taxes for the amount they take in salary and LLC owners who are taxed like a sole proprietor or partnership are subject to self employment taxes for the entire amount of the profit they take home.
Ability to Raise Capital
Important for any business, how you raise capital is subject to significant regulation, depending on your chosen business entity. While C Corporations offer the largest amount of flexibility, raising capital as a partnership is subject to particularly tough rules. An S Corporation provides some of the flexibility of a C Corporation, but its number of shareholders is restricted to no more than 100.
Separation of Ownership and Management
Personal liability is a huge concern for entrepreneurs. Several entities—corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships—separate ownership from management and thus shield the business owner from suits brought against the business (barring any action that might pierce the corporate veil).
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships, on the other hand, leave the owner vulnerable to being held personally responsible for their management decisions.
Limited Liability Protection
Just as you do not want to be held personally liable for a lawsuit leveled against your business, it is essential that your personal assets remain shielded from potential business liabilities. This is often the principal reason for choosing to incorporate a business as a C Corporation, S Corporation, or LLC. Again, sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not offer this kind of asset protection.
Transferral of Ownership
Transferring ownership of a business is relatively simple in a C Corporation or an S Corporation, as that ownership is based wholly off of the shares held—the owner needs only to sell their stock to the new owner.
Other business entities do not offer the same ease of transfer. Partnerships must be terminated and sole proprietorships require that the business be sold in total to transfer ownership.
Ease of Formation
If you’ve read everything above and wondered why anyone would choose a sole proprietorship or partnership over a business entity that offers greater liability protection, the answer is easy: the process of formation and its maintenance is significantly simplified.
Sole proprietorships pose the least amount of difficulty to set up—requiring only that you register the business with the relevant agency in your state, county, and city.
All other entities must be registered through the local Secretary of State, as well as adhere to a set of recordkeeping rules to retain limited liability protections. Maintaining these records and ensuring the business remains in good standing can be costly and time-consuming, but the protection from liability might just be priceless.
What you can do
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether you’re just getting your business of the ground or have seen your business through a good few years, holding off on hiring a lawyer until you think you need one could cost you. With the right help in choosing a business entity, your business may outlast you.
Hiring an experienced business lawyer in the good times allows you to set a solid framework that will allow your business to weather the bad. Just as important is the familiarity your lawyer gains with your business’s specific circumstances, allowing them to know immediately where it stands when a legal challenge arises.
Your business deserves to thrive and prosper. If you are interested in learning more about legal protection strategies for your business and how we work with you as a partner in protecting your company, call us today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.
Most of us, when we hear the words “trust fund”, we roll our eyes—but should we? Hollywood soap operas have for decades portrayed trust funds as a haven for only the children of the wealthiest families. You’ll be happy to know that the reality is far different from its TV portrayal: in fact, trusts have long been a reliable and cost-effective option open to individuals from a wide range of incomes who wish to have a little more personalization to their estate plan.
What is a trust?
At its core, a trust fund is nothing more than a vehicle for the transfer of assets. It differentiates itself from a will in that a trust can be designed to achieve certain goals, above and beyond merely sliding the cash of the deceased into their heirs’ accounts.
If you are a parent of minor children, or would prefer that your beneficiaries not be burdened with the trouble of going to Court upon your incapacitation or death, a trust may be just what you need. Below are several reasons why you and millions of Americans just like you can benefit from a trust, as outlined in a recent article from the Motley Fool: Trust Funds: They’re Not Just for the Rich, and You Might Need One.
Many people don’t realize that the court process after a death—known as probate—offers more trouble than simply taking the time out of your schedule to attend. In fact, this probate process has the potential for a serious violation of your privacy. Any assets left behind in a will go on public record. Probate also poses a serious time commitment for the beneficiaries, something especially undesirable when there are medical bills to pay off.
A trust, on the other hand, allows you and your family to retain your privacy and proceed with relative swiftness.
Provide for Minor Children
If you are a parent and have looked into planning your estate in the past, you will know that minor children are unable to inherit directly. Instead, a trust is formed with a named manager, or trustee, who ensures that your children are provided for in the way you would have wanted.
Note that a trust can come in handy with adult children, as well. It allows you to shield the inheritable assets from any number of potential threats: creditors, legal judgements, contentious divorce, or even the child’s own bad habits when it comes to handling money.
Get a little something for yourself.
What would happen if you were incapacitated and unable to be responsible for your own finances? Obtaining a court-appointed conservator can take precious time, especially if the process may be disputed by another interested party. With a trust established, you can simply name a trustee and rest confident that your needs will be taken care of.
Protect your blended family
Remarrying can prove far more complicated than many had anticipated, particularly if one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage. This goes for estate planning as well. A bypass trust allows for both your current spouse and your children from a previous marriage to receive your assets tax-free upon your death.
Where to go from here
By now, you’ve likely realized that a trust has the flexibility to ensure that your assets end up in the right hands, in the right way. But can a trust fit your unique situation? Contact us today for a free consultation, and I would be happy to run over the options we offer to you. You can call us at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Many business owners put such extraordinary effort into their business over their lifetime that they want to see it carry on after they’re gone. If you are one of those who want to ensure that your business continues to survive and thrive, a little extra foresight and planning are in order. Seeing your family business through a smooth transition in leadership requires more from you than simply handing over the keys to the front door; it is absolutely essential that you provide clear guidance with a fully-fleshed out succession plan.
3 Critical Points
When you start to draft up a plan, make sure to emphasize the following areas:
The family businesses that pass on through multiple generations are those that think out the compensation plan for the inheritors. Many first-generation business owners who’ve reaped the rewards of their labor want to pass them on to their descendants and choose to rely on their children’s work compensation as a vehicle for the inheritance.
Bad idea. Setting a child up with a salary inappropriate for the position he or she holds tends to dampen their work ethic and leave them unappreciative of all the labor that running a business requires. Not to mention that having an unmotivated person in a key position can tank a business.
There are a variety of alternative options that will guard against this. Rather than tying non-business assets into their pay, a trust will allow you a far greater degree of influence over how they move forward with their lives. See my previous posts on the advantages of trusts, here.
In the same vein, it is critical that your children learn to prepare for their own financial futures. If big things like home ownership, parenthood, and retirement still await them, you want to be sure that they are ready to step out into the world on their own.
One essential part of this is to establish their familiarity with the company’s financials. By leaving them with the ability to look at their future earnings potentials with a clear sight, they will be more capable of planning for the future.
If you started from scratch, you are likely well aware that there are few things you can set in place and expect to run flawlessly. When the established policies are simply overlooked or deliberately broken, you need some mechanism that puts them back in place. This doesn’t mean you need to be a broken record–repeating the same thing too many times and many will begin to simply tune it out.
Instead, create a dialogue. By truly engaging your employees (or your children, for that matter) in a dialogue as you set rules in place, you will find that they gain real buy-in and much more awareness of just how important they are. Emphasize why things are done a certain way and communicate about the end goals, not just the mechanics of the rules and procedures. Speak with your children as you hammer out your business succession plan. This will leave them significantly better prepared to take on the diverse array of challenges that every business, all on their own.
We Can Help
If you are a small or mid-size business owner, call us today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit. We can help you plan for the successful transition of your business when the time is right.
When Marlise Munoz arrived at the hospital on the night of November 26, 2013, she was already dead. At 33, this dutiful wife and mother to a toddler son fell victim to a sudden pulmonary embolism. Despite both her husband, Erick, and her being experienced paramedics, there was nothing he could do when he found her.
Though he succeeded in getting her breathing again for a short time, she remained entirely unresponsive upon arrival at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Two excruciating days of life-support later, an array of medical tests confirmed everyone’s worst fears: Marlise was dead.
Yet her story and the debate over what would be done with her went on to take the nation by storm.
No Advance Healthcare Directive Compounds an already Unfathomable Tragedy
Making your wishes clear
What might have been a private tragedy, borne quietly by her friends and family, turned into a firestorm due to one complicating factor: Marlise was 14-weeks pregnant. Along with her parents, Erick Munoz, her husband, spoke carefully with doctors and came to a difficult decision. Marlise, with her extensive experience taking care of the dead and the dying, had made one point very clear: she did not want her body to be kept artificially alive, no matter the circumstance.
Unfortunately for her family, Marlise had never written an advanced healthcare directive or a living will that would have been unambiguous about her wishes. Instead, the management of the hospital refused their request that she be removed from life support, citing the Texas Advance Directives Act, which states that:
“A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment…from a pregnant patient.”
Even if she had written a directive, many lack any specific statement on pregnancy. Pre-made templates are particularly dangerous, leaving extensive ambiguities that may be used to contravene your wishes. At my office, I work closely with you to draft a plan that covers all the issues that you and your family need addressed. For women who are planning on starting a family or bringing a new joy to the one they have, this includes language that would speak specifically to issues surrounding your pregnancy.
Fighting for Closure
Marlise’s family had no other choice. They were forced into court and onto the national stage, to endure a media firestorm focused on their personal tragedy. Activists on both sides of the debate pushed and pulled, inflicting awful insult upon their grave injury.
Judge R.H. Wallace of the Texas District Court ordered that the hospital finally declare Marlise dead and that her remains be released to her family on January 24, 2014. As every scan run made clear that Marlise showed no signs of life, her family’s attorneys successfully argued that she could no longer classify as a ‘patient’ in any way. Days later, her family finally received the privacy that the hospital and media attention had deprived them of—they said their heartfelt goodbyes and buried Marlise on the 26th.
A Lesson to be Learned
While this example may be extreme, it is hardly the only instance in which a person’s wishes are denied legal protection when the worst occurs. Without a well-executed advance healthcare directive, you and your loved ones stand at risk of lengthy disputes that would be challenging to deal with in the best of times, let alone after such a tragedy.
To read more on Marlise’s story, click here.
We can help
If you want to ensure that your family is protected, get in touch with my office today. You can call us at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form. We typically charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but have made space for the next two people who mention this article to receive the complete planning session at no charge.
I look forward to hearing from you.