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.
Managing the financials of a small business can be a challenge–particularly when the time comes to sell your business. The net worth of the average small business owner is typically tied up in his or her business. More than just the furniture and inventory, more abstract concepts like customer loyalty or the familiarity of your particular brand may be of immense value.
Even if you plan to keep your business, well, yours for decades to come, there are steps you should take now to ensure that you reap monetary reward for all that effort you put in along the way. This is true, too, even if your prospective buyers are your business partners, or if you expect to hand things over to members of your family.
Think Beyond Your Product or Service
As I mentioned, your business has enormous potential for added value that goes well beyond the revenue-generating product or service. If your buyer is serious, they will pay just as much attention to the team you have assembled and your customer relations. A solid foundation of experienced employees is vital for any transitional period, empowering the new owners to hit the ground running without need to spend weeks with hiring and training. An ongoing business relationship with a customer does the same, ensuring that revenue is coming in even after you are long gone.
Establish the Real Value of Your Business
You want to maximize what your get out of selling your business, so a professional appraiser is a must. There are many, many ways to value a business; each industry has its standards and you should not be trying to do this yourself. Not only will a professional price out aspects you may have missed, but they may even be able to provide you with simple things you can do to shore up your position. For this reason, plan to bring them in at least a year ahead of the prospective sale.
Document your business plans and processes.
You have built your business and know every aspect of its operations, but what may seem obvious to your experienced eyes may not be to your buyer. Being able to leave them with clear documentation of how your business functions and what existing business relationships are in place is not only useful for them moving forward, it is a testament to your good management practices that will edge the value of your business upwards.
Some business buyers won’t even consider buying a business that isn’t turn-key – meaning that the business processes are established and well documented, so they can step in with minimal hassle.
Take note that documentation is also a firm shield against any litigation that may be levied against you, both before and after the sale. Make certain that you have the following:
- Employment policies in an employee handbook.
- Written contracts with all employees, customers, vendors, or whomever else your business has a relationship with.
- Complete financial records
- Up-to-date corporate records
- Have the Right Structure in Place
- Fully-maximized tax benefits and well-protected assets are another important value-add. If you haven’t already, make sure that your business structure is the right one for you and your business. An LLC or corporation is a must if the greater part of your net worth resides inside the company, not to mention that savvy business buyers generally don’t like to buy sole proprietorships or general partnerships.
We can help you protect and grow your company through effective risk management. Call our office today at 612-206-3701 or via our online contact form to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit today.
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For many of us, living into our Golden Years will require no small amount of, well, gold. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that a full 70% of those reaching the age of 65 this year will require some amount of long-term care in the years that are left to them.
That number is likely to increase along with our rising life expectancies, as the medical advances that reduce the dangers that cut our lives short do not necessarily improve our level of independence in our later years. Keep in mind that long-term care doesn’t always mean a nursing home; more often than not, long-term care happens as in home health care, either part time or full time.
This statistic is especially notable for women, who will require long-term care for 3.7 years on average. Compare that to the average of 2.2 years of care for men–the average woman will need to pay for over one and a half times the number of years as the average man. The number of people that stay in long-term care for longer than five years is only 20%.
Many Americans have difficulty saving for long-term care, whether a stay in a nursing home or in-home care. It is hard to predict while we are young and healthy just what level of care we will one day require and many in retirement would prefer to save that money for enjoying the time they have left.
Long-term care insurance is the most popular safety net that will give you the care you need while not breaking the bank–for you or your children. Nowadays, you can get a hybrid long-term policy that acts as a life insurance policy if you don’t need to use it for long-term care, so you don’t have to have the “use it or lose it” effect that had been common with long-term care insurance in the past.
Your age and health affect the annual premiums you have to pay, but there are a number of ways to reduce the cost now without sacrificing benefits later. Here are the six best cost-reduction tactics that you can implement immediately:
As a younger person is far less likely to require long-term care, purchasing a policy sooner will cut your initial premiums significantly. That does not mean, however, that these premiums are locked in for the rest of your life. Discuss with your insurer what kind of increase you can expect as you age.
Shorten the Benefit Period
Why pay for more years than you will likely need? We already know that only one in five will be in long-term care for longer than five years, so a shorter-term policy could save you thousands in premiums. Make sure to shop around and compare your options.
Lengthen the Elimination Period
Why pay for coverage before you need it? Policies typically come with a waiting period of 30 to 90 days until your coverage actually begins. If you don’t need it immediately and are confident in your health, see how long you can extend this period to reduce your premiums.
Reduce Daily Benefits
If you do have the funds to cover some portion of your needs on your own, consider a reduction to the policy’s daily benefit amount. The savings from the lower premium could beat the cost of any extra coverage.
Share the Care
Why should you and your spouse purchase individual policies for yourselves when a shared policy could save on premiums and provide better coverage for you both? Provided that you both are relatively healthy and around the same age, the costs will be cheaper and the shared benefits pool will be a major plus.
With a shared benefits pool, each of you gets a plan for the specified duration, but, if one passes on before making full use of the time, the remaining years are then available for the remaining spouse. That means if you purchase a 3-year shared care policy, the two of you receive a total of six years of benefits. If your spouse only uses one of the years on the policy, the remaining five are available to you.
Take the Deduction
Come tax season, you may be able to deduct the cost of your long-term care insurance. Each state may have differing rules on what qualifies for this deduction–and the formula for the exact amount may vary depending on your age and other circumstances. The 2014 tax year limited long-term care premium deductibility to $1,400 for everyone between the ages of fifty and sixty, $3,720 for those between 60 and 70, and $4,600 for all over 70.
To learn more about long-term financial planning for your golden years and other elder law issues, call our office today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session.
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I will admit it: sometimes, it’s hard to follow through on all our good intentions. Whether you pick up a nice slice of cake on a tough day, guiltily savor a fizzy, sugary soda, or have to drop a coin in the curse jar, forgive yourself and don’t let the indiscretion put you off your good intentions. After all, we’re only human.
You probably know the line coming next. Whether you choose to maintain your good intentions or simply put them off until another day, you never know how much time you truly have left. This isn’t morbidity, but simply a fact of life. That’s why it is so important not to shirk the essentials when it comes to our loved ones–there is only so much time you have to procrastinate.
Take heart! Most people discover that drafting a solid estate plan to be not nearly so daunting once they have finally gotten down to it. What’s the secret? They realize the enormous benefits for them and their families that a well-considered estate plan can offer.
Just a Few of the Benefits of Estate Planning:
Control Your Health Care
As we live longer and longer, some are coming to find that their capacity to make decisions about their health care diminishes. If you would prefer to have the people in your life follow your healthcare wishes, consider documenting your preferences now. An Advance Healthcare Directive is a vital component of any estate plan, allowing you to firmly establish what you expect for your care.
One other advantage: you will even be able to designate a person to be responsible for your health care decisions when you are no longer able.
Safeguard Your Finances
Many people are simply unaware of the difficulty their families might endure in the event of their incapacitation. Should you be incapacitated, they will be entirely cut off from your finances until they pursue a conservatorship in court–a process replete with serious expense, a lengthy wait, and no small emotional trauma.
If your loved ones depend on you for hearth and home, give serious consideration to the assignment of a durable power of attorney. Specify an individual you trust to responsibly control your finances to spare your family any trouble they might avoid.
Prepare for Your Long-Term Care
Quality long-term care can be staggeringly costly–a burden you would rather keep from the shoulders of your family. As mentioned above, the lengthening of the average life span means that long-term care will be a necessity for more and more of us. You will want to protect what you’ve earned for your family If you should need long-term care–whether it be simply a once-a-week in-home assistant or a five-star eldercare facility–a good estate and insurance plan allows you create a system that will keep the most for your loved ones.
Maintain Familial Harmony
Little in life is as divisive as money. Handled poorly, it cuts through even the strongest family ties and leaves lasting acrimony between once loving siblings. If you want to save your family the drama of an inheritance fight, a good estate plan can ensure your assets are divided the way you know to be best, as well as naming the correct beneficiaries to retirement and bank accounts.
Getting Down to It
It is no surprise that so many people prefer to procrastinate on their estate planning–even for decades on end. Particularly for the relatively young, the contemplation of one’s own mortality is simply off-putting. We are never as immortal as we would like to think, so it is important that we overcome that aversion and make certain that our loved ones are prepared if the worst should arrive.
Here are 3 tips to get estate planning off your “to-do” list:
Think of Your Children
Particularly with young children who are not yet capable of providing for themselves, comprehensive estate planning will serve to protect them for the years without you. A kids protection plan can keep your kids out of child protective services in the immediate term if something should happen to you, and a guardian of your choice can be appointed to guide them safely to adulthood. And, when your kids are older, you might leave them the funds necessary to attend the college of their dreams. The difference between a good and a great estate plan is that the latter passes on more than mere assets; it passes your values and your encouragement and that may matter more than all the money in the world.
Update Your Beneficiary Designations
All your accounts–everything from investment, to retirement, to life insurance–require that you specify who will be their recipient following your death. If the beneficiary goes unnamed, your assets risk falling into the wrong hands (the exact distribution depends on state law), or at least being incorporated into your larger estate and subjected to taxation. Don’t forget to update these forms annually, as the circumstances of your chosen beneficiary may change significantly.
Give Thought to Your Wellbeing
Our health care decisions can often be matters of literal life or death–who will make the decisions that are right for you if you cannot? Do your wishes include the unconditional use of life support to prolong your life? Only a Health Care Directive can see to it that your desires are upheld.
If you have yet to craft an estate plan or simply have left your existing plan unupdated for a couple of years, commit to taking estate planning off your to-do list this year.
The best way to learn about estate planning for your family is to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Schedule an appointment today by phone at 612-206-3701 or via our online contact form by clicking the button below.
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Fifteen years into the new millennium, the time is better than ever to set yourself on a new course by starting your own business. You have the idea, you have the experience, you have the determination–what else could you need?
Well, a bit of advice on the plethora of legal concerns, for one.
Fortunately, others have blazed the path ahead of you and help is never far away if you know where to look. (You can turn to us, for example!) Below are the ten essential points you should factor into your start-up plan.
Choose the Business Structure that’s Right for You
Often, entrepreneurs aren’t in it only for themselves. They have a family they love and want to see only the best for. That’s why it is vital that any personal assets receive the protection they deserve. If you start your business as a sole proprietorship, as do the majority of average entrepreneurs, that leaves you personally liable in case of any legal conflict or simple lack of success.
Reduce Risk by Insuring Your Business
You are likely not going into the business of transporting nuclear waste or juggling chainsaws, but that doesn’t mean your business should skirt by without insurance. No matter how big or small, the potential for lawsuit is ever present, and sometimes from unexpected sources.
A Contract is Worth Far More than the Paper it’s Written On
No matter the level of transaction, make it obligatory that all deals and agreements be documented and signed. This will protect your business and help establish a solid working relationship.
Partnering Up? Include Provisions for Getting Out
A partnership entails a wealth of benefits, including a diverse set of skills and additional startup capital. Be absolutely sure, however, that you are both covered should the other become disabled, die, or simply desire to leave. Consider setting up a buy-sell agreement if this applies to you.
Get to Know Your Local Employment Laws
Getting a handle on the variety of different regulations on employment, from the federal-level on down, can be daunting for the first-time entrepreneur–to say nothing of dangerous. Particularly if you depend on the work of independent contractors, make sure that everything fits into how the law differentiates contractors from employees. Otherwise you risk serious problems with the IRS and state regulatory agencies.
Keep Up Your Business’s Documentation
Do you like that asset protection offered by your LLC or corporation? You’ll have to work to maintain it. Make sure you follow all legal formalities required and maintain a record of everything: your organizational records, contracts with vendors and employees, confidentiality agreements, etc.
Keep Intellectual Property (IP) on Your Mind
Intellectual property laws make two demands of you. First, that you take the necessary effort to avoid infringement of others’ IP. Though the court system is adapting to counter the impact of the so-called “copyright trolls” and “patent trolls”, a real infringement could land your business in seriously hot water.
Secondly, protect your own IP. There’s nothing worse than watching another person make a mint off your idea, without any way to take a piece of the pie.
Have Employees? Flesh Out a Comprehensive Employment Agreement
Your employees will benefit greatly from the work you provide them, but be sure not to let their intimate experience with your business and clients be a weapon against you once they’ve gone their own way.
Your Website Needs Legal Disclaimers
Turn to an Expert
Don’t wait for when you’re in doubt–good legal and financial advice could save your business from a world of pain for a fraction of the cost. An experienced business attorney, in particular, is an invaluable resource for picking out the obstacles on the road ahead.
There are ways to shield your assets from such threats: organizing as a limited liability company (LLC) or incorporating as a corporation. Your business liabilities will be just that, business. As an added advantage, they can offer tax advantages.
We can help you 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 612-206-3701 or via our online contact page to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.
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Are you among the growing thousands of Americans leveraging the power of an IRA to save for the future? The last ten years have seen a tremendous increase in both the number of Americans starting IRAs and the amount of money invested in traditional and Roth IRAs on the whole–some $6.5 trillion!
This is undeniably good news as many financial planners consider IRAs to be perhaps the perfect balance of risk and reward for those looking toward retirement. However, the increasing prevalence of IRA use has had some unintended consequences when it comes to estate planning. Recent studies have shown just how little IRAs are taken into account during estate planning, with only a small portion of these assets to ever reach future generations.
You want to make sure that your descendants are provided for after you are gone, so make sure you take the time to ask an estate planning attorney about establishing a trusteed IRA.
A trusteed IRA combines the financial strength of a traditional IRA with many of the same estate planning protections offered by a trust. Moreover, their design can be such that the assets can provide for the long-term, reaching down through multiple generations of beneficiaries. Despite requiring a greater initial expense to administer than a traditional IRA, a trusteed IRA is typically less costly than a non-IRA trust and offers near-limitless options for it to be tailored to your individual wishes.
A trusteed IRA affords you the same control as a standard trust, ensuring that your primary beneficiaries are not simply handed a lump sum of cash to do with what they wish. Instead, you can direct the distributions to grandchildren and great grandchildren, or even impose conditions on the availability of portions of the assets.
Research into the fate of traditional IRAs show that the majority of primary beneficiaries will deplete the account entirely within just two years. This often takes the form of melding the IRA assets into their own, but can entirely wasted by a particularly spendthrift inheritor. A trusteed IRA lets you set the boundaries. One popular example: allow no more than the IRS’s minimum required distribution to pass to your heirs each year to see your investment over many generations–even accruing interest along the way!
This tool can be invaluable for a blended family. Your children and your children’s children are those you seek to provide for, not any new family of your surviving spouse. The trusteed IRA again proves its value in the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated–the trustee assumes control over the investments and distribution on your behalf, with no need of appointing a guardian in the interim.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of a trusteed IRA, call our office today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online 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 strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.
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