Even if you put a totally solid estate plan in place, it can turn out to be worthless for the people you love if it’s not regularly updated.
Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal—your plan should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances and other changing conditions, such as your assets and the law.
No matter who you are, your life will inevitably change: families change, laws change, assets change, and goals change. In the absence of any major life events, we recommend reviewing your estate plan annually to make sure its terms are up to date.
Additionally, there are several common life events that require you to immediately update your plan—that is, if you want it to actually work and keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. With this in mind, if any of the following events occur, contact us, your Personal Family Lawyer® right away to amend your plan.
1) You get married: Marriage not only changes your relationship status; it changes your legal status. Regardless of whether it’s your first marriage or fourth, you must take the proper steps to ensure your estate plan properly reflects your current wishes and needs.
After tying the knot, some of your most pressing concerns include naming your new spouse as a beneficiary on your insurance policies and retirement accounts, granting him or her medical power of attorney and/or durable financial power of attorney (if that’s your wish), and adding him or her to your will and/or trust.
2) You get divorced: Since divorce can be one of the most stressful life events, estate planning often gets overshadowed by the other dramatic changes happening. But failing to update your plan for divorce can have terrible consequences.
Once divorce proceedings start, you’ll need to ensure your future ex is no longer eligible to receive any of your assets or make financial and medical decisions on your behalf—unless that’s your wish. Once the divorce is finalized and your property is divided, you’ll need to adjust your planning to match your new asset profile and living situation.
3) You give birth or adopt: Welcoming a new addition to your family can be a joyous occasion, but it also demands entirely new levels of planning and responsibility. At the top of your to-do list should be legally naming both long and short-term guardians for your child. Our Kids Protection Plan offers everything you need to complete this process for free right now.
Once you’ve named guardians, consider putting estate planning vehicles, such as a revocable living trust, in place for your kids. These planning tools can make certain the assets you want your child to inherit will be passed on in the most effective and beneficial way possible for everyone involved. Consult with your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine which planning strategies are best suited for your family situation.
4) A loved one dies: The death of a family member, partner, or close friend can have serious consequences for both your life and estate plan. If the person was included in your plan, you need to update it accordingly to fill any gaps his or her absence creates. From naming new beneficiaries, executors, and guardians to identifying new heirs to receive assets allocated to the deceased, make sure you address all voids the death creates as soon as possible.
5) You get seriously ill or injured: As with death, illness and injury are an unavoidable part of life. If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness or are involved in a life-changing accident, you may want to review the people you’ve chosen to handle your healthcare decisions as well as how those decisions should be made. The person you want to serve as your healthcare proxy can change with time, so be sure your plan reflects your current wishes.
6) You relocate to a new state: Since estate planning laws can vary widely from state to state, if you move to a different state, you’ll need to review and/or revise your plan to comply with your new home’s legal requirements. Some of these laws can be incredibly complex, so consult with us to make certain your plan will still work exactly as you desire in your new location.
7) Your assets or liabilities change significantly: Whenever your estate’s value dramatically increases or decreases, you should revisit your estate plan to ensure it still offers the maximum protection and benefits for yourself and your loved ones. Whether you inherit a fortune, take out a new loan, close your business, or change your investment portfolio, your estate plan should be adjusted accordingly.
8) You plan to buy or sell a business: If you plan to sell a business, you can engage in estate planning strategies to avoid almost all of your capital gains taxes, if you revisit your estate plan ahead of time. And, of course, if you are buying a business, you’ll want to ensure your plan is updated to take into account your succession plans for the new business.
For every business you own, you should consider creating a buy-sell agreement and/or a business succession plan to protect both your business and your family in case something happens to you. In your estate plan, you can not only decide who will take over your role as the company’s owner should something happen to you, but you can also provide him or her with a road map for how the business should be run in your absence by creating a comprehensive business succession plan.
At the same time, you should consult with your Personal Family Lawyer® to take advantage of the numerous tax-savings opportunities that may be available when you buy or sell your business. The tax laws are constantly changing, so you should consult with us to amend your estate plan to achieve the maximum level of tax savings possible in light of the latest changes to the tax code.
A Common Mistake
Outside of not creating any estate plan at all, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it has not been properly updated. Unfortunately, once something happens to you, it’s too late to adjust your plan, and the loved ones you leave behind are forced to deal with the aftermath.
Keeping your estate plan updated is so important, we’ve created proprietary systems designed to ensure these changes are made for all of our clients, so you don’t need to worry about whether you’ve overlooked anything like your family, the law, and your assets change over time. Be sure to ask us about these systems during your visit.
Furthermore, because your plan is designed to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’re not just here to serve you—we’re here to serve your entire family. We take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process, so everyone affected by your plan is well-aware of what your latest planning strategies are and why you made the choices you did, along with knowing exactly what they need to do if something happens to you.
For The Love of Your Family
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, our estate planning services go far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing you again. We develop a relationship with you and your family that lasts not only for your lifetime but for the lifetime of your children and their children if that’s your wish.
Plus, we support you in not only creating a plan that keeps your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity, but we will also ensure that your plan is regularly updated to make certain that it works and is there for your family when you cannot be. Contact us today to get started.
This article is a service of Sahmra A. Stevenson, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
As a small business owner, you may be wondering why you need to hire a lawyer to help you run your company. This is especially true today when you can access just about every conceivable legal document online for cheap from the countless online do-it-yourself document services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer.
But here’s the thing: Without the guidance and support of trusted legal counsel, you are likely not aware of all the ways your business is leaking money, putting yourself and your family at risk, and possibly limiting the positive impact you have on the lives of your clients.
Beyond those potential issues, if you are handling all of your company’s legal, insurance, financial, and tax decisions yourself, you’ll likely get overwhelmed by all the necessary pieces required to run a business on a daily basis—crunching numbers, negotiating contracts, dealing with insurance, and preparing your taxes—and something will suffer.
Either you won’t be able to focus on the parts of your business that you truly love—the products, client services, or the sales and marketing—or you will overlook the key legal, insurance, financial, and tax matters affecting your company and this will negatively impact your operation.
Do Any Of These Scenarios Sound Familiar?
To give you a more concrete idea of what you are missing by not having a Family Business Lawyer™ on your team, consider whether or not you have experienced any of the following issues with your business:
- Incredible business opportunities slip through the cracks because you can’t make decisions fast enough.
- It takes too long to get paid, and your outstanding receivables are driving you crazy and impacting your ability to generate consistent revenue.
- You want to take your business to the next level, but you keep getting stuck in situations that you aren’t sure how to handle.
- Your boundaries have been violated one too many times by clients because you didn’t clarify exactly what the terms of the deal were.
- You are ready to scale your company, but you aren’t sure if your business has the resources you need to achieve sustainable growth.
- Trying to personally manage all of the legal, insurance, financial, and tax (LIFT) aspects of your business are draining your energy and creativity, which impedes your ability to keep the money flowing and your clients happy.
Have Your Very Own In-House Legal Counsel
Most small business owners don’t think they need to hire a lawyer, and perhaps this is why roughly half of all businesses fail within the first five years of operation. Yet, the most successful companies wouldn’t dream of not having a lawyer on their team.
These companies typically employ one or more in-house lawyers, who proactively identify missed opportunities for the company, spot potential risks, create plans to mitigate risks and build on opportunities. Case in point: Warren Buffett doesn’t make a single business move without consulting with his personal lawyer, Charlie Munger.
Why? Because Charlie’s wisdom combined with his legal acumen, experience, and ethics are invaluable in helping Warren achieve his professional goals with ease.
Even if you don’t run a big company, your company still deserves—and frankly requires—this kind of relationship in order to reach its full potential and for you to make wise decisions that lead to early thriving. And by working with us, your Family Business Lawyer™, you will have your very own trusted in-house legal counsel in your corner.
Not All Lawyers Are Created Equal
Another reason why you may be hesitant to hire a Family Business Lawyer™ is that you may have worked with other lawyers in the past who failed to provide the level of service we offer. Most lawyers have been taught that the legal profession is all about forms, documents, and templates, most of which are readily available online for those looking to take the do-it-yourself route.
Yet, lawyers who simply provide standard documents and forms on a one-off basis without truly getting to know you, your life, and your business are simply inexperienced. The services they offer are not what we offer. Your Family Business Lawyer™ focuses on counseling, consulting, and “consigliere-ing” over creating documents—document creation simply becomes a useful byproduct of our professional relationship.
10 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Family Business Lawyer™
To give you a better idea of what a relationship with a Family Business Lawyer™ entails, here are 10 things you can expect when you hire us to support your company:
1. Your Family Business Lawyer™ is a perfect combination of trusted advisor, problem solver, keeper of secrets, and deep listener.
2. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will offer you trusted advice to help you make the tough decisions that are required daily in your role as your company’s leader.
3. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will ensure you keep the money you make and are prepared to earn even more revenue, freeing you up to stay focused on the money-making aspects of your job that you truly enjoy.
4. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will help you avoid common risks and pitfalls, handle sticky situations, and effectively tend to the parts of your business that are especially challenging, particularly those involving the legal, insurance, financial, and tax (LIFT) components of your business.
5. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will help you create, maintain, and honor your professional and personal boundaries.
6. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will help you set clear expectations and collect on promises made to you, including money that’s owed to your business.
7. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will support you to incorporate the systems, processes, and technology to ensure your business is positioned properly for rapid, sustainable growth.
8. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will help you build an unshakable legal, insurance, financial, and tax (LIFT) foundation for your business, so you’ll never have to live in fear, worry, or doubt about your company’s survival again.
9. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will provide you with confidence about your business’s long-term success, so you can devote all of your energy and passion to growing your business into something truly meaningful for yourself, your clients, and your family.
10. Your Family Business Lawyer™ will help you put in place an effective estate plan, so you can rest assured that your business will survive and thrive even if you become incapacitated or after you die.
Take Your Business To The Next Level
If you are ready to take your business to the next level and reach goals you previously thought were unattainable, meet with your Family Business Lawyer™. Our services go far beyond simply creating legal agreements and other documents for your business and then never seeing you again.
In fact, as your Family Business Lawyer™, we will develop a relationship with you that lasts not only for your lifetime but for the lifetime of your business and your successor, if that’s your wish. With our trusted guidance and support, your business will continue to grow and thrive for generations to come. Contact us today to learn more.
This article is a service of Sahmra A. Stevenson, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.
It seems that everywhere you look, a new start-up is trying to make it big with a game-changing idea. But it’s only the ones that can turn that idea into reality that reach business success. Too many start-ups fail to make the transition from idea to execution or encounter major setbacks along the way. In the midst of developing your growing start-up, don’t make the common mistake of disregarding tedious, but vital tasks such as making sure all your legal, insurance, financial, and tax ducks are in a row.
Establishing a solid legal system can help you avoid costly mistakes and save time and stress down the road. Many entrepreneurs struggle with developing such systems because they don’t foresee the most common mistakes start-ups make. Avoiding these only takes a little self-awareness and planning, so read on to learn how to sidestep the five biggest legal mistakes a start-up can make.
1. Be strategic when creating your entity. Think about your long-term goals, and choose an entity that matches up. Have your eye on major growth and raising capital? Consider a Delaware C-Corporation, which could set you up for venture capital. Looking for tax advantages? Look into the advantages of an S-Corporation structure that will allow you to minimize your payroll taxes by splitting your personal pay between salary and distributions.
And, while you can always convert your entity, later on, doing it right the first time will save you time and money. When you talk with a lawyer about the best form of entity, make sure your lawyer doesn’t just suggest a one-size fits all solution, but actually understands the details of your business now and where you want to grow in the future.
2. Be clear with co-founders. Don’t wait until your business begins to make a profit to begin discussing what each founder is worth. Confront the elephant in the room (i.e. money and position) and be clear on rights, decision-making authority, and equity from the get-go. A well-drafted operating agreement or shareholder agreement is key here. The agreement process itself can surface potential conflicts in advance, and confirm whether you and your co-founders are truly in alignment before big investments of time and money are made.3. Protect your intellectual property. It’s essential to establish ironclad protections for the intellectual property that impacts your business’s future value. Think beyond just patents and
trademarks; consider having founders, employees and third-party developers sign intellectual property rights agreements so you retain the value they may create while working for you.
4. Develop a robust set of contract templates. You will thank yourself later for establishing clear guidelines and minimizing your liabilities in writing. Online legal document drafting services are one size fits all; your business will be best served by developing a set of templates that meets your business’s unique needs.
5. Don’t overlook the importance of working with a lawyer. Working with a trusted lawyer can help you avoid all the mistakes above plus countless others you will likely make as you grow your start-up. A lawyer who also works as a creative strategic advisor, as we do, will guide you to not just avoid legal mistakes, but set your business up with the right legal, insurance, financial, and tax systems for a lifetime of business success.
Just because you’re a start-up doesn’t mean you have to be naive. If you are serious about developing a solid legal foundation for your start-up, begin by sitting down with us. As your Family Business Lawyer®, we can help you identify your liabilities, mitigate any legal risks and get you on the right track for success. This will allow you the freedom and energy to focus on growing your business. Schedule your LIFT Strategy Session with me today to get started.
This article is a service of Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq., Family Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.