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How to Avoid Legal Action Should a Conflict Arise

Managers and company owners fear a few items more than litigation.  Legal actions against a corporation can potentially damage an otherwise sterling reputation, create disputes, and of course result in the loss of large sums of money and staff talent.  It has been said and could be argued that we live in a litigious society.  Fortunately, with every new legal issue that can arise, there are just as many ways savvy business owners can protect their company, assets, and interests.  Ideally even the most negative situation can be spun into a win-win situation where owners, staff, and customers are given a positive outcome when a potential violation or lawsuit could arise.

Avoiding the Courts and Protecting Yourself

Did you know that corporations pay out more than 20 billion dollars a year to litigation attorneys?  This alarming figure does not account for lost money due to settlements, or perhaps more importantly lost business-related relationships that were once mutually beneficial.  There are countless potential risks and legal issues that can arise.  We want to highlight some common situations and potential strategies that can be implemented to avoid the court system should a misunderstanding or disagreement come forth.

Disputes between Partners

Every company starts out a little differently.  Some begin as a simple sole proprietorship, other times successful business owners combine their resources and make a corporation.  Regardless of how a company starts, it is important to make necessary changes along the way you grow, add new resources, and bring on new employees.  One of the most efficient ways for partners to reconcile differences is to draft a partnership agreement that outlines certain protocols.  Primarily a dispute resolution clause is guidelines that can be agreed to beforehand to help avoid courts and possible legal ramifications.

Keep Terms in Writing

Contracts are essential for any business to outlines terms between employees, contractors, vendors, and customers.  It is a sound investment to have any contract drafted, reviewed, and altered by a business consultation law firm.  This will help ensure that terms are properly outlined, risks are assessed and most importantly, the contract is legally binding in your jurisdiction.  Valid contracts can act as an important reference point, clarify misunderstandings, and provide legal protection should a disagreement arise.

Take Action Before Things Escalate

As a general rule of thumb, ignoring an issue won’t make it go away, and it could lead to the issue becoming worse.  By taking swift action you can help alleviate negativities and prevent issues before they get out of hand.  As time goes on people tend to become entrenched in certain ways of thinking and small issues can grow into bitter situations.  Ensure that management and staff members are trained to see potential risks as they arise and know what company policies should take place to alleviate the issue.  It is a good idea to make certain that employees understand what actions to take and feel comfortable bringing an issue, glitch, or mistake up to management so it can be dealt with.  Please consult with a business-risk assessment attorney to learn more about how you can protect your company and assets.

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Protecting Your Company When Using Social Media Influencers

The internet and social media platforms are rich with independent users that have built sizeable audiences ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of followers.  In many cases these grass-roots campaigns have resulted in viewers that rival or top conventional media outlets.  As a result, many companies have learned that they can get their product or service in front of like-minded individuals at a lower cost than television or radio commercials.  In many cases, these social media endorsements are more powerful and engaging because people have a connection with the influencer they follow.  As with any marketing endeavors, it is important to protect your company and follow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules and regulations.

How Companies Should Protect Themselves

In a recent article by Legal Matters we have read more about his subject, and how some companies have been flagged for non-disclosure violations.  These brands include Lord & Taylor and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  Both of which had to make settlements with the FTC for violations.  Specifically, they had failed to release the relationship they had with big-follow social media creators.  In these specific cases, the followers were compensated roughly $4,000 for an endorsement of their product.  Instagram has become feverishly popular over the last couple of years and companies need to ensure they are marketing their products or services within certain guidelines to avoid violation.

What Can Be Done to Avoid Penalties?

The most important take-away is to understand that according to FTC guidelines, consumers have a right to know whether a certain brand is being endorsed by the influencer’s own violation, or if they have a partnership with a company in exchange for free products or future payments.  In this case, the influencer and the companies failed to disclose their relationship, which violates FTC’s disclosure recommendations.  Remember that if your company is investing in advertising it is well worth your time to speak with an attorney to help ensure you are following FTC and online regulations.  The money you pay an online influencer can pale in comparison to the amount certain violations may bring.  In some cases, these disclosures can be adhered to with an online statement, or #hashtag such as #ad #paidadvertisement or #sponsoredpost at the beginning of the post.  Please feel free to contact our office to learn more about how law firms such as BLPG can help protect companies in their online and social media marketing strategies.

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Trav Bowen Attends Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning

Every January, The University of Miami School of Law organizes and hosts the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. It is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, Estate Planning conferences in the United States.  Attorneys, CPAs, Financial Advisors and other professionals gather to learn the latest cutting-edge estate planning techniques.  Trav Bowen, Esq., the COO of Bowen Law Professional Group (“BLPG”), attended the week-long conference and learned valuable insights that will benefit clients and strategic partners of BLPG. The topics included:

  • Beyond the Binary: Choosing Between Grantor and Non-Grantor Status;
  • A Global Perspective on Representing Global Families During Times of Unprecedented Change;
  • Benevolence vs. Bloodline: Creative Solutions Involving Charitable Lead Trusts and Charitable Remainder Trusts; and
  • Opportunity is Knocking: Frozen O-Zone Planning with Qualified Opportunity Funds.

The brochure of all topics covered, and the speakers covering those topics can be found here:  https://media.law.miami.edu/heckerling/2020/brochure/54_Heckerling_Brochure.pdf  The conference was nearly five (5) full days of seminars and instruction.  Mr. Bowen said “I was able to learn from the lectures, as well as interact with colleagues from around the country to discuss estate and asset protection planning that will greatly enhance BLPG’s planning offerings and available planning strategies. I intend to attend the conference each year going forward.”

For more information about the conference, please visit their website:  https://www.law.miami.edu/heckerling

For more information about BLPG, please visit the website at: www.bowenlaw.com.

 

 

 

 

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understanding-asset-protection

Things you must do to protect your Assets

Protecting your assets is a sub-set of business and estate planning. All estate plans should integrate a protection plan to maintain custody of your assets when unforeseen situations arise in the future. It is essential to work with the right legal team to help you properly organize assets and safeguard them against potential risks they may otherwise be subject to. These items generally include materials such as rental or real estate properties, commercial properties, business materials such as tools and equipment, motor vehicles, individually owned bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and many more items. Although there are many potential risks, this article addresses three common situations where protection is needed.

3 common areas of asset protection

1. Protecting assets from a lawsuit. One of the most concerning areas for a business or a company owner is what they should do if they ever get sued by an individual.
2. Protecting your income from being overly taxed. A common concern is if all tax deductions are being used in the correct way that your company is legally eligible for.
3. Finally, how are you going to protect your retirement funds from market risks and the potential ups and downs that can come from running a business?

Understanding assets protection strategies

It is vital that companies work with professional entities that have tried and tested strategies when it comes to asset protection and estate planning. Although there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, there are common strategies that can be discussed with a legal professional. This includes creating elaborate barriers that add layers of protection against opposi8ng parties that may be looking to pursue them as part of legal action. This can mean planning your assets in a business entity, maintaining the right insurance plans for your needs, and placing funds in trust accounts.

It is always a good idea to prepare for the worst while things are going well. By creating and implementing an asset protection strategy early you can ensure that plans are properly implemented and executed. If you live or run a business in Utah, California, New York, Florida or Tennessee consider calling the professionals at Bowen Law Professional Group to speak with a legal professional and learn more about what we can do for you.

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Understanding how to Resolve Contract Disputes in Utah

Business-related contract are becoming more and more complex.  For example, everyday consumers are used to seeing a gargantuan contract to update their mobile phone software or setup internet and cable at their homes.  It is not uncommon for contracts in various industries, such as construction, to have contracts reaching 500 pages or more.  Essentially both sides are trying to protect themselves by using legal maneuvers in an attempt to control risk.  Many business owners, inventors, and entrepreneurs understand that the best way to draft and review these contracts is to work with a trusted business contract attorney in Utah or the state in which their business is headquartered.

What can be done when a dispute arises?

Complex contracts are here to stay and have become commonplace to conduct business.  Along with an increase in length, comes more opportunities to address potential disputes.  A common resolution comes in the form of establishing an ADR or alternative dispute resolution.  This is a contractual and mutually agreed upon the method in which disputes can be resolved without relying on a classic courtroom setting.  As with any solution, there are potential pros and cons depending on a variety of factors.  Below is a quick list of why setting up an ADR can be beneficial, as well as some potential drawbacks.

Benefits of arbitration

Agreements can be made on equal ground:  A traditional legal trail comes with potential unknown and unpredictable outcomes.  At the end of the day, neither side knows with absolute certainty how a judge or a jury will eventually decide.  In the contract, both parties can choose and agree who will be an arbitrator, especially one that has experience in their specific industry or area of legal dispute.

A quicker turnaround time:  Arbitration is typically less formal and more flexible in terms of scheduling.  The discovery process is trimmed down and avoids large portions of gathering and submitting documentation.  Most cases also do not necessitate or include expert witnesses or require as much legal preparation.

Potential drawbacks of arbitration

There are no appeals:  The arbitration decision is final.  This is something that is agreed upon and established during the construction of the contract.  Even if one side feels they received an unfair outcome there is no formal appeals process available.

The limitations on evidence can be worrisome:  Judges in a traditional court setting have specific regulations to follow in regards to accepting or denying the evidence.  Arbitrators do not have as many rules guiding their decisions and can utilize almost any information that is brought to them.  There is also a lack of cross-examination because arbitration generally relies on documents as opposed to witnesses taking away the ability to ask questions or clarify misunderstandings.

Have the right legal team on your side

The largest take-away from this article should be that business contractual legal matters are best left to the professionals.  There are potentially miles of red tape, legal hurdles, and future implications of agreements to take into considerations.  Although this article discusses arbitration, there are other means of resolving disputes that may be more ideal for your business or situation.  If you need contracts updated, drafter or reviewed consider working with Bowen Law Professional Group.  Our team proudly serves businesses of almost any size in Utah, California, New York, Florida, and Tennessee.  Contact us today to speak with a legal professional at (801) 364-0123

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Succession Planning for any Business Size

Would it surprise you to know that roughly 90 percent of all businesses in America are family-owned?  Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that only 30 percent of them are passed on the next generation within the family.  Of that small 30 percent, less than half make it to a third generation.  It is a shame that so many family businesses get lost, absorbed or simply abandoned once the original creator dies or retires.  One way that can greatly protect a business for generations is creating and implementing a succession plan.  This article is going to cover some key aspects of a succession plan and questions that should be answered as part of creating this document.

Why a succession plan doesn’t always happen

One of the largest reasons a succession plan is not created when it should be is simply because planning for the future can be difficult.  Ideally, a succession plan should be created when an owner and entrepreneur is young so they can mentor the next generation to take over the business.  This is true whether the apprentice is a family member, a trusted employee or a partner.  Many owners find it difficult to face the reality that they may one day have to pass the torch to another.  Many companies arise from years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.  It is therefore important to find peace of mind by knowing that a succession plan addresses who will be in control of the business, and how it will be operated in the future.

Questions this plan should address

Who will take over when the owner/operator is gone?

Ideally, this will only happen once an owner is ready to retire and can comfortably pass control when they are ready.  As we all know, life can be hard to predict and unexpected tragedy can strike.  Succession plans should address who should take over if the owner dies from an accident or unforeseen health concern.

How much control would you like to retain?

One key item to consider is certain gifting strategies that will business owners to transfer portions of a business into a trust account for beneficiaries and children to protect wealth for future generations.  You can implement these trusts while still maintaining as much or as little control over the business as you would like.  Certain estate planning documents will address if your children will one day take over the business, and how they will gain the necessary management experience to do so successfully.

Contact Bowen Law Professional Group for any questions or concerns regarding a business succession plan.  This is true whether you need one, or have one that is in need of modification.  Our experienced staff can help you address key items such as income streams, tax considerations, capital gains, and many other financial planning items along with the general planning tasks mentioned above.

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The Benefits of a Professional Employee Handbook

As a small business grows it is important for everyone on the team to follow the same rules and live up to the same expectations.  One of the strongest ways to set the tone and establish a common working culture is to create a professional employee handbook.  Doing so will help ensure that operations run smoothly and procedures are understood and followed.  This booklet can be a vital reference for employees and management to better enforce your business’s rules, policies, and values.  Below is more information about the items typically addressed in an employee handbook and the benefits of creating this type of manual.

Items that are addressed in an employee handbook.

Every business wants to be successful.  A large part of that success requires that the individuals that are part of your team are all on the same page.  As a company grows it can sometimes be a difficult transition from being a small business to a larger, perhaps national brand.  By utilizing an employee handbook or company manual you can continue to establish and communicate your company philosophy to new employees and staff.

Welcome Section

Although this section is not required, it is a great way to introduce your company, business history, mission statements, and core principles to your employees.

Code of Conduct and Ethics 

This section provides a guideline on how your employees are expected to behave, in regards to customer service, company ethics, dress code and provide an overview of how everyone should represent the business and the consequences for not meeting those expectations.

 Various Policies

Many companies have their policies broken into various sub-sections that address and outline materials such as communications, vacation time, attendance, health benefits and so forth.

Working with a professional company

Employment law does play a large part in what company policies can legally be practiced and enforced.  Bowen Law Professional Group has over 30 years of experience in not only employment law, but executive management as well.  We can help create comprehensive manuals that address the full gamut of points every business should make clear to their team.  This includes key items such as:

  • Employment and independent contractor agreements
  • Safety policy and injury prevention plans
  • Compensation, pay and benefit structures
  • Recruiting procedures
  • Background checks, referral checks, medical testing, and drug testing
  • Offer letters, new hire paperwork, and orientation
  • Personnel files
  • Workplace posters
  • Performance evaluations
  • Disciplinary procedures and termination processes

If you would like to learn more about the executive benefits we offer, or how our firm can create an employee handbook for you, contact our office today.

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The New Year is a Great Time to Check Up on Your Estate Plan

When we refer to the legal process of protecting assets; we are of course referring to the umbrella term of “estate planning”.  Despite an inclination to put these tasks on the backburner, few actions are more critical for the future of your family or business than a proper estate plan.  By working with our asset protection law firm, you can protect the wealth you have worked hard to accumulate for future generations.  The attorneys and legal professionals at BLPG are here to assist individuals, entrepreneurs and companies throughout all of Utah, New York, California, Florida, and Tennessee.

Create or modify your estate plan

January is always a great time to think of the future.  Along with immediate personal goals, we should all take a moment to consider long-term priorities.  Getting started with an estate planning attorney is typically not a difficult task if you are working with the right firm for your needs.  A comprehensive approach can have many facets, but just as many benefits.  This process can begin in just a few steps.

The base of almost all estate plans is a Revocable Trust and Pour-over Will.  This legal document will dictate how the writer intends to see their property and assets distributed at the time of their death.  In many states, if a person passes away without a will they are known to have died “intestate.”  These “laws of intestate succession” are based on primary statutes that can vary from state to state.  In most situations, these laws are inflexible, do not account for an individual’s situation, and are not equipped to consider the desires of the deceased.  This is why it is important to not leave your final wishes up to legislation.  When a revocable trust or pour-over will have been established, the court will verify the will and then distribute the assets after completing the probate process.

Other factors to consider

There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when it comes to planning for the future.  Along with a will and trust; there are living wills, financial powers of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney documents that should be considered.  All of these various legal documents address various situations and outcomes.  If you do not have an estate plan or do not believe that your current plan reflects your wishes, contact our office.

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Things to Consider When Forming an LLC

Setting up a limited liability company (LLC) is a popular choice when establishing a business structure for startup and growing businesses.  There are several options that can be selected based on the type of entity that you will be forming.  As with most business decisions, there are perspective advantages and potential disadvantages.  This article is aimed towards addressing key items to consider when deciding if an LLC formation is the right choice for you, your business and your investments.

Items to Consider When Forming an LLC

One of the key items to address when forming an LLC is to ensure that it is formed in accordance with the rules and regulations of a particular state.  In a majority of instances, this will be the state where the business is operated and headquartered.  If your business will be operating in several states you may be required to register in all of these states.

Filing the LLC Articles of Organization

An LLC cannot be officially formed until an “Articles of Organization” is prepared and filed (keep in mind this document can be referred to something else in certain states.)  This document addresses key items such as whom the registered agent for the LLC will be.  This is the person who will receive legal documents related to the business.  Examples include items such as service of process, complaints, subpoenas and so forth.  You will also need to include a statement of the purpose of the LLC.

Keep Current with Required Filings

Most states require some form of annual report filing.  If a business misses this deadline for such filings they may be faced with potential late fees and in some cases a suspension or dissolution of the LLC.  Procedures and filings will differ based on state jurisdictions.  This is why it is important to understand and comply with the standards established in the state in which your limited liability company is established.

Advantages of an LLC

Tax flexibility: This is referred to as flow-through taxation.  The IRS does not tax the LLC directly.  Rather, profits are distributed to the members who are then taxed on profits at their personal tax level.  This avoids double taxation.

Limited Liability:  As the name implies, an LLC provides its members with protection from liability.  This important shield protects members in ways that a sole proprietorship or traditional partnership does not.  Members are not personally liable for debts and often court judgments and creditors.

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Protecting your Digital Assets

Most businesses these days have embraced technology either by necessity or because of convenience.  It has become commonplace for companies to use computers and the cloud to store information, stay organized and process information.  These digital assets are vital and can sometimes be worth far more to a business than any physical goods or products.  It is therefore important to account for, evaluate and protect, our digital assets both personally and especially for your business.  One way to do this is by adding these assets to your Asset Protection System.  Which includes a business succession plan should business owners either pass away or transition the business to new managers/owners when they retire.

Understanding your digital assets

We store almost never-ending amounts of information among servers, computers, mobile devices, and cloud storage services.  Because of the vast nature of these digital assets, it can seem like an insurmountable task to categorize and protect your digital properties.  With that in mind, it is usually best to start considering these types of materials first and moving on from there.

  1. Software or programs that are unique to your business. Perhaps you own and operate a company that creates and distributes digital goods such as software or apps.  These programs are unique to your business and should be protected.
  2. Business photographs, marketing materials, logos and other branding are often overlooked valued business asset.
  3. Intellectual property includes trademarked or copywritten materials that your business owns. This can include online content, download of prospects, materials, blogs, articles, your business website and domain registration(s).
  4. Contact information for prospective and current customers, including email list, have value and should be protected because they could be sold in the future.

Protecting your digital properties

It is important to establish the ownership and value of your digital assets.  By indexing and explaining various items you are putting yourself in a position where you can help create an estate plan, business succession plan, and Asset Protection System.  Gathering these materials is important beyond these concerns because they directly reflect the overall value or worth that a business has.  Comping this information helps you support your ability to claim expenses on these digital assets as well as sell them or have your business evaluated by potential investors.  If you own or operate a business and have not considered the value of your digital properties, we recommend speaking with us as soon as possible.

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