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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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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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Ways to Protect Your Home Before Legal Action

Protecting your assets is best handled in preparation for circumstances, not as a quick response to them. It is important to remember that these steps should be taken before any legal action, such as a lawsuit, has been filed.  Below are several common ways that your personal or primary home can be protected should a legal cause ever happen.

Homestead Exemption

Almost every state has statutes that protect a certain amount of value of your home from creditors or during bankruptcy.  Essentially if someone such as a creditor files a lawsuit against a respondent, the resulting case may require the sale of the home.  The creditor will only get the remaining balance after selling fees, the mortgage balance and the homestead exemption amount.  If homeowners want to take advantage of this exemption, they should contact us.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Certain states offer unique protection called “tenancy by the entirety.”  Essentially this protects the home if one spouse is sued for reasons that have nothing to do with the other spouse.  Essentially this law asserts that it is not fair for one spouse to lose their home because of the actions of the other.  Even if your state does not have this law in the books you can accomplish the same result in the other ways described herein.

Create a Domestic Asset Protection Trust

This is a self-settled trust created and protected under certain state statutes.  In general, these types of trusts are becoming more accepted each year as new states adopt some form of DAPT trust laws.  This type of trust can provide certain protections to homes, farms, vacation homes or beach houses that you plan on keeping for life or a very long time.  In most states, the longer a property is held in a DAPT, the more it will be protected in the future.

Speak with a professional today

There are many ways in which your personal and business assets can be protected.  Perhaps you run a business where you must take financial risks.  Putting the house in your low-risk spouse’s name, for example, could help protect your home should legal concerns arise.  You may also consider getting an “Umbrella Risk” insurance policy that protects you from a wide variety of situations.  These Asset Protection techniques should be components in your Asset Protection System™.  Remember that it is wisest to plan for a storm while the skies above are blue.

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How to Protect Items of Sentimental Value in Estate Planning

When we think of estate planning or writing a will, we often think of big-ticket items.  This includes items such as real estate, expensive items, vehicles, retirement plans, business, and personal investments.  While these items have a monetary value associated with them, they are not always the most important possessions in a persons’ life.  It is vital that when a person passes away, they know their Items that have sentimental value have been considered as well.  This includes things like family heirlooms, paintings, jewelry, antiques or anything that has an emotional attachment associated with the property.  Many individuals seek peace of mind by knowing that their wishes as followed and that the desired party receives the items that were meant for them.  Below is information about a personal property memorandum and how this document can be easier and more direct than a traditional will when it comes to sentimental items.

Why a personal property memorandum can be an ideal choice

A will or trust can become a lengthy and cumbersome document to constantly change or make addendums to.  This is especially the case if you are an active collector and need to add specific directions with each new addition.  The process of updating a will or trust usually requires a formal codicil or trust amendment for even minor changes to go into effect.  If you utilize a personal property memorandum, you can transform these legacies without worrying about all the traditional formalities.  It’s typically much less complicated to merely remove an old memorandum and replace it with a brand-new one when you want to make changes.  This can also avoid potential conflict in the future because the dispersal of personal property can be outlined.

It is important to realize that the validity and use of a personal property memorandum is handled on a state law basis.  Some states require that the memorandum needs to be specially stated in your last will and testament or revocable living trust, while others just won’t recognize this sort of a casual checklist in any way.  Making a list of your most treasured items and deciding which family members and friends will receive them can be highly beneficial.

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