Estate planning is an invaluable step in securing your future and ensuring your wishes are respected. However, determining when to initiate this process is a personal choice that hinges on various factors. Here’s a closer look at the ideal timing for your estate planning journey:
Timing Tailored to Your Situation
The right moment to embark on estate planning hinges on your specific circumstances and goals. As a foundational guideline, creating financial and medical powers of attorney should be a priority as soon as you reach the legal age of adulthood. However, when considering more extensive estate plans, factors like your assets, family, and financial intricacies become key determinants of when to commence.
The Role of Family and Financial Complexity
The complexity and size of your estate influence your estate planning timeline. For individuals with substantial assets, businesses, multiple properties, intricate investments, or complex family dynamics, comprehensive planning necessitates a longer lead time.
The Arrival of Life’s Milestones
Key life events should act as prompts for estate planning. These moments include:
Marriage and Divorce: Alterations to marital status, whether through marriage or divorce, necessitate updates to your estate plan.
Birth and Adoption: The arrival of new family members, whether biological or through adoption, warrants adjustments to your plan.
Loss of Loved Ones: The passing of a spouse or child can significantly impact your estate plan.
Property Transactions: When you buy or sell substantial assets or investments, it’s wise to revisit and potentially revise your estate plan.
Business Initiatives: Launching a business or enterprise should trigger the establishment of a succession plan.
Inheritance: Receiving an inheritance, whether anticipated or not, should lead to an estate plan evaluation to accommodate the new wealth.
Urgent Life Changes and Future Planning
Certain life events prompt an immediate need for estate planning. These include:
Expecting a Child: To secure the future of your child, you’ll want to establish guardianship arrangements, designate trustees, and plan for their well-being and education.
Property Purchases: If you’re closing on a new property, it’s essential to incorporate this asset into your broader estate plan.
Failing Health of Family: If a family member’s health is deteriorating, shared estate documents may lead to financial adjustments in line with your goals.
Business Succession: Entrepreneurs and business owners preparing for retirement need a clear succession plan to ensure a smooth transition.
Finding the Right Balance
While early planning is essential, it’s crucial to strike a balance. Overly detailed planning can introduce confusion and complications. The more contingencies and conditional clauses you include, the greater the potential for misunderstandings.
Life’s unpredictability should be considered. Rapid changes in your finances, family structure, or personal goals can render initial estate plans outdated. Fortunately, many fundamental estate planning documents, such as wills and revocable living trusts, are amendable during your lifetime. Planning intricate details too far ahead can lead to frequent revisions and added expenses.
An Ongoing Process
Estate planning is a dynamic process, adaptable to life’s twists and turns. By initiating the process early and routinely revisiting it, you can ensure your plan stays current and consistently aligns with your values, loved ones, and legacy.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can provide the guidance needed to tailor your plan according to your unique circumstances and goals. This approach will offer you peace of mind and the assurance that your future is secure.
Begin your estate planning journey with the support of a qualified attorney, allowing you to plan your legacy and safeguard your loved ones effectively.
Marriage often entails sharing nearly every facet of life with your partner. However, some topics, particularly those related to one’s eventual passing, are seldom discussed. Astonishingly, research reveals that approximately half of all couples do not communicate their end-of-life wishes.
Death is an immutable reality, and it leaves a host of unanswered questions for the surviving spouse. As uncomfortable as it may seem, discussing crucial subjects like burial arrangements, remarriage considerations, and the location of essential documents is a vital component of establishing a comprehensive estate plan.
Location of Important Documents
Couples, particularly older ones, frequently blend their finances. Baby boomers, for instance, often maintain joint accounts. Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to manage financial matters primarily. In fact, less than one in four couples report that both partners share an equal role in financial management.
This unequal financial role can be a source of both daily-life and post-life concerns. To minimize potential stress, it’s essential for couples to ensure they are on the same page. In terms of day-to-day finances, this involves regular discussions about expenses, budgets, and financial planning. When it comes to estate planning, couples must keep each other informed about the location of important documents such as:
- Estate planning documents
- Life insurance paperwork
- Loan documents
- Financial account details (savings, retirement, investment accounts)
- Usernames, passwords, and other information for digital accounts and assets
It’s important to remember that in community property states, where spouses are regarded as joint owners of most property acquired during marriage, potential issues may arise. Even if separate accounts are maintained, if one spouse has separate estate planning documents, the other spouse should be aware of them to facilitate estate administration.
Following the passing of a spouse, the surviving partner is usually the first to learn of the loss. Afterward, there is a predetermined sequence for contacting individuals on a need-to-know basis.
While the surviving spouse typically knows who should be contacted, they may not have access to the contact details of these individuals. In the digital age, contact information is often stored in personal devices rather than traditional address books. To ensure accessibility, it’s wise to compile this information in a separate document or share login credentials for mobile devices.
Beyond immediate family and friends, a surviving spouse might be uncertain about contacting other parties like extended family, religious leaders, club associates, professional contacts, or the deceased’s employer. Some individuals may be mentioned in the will, necessitating inheritance notifications.
Keeping your spouse informed about these relationship statuses, whom to contact, and how to contact them regarding end-of-life wishes is a seemingly small but vital aspect of estate planning.
Addressing the disposition of one’s remains is undoubtedly one of the most morbid aspects of contemplating one’s passing. However, respecting an individual’s preferences in this matter is a way to ensure a dignified farewell.
Modern trends indicate a preference for cremation over traditional burial. This choice provides numerous options for personalization. Cremation may involve scattering ashes in a meaningful place, and traditional burials can vary from open-casket ceremonies to natural burials. Moreover, some individuals choose to donate their bodies to science.
In certain states, the surviving spouse typically holds primary authority over these decisions unless specific instructions from the deceased state otherwise. While discussing burial, cremation, or donation may be unpleasant, doing so can provide solace to both the departed and the surviving spouse, ensuring their most personal wishes are honored.
Wedding vows frequently include the phrase “’til death do us part.” However, the subject of remarriage after a spouse’s passing is worth addressing. From both a religious and secular perspective, it is widely accepted that a widowed spouse is not bound to lifelong fidelity.
Today, with more than half of marriages ending in divorce, the notion that a bereaved spouse should refrain from remarrying is outdated. However, attitudes towards remarriage can differ based on age, history, and personal beliefs. Conversations about remarriage are advisable.
Estate planning can also play a role in addressing this issue. For example, the use of a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust can protect the inheritance of children from a surviving spouse’s new partner. Spouses can discuss and design specific estate planning solutions based on their feelings about remarriage.
In conclusion, comprehensive estate planning is an expression of love and care for your spouse. It ensures that their needs and preferences are respected when you are no longer around. You can demonstrate your love by addressing these important aspects of your estate plan. Do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule an appointment and begin the estate planning process.
As a seasoned business executive, you’re well-versed in the art of strategic planning. However, have you taken the time to strategically safeguard your wealth and your family’s future? In this article, we’ll explore the estate planning goals that resonate with many business executives, including the protection of hard-earned assets, business succession, and minimizing tax liabilities. Let’s delve into each of these aspects.
Shielding Assets from Lawsuits and Creditors
Despite the inherent liability protections associated with your role, there may still be scenarios in which you could face litigation. With greater responsibilities come higher personal risk. To protect your personal assets, you should ensure that you or your employer maintain adequate directors and officers liability insurance. Additionally, you can employ special irrevocable trusts to safeguard your wealth.
Domestic Asset Protection Trust (DAPT): This trust structure allows you to shield your assets. Assets placed within a DAPT are irrevocable, meaning they cannot be altered. While the trustee can make distributions to you, these trusts typically require an independent trustee, someone not related or subordinate to you, to protect the assets from future creditors. The evolving nature of DAPT laws, which vary by state, necessitates collaboration with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Lifetime Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP): This irrevocable trust, usually created by the wealthier spouse for the benefit of the other, utilizes the unlimited marital deduction to provide tax-free asset transfers between spouses. The surviving spouse receives income and may access trust principal for specific purposes. Upon their passing, the trust assets become part of their estate, utilizing their federal estate tax exemption.
Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT): Business executives can leverage SLATs to transfer assets out of their estate, optimizing their lifetime gift and estate tax exclusions. The trustmaker spouse endows the SLAT for the benefit of the other, effectively reducing the estate’s value. This approach allows the trustmaker to make substantial permanent gifts, benefiting the beneficiary spouse while preserving some access to the assets.
In each of these scenarios, collaborating with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential to ensure that the stringent requirements are met while effectively protecting your hard-earned wealth.
Protecting Loved Ones and Your Legacy
Your accumulated wealth deserves protection and thoughtful preservation, even after you’re gone. Various trust structures can accomplish this:
Discretionary Trust: This trust empowers the trustee to exercise discretion when distributing assets to beneficiaries. The absence of guaranteed or mandated distributions enhances protection from potential creditors, legal issues, or divorces.
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT): An ILIT is a potent tool for safeguarding your loved ones’ financial well-being. By owning a life insurance policy through the ILIT, the death benefit remains protected from creditors and potential legal claims, as it is not distributed directly to beneficiaries. This trust can also significantly reduce estate tax liability.
Standalone Retirement Trust (SRT): An SRT is specifically designed to be the beneficiary of your retirement accounts after your passing. When structured as an accumulation trust, it protects inherited retirement accounts from beneficiary creditors and ensures a controlled and tax-efficient distribution of assets.
Minimizing Tax Liabilities
Like anyone, you aim to minimize your tax liabilities. Depending on your assets and holdings, consult with tax professionals to strategically manage income taxes, especially if you have stock options as part of your compensation package. Additionally, consider estate and gift tax implications. With current estate tax exemptions at $12.92 million per person for 2023 (which may change after December 31, 2025), it’s essential to plan for potential tax liabilities in the future.
Protecting Assets and Privacy
For business executives working for large or public corporations, safeguarding asset and beneficiary details can be vital to maintaining the privacy of your loved ones. An up-to-date estate plan, particularly a trust, provides a solution.
No Estate Plan: Without an estate plan, your assets typically go through the probate process, a public, time-consuming, and costly procedure. This exposes significant information to the public domain, including your holdings, beneficiaries, and their inheritance details.
Last Will and Testament: While a will allows you to determine who gets your assets and when, it still involves a court-supervised process and can reveal this information to the public.
Trust: A trust empowers you to specify beneficiaries, amounts, and timing of distributions without court involvement. This safeguards your privacy and streamlines asset distribution.
With these numerous options, having a trusted advisor is essential. Our commitment is to help you navigate these complexities, aligning your estate planning goals with the unique needs of your family and business succession. Reach out to schedule a consultation and explore your financial and estate planning objectives.
The trustee you select when establishing a trust is a pivotal decision in your estate planning journey. In the case of a revocable living trust, which you create during your lifetime and can modify at will, you may initially act as the trustee, retaining full control over and benefit of the assets within it. However, have you considered what occurs if your health deteriorates or you find yourself incapacitated due to unforeseen circumstances? With today’s increased life expectancies, the likelihood of facing health issues, such as dementia, in later years is on the rise. This can render managing your financial affairs impossible. Furthermore, planning for what transpires after your demise is equally crucial. Naming a successor trustee, as well as an alternate in case the first successor is unable or unwilling to serve, is essential. This ensures seamless management of the trust on your behalf in the event of your incapacity or passing.
Selecting a Trustee: A Matter of Trust
Certain qualities are essential when considering a trustee. Trustworthiness and responsibility are paramount, as are sound financial and investment decision-making abilities. The chosen trustee must also be dedicated to carrying out your wishes as expressed in your trust document. Depending on your circumstances, you may decide to have distinct trustees appointed for your incapacity and your passing. On the other hand, you might prefer the same trustee to serve in both situations.
Different Trustees for Different Scenarios
During your lifetime, you are the primary beneficiary of your revocable living trust. In the event of incapacity, you may favor a family member, such as a spouse, child, or a close relative, to assume the role of trustee. Not only are they legally obliged to act in your best interests, but they also know you intimately, understand your needs, and are motivated by their love for you. They can ensure your affairs are managed in a manner that optimally benefits you. A family member serving as a trustee is entitled to reasonable compensation for their work, but they may forgo it. Importantly, because there typically are no other trust beneficiaries during your lifetime, the risk of the trustee displaying favoritism or partiality between beneficiaries is minimized.
It’s advisable to consider naming the same person you’ve designated as your agent in a financial power of attorney to also serve as your trustee. While your trustee oversees the assets held in your trust, your agent under a financial power of attorney is generally authorized to manage non-trust assets, pay bills, enter into contracts, and engage in other financial transactions on your behalf. The person you appoint as your agent should meet the same criteria as those used in selecting a successor trustee: they should be honest, reliable, and capable.
At Your Passing:
After your demise, you are no longer the beneficiary of your trust; instead, your trust’s beneficiaries, as designated in your trust document, receive distributions following your death. Naming your spouse or child as your successor trustee might prove challenging for them due to grief and distress. Additionally, family conflicts or disharmony can surface, especially if you have children from previous marriages or blended families. Appointing a professional trustee, a trusted friend, or a reliable business associate who can be relied on to act impartially can help avert family disputes.
The Same Trustee for Both Incapacity and Death:
Should the risk of family discord be minimal, you might choose to have the same person serve as your successor trustee during both your incapacity and following your death. This approach presents several benefits. It requires less preparation for either scenario as only one individual needs to familiarize themselves with your affairs. This approach ensures a smoother transition in the event of incapacity since the trustee is already in place, reducing stress.
We’re Here to Help:
Determining your successor trustee is a pivotal decision in your estate planning process. We can provide guidance on whether to opt for the same trustee or different trustees in cases of incapacity or death, selecting multiple trustees, or appointing a professional trustee. Our goal is to assist you in reaching your objectives and minimizing potential conflicts within your family after your passing. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, allowing us to support you in making these vital decisions regarding your estate plan.
One of the primary motivations behind creating a revocable living trust, a trust established during your lifetime that you can modify or revoke, instead of relying on a will to distribute your assets to beneficiaries, is to sidestep probate. Probate is the court-supervised process during which a will is validated, and your assets are allocated to the individuals or organizations named in your will. However, there are both advantages and drawbacks to probate. After weighing these considerations, some individuals may opt for a testamentary trust, which is a trust established through a will. This choice might entail that your assets go through probate before the trust is funded and assets are distributed to beneficiaries. There are other compelling reasons why a testamentary trust could be a fitting option, such as the ability to direct distribution amounts and timing for beneficiaries and lower upfront costs associated with trust creation.
To Avoid or Embrace Probate: That’s the Dilemma
When deciding whether a testamentary trust aligns with the best interests of your family and loved ones, it’s crucial to ponder whether avoiding probate is a top priority. The pros and cons associated with probate may vary according to your jurisdiction and the size of your estate.
The fees associated with your estate during the probate process can fluctuate depending on your estate’s size and complexity, as well as state laws governing court filing charges. In some states and for larger estates, probate can be a costly affair. Throughout probate, an estate may need to cover court expenses, executor’s fees, attorney fees, accounting costs, appraisal and valuation expenses, a probate bond, and other miscellaneous fees. These expenditures can accumulate quickly, diminishing the amount ultimately received by your beneficiaries. Yet, for smaller estates and in certain states, the probate process may be relatively inexpensive and may not be a significant factor in determining whether to opt for a will that establishes a testamentary trust upon your passing instead of a revocable living trust.
Moreover, based on each state’s established procedures and estate complexity, probate might be time-consuming and delay fund distribution from the testamentary trust for a period spanning months to years. In states with expedited probate procedures for various scenarios, this may be of lesser concern.
Given that probate is public, some documents, such as your will and information regarding the testamentary trust it institutes after your death, can be accessed by any member of the public, eroding privacy. Consequently, personal information about your family and other beneficiaries, encompassing inheritances and the types of assets and property they inherit, becomes public knowledge. In contrast, a revocable living trust remains private, safeguarding the identities of your beneficiaries and estate details.
Since probate is a court-administered process, it entails oversight by a judge or court clerk until all distributions are completed. Trustees of a testamentary trust might need to convene regularly with the probate court, which monitors trust administration until the trust terminates. While some might view this oversight as burdensome, others may find it reassuring, as it offers additional assurance that the trust will be administered as per your intentions.
Retain Control Over Asset Distribution
Under a will, beneficiaries typically receive assets immediately as soon as probate court authorizes distributions (except for minor children, whose inheritance might be held in a custodial account until they reach the age of majority). However, the inclusion of a testamentary trust in your will empowers you to specify the timing and amounts of distributions to beneficiaries. Even though a testamentary trust is established upon your passing, you delineate trust instructions in your will while you’re alive, which can be altered anytime.
A testamentary trust can be particularly beneficial for parents of young children, adult children grappling with creditors or spending issues, or disabled children who require ongoing support while maintaining eligibility for government benefits. It can also offer protection to beneficiaries in the event of divorce by preserving their inheritance during asset division. The trustee named in your will has a duty to dispense assets in accordance with your will’s instructions. Consequently, you can provide your family members with resources as needed until the trust’s termination. You can specify whether the trust should endure until your children reach a certain age or attain a specific milestone. Furthermore, you can determine the purpose of distributions, such as covering health, education, maintenance, or support expenses for your children.
Defer Trust Creation Until Your Passing
Typically, creating a revocable living trust is costlier. Hence, if you aim to minimize current expenses but believe that a trust will ultimately benefit your family and loved ones, a testamentary trust presents a viable cost-effective option. A testamentary trust is created and funded after your passing, with the associated expenses covered by your estate. Consequently, it offers a more affordable alternative during your lifetime. It also implies that you won’t need to transfer ownership of accounts and property during your lifetime since this process forms part of trust funding posthumously. Your wealth might have an opportunity to grow over your lifetime, and your estate may be better equipped to cover expenses after your passing.
Seek Professional Guidance
Both revocable living trusts and testamentary trusts offer benefits that can ensure your wishes are honored and your loved ones are looked after. If you’re uncertain about the type of trust to incorporate into your estate plan, reach out to us for guidance. We can help you make an informed decision that best aligns with your unique circumstances.
In the realm of small businesses, employees are undeniably vital. The process of hiring and retaining workers stands as one of the foremost challenges faced by business owners. In today’s fiercely competitive labor market, employers are actively seeking ways to gain an edge in attracting and retaining top talent. While factors other than compensation often influence job seekers, pay remains a critical consideration. Any complications or issues related to employee compensation can lead to dissatisfaction and a potential exodus of employees. Moreover, these problems can run afoul of wage laws, inviting fines, penalties, and legal disputes.
Even in cases where employers steer clear of significant violations, such as missing paychecks or withholding pay, they may still find themselves in hot water with the law if they fail to maintain proper payroll records.
Federal and State Wage Laws
Small businesses often begin with little more than personal resources and entrepreneurial spirit. However, as they grow, it becomes increasingly necessary to hire employees. This transition brings forth a myriad of employment laws to navigate. Once the employment agreements are signed and work commences, employers must adhere to both federal and state labor laws.
Most businesses that employ full- and part-time workers are subject to key federal laws that establish standards for paying employees, among other provisions. These laws include:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Administered and enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL), the FLSA sets minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards for public and private sector workers. It mandates that employees receive at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at a rate of at least 1.5 times their regular pay for hours worked beyond forty hours per workweek. Employers covered by the FLSA must also maintain records for nonexempt employees for at least three years.
- It’s important to note that the FLSA does not establish payday requirements but requires that wages be paid on the regular payday for the covered pay period.
- Furthermore, the FLSA does not regulate aspects like holiday pay, vacation pay, severance pay, or meal and rest periods, among others.
- Certain occupations may be exempt from overtime pay under the FLSA, and some salaried employees might be exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay rules.
- State Labor Laws: Many states have their own labor laws that may impose stricter requirements than the FLSA. These state laws can cover areas such as minimum wage, overtime exemptions, payday requirements, meal and rest breaks, wage deductions, sick leave, and vacation policies. In conflicts between state and federal laws, employers are typically required to adhere to the law that offers greater protection to workers.
Beyond these federal and state labor laws, employers must also comply with a range of other employment-related legal requirements, including those related to workplace safety, family and medical leave, retirement plans, workers’ compensation, and discrimination.
Common Employee Payment Violations
Wage theft, a term used to describe instances where employees do not receive legally mandated wages for their labor, has significant repercussions for the American economy. Millions of workers nationwide fall victim to wage theft each year, resulting in billions of dollars in lost wages. Examples of wage theft include:
- Paying employees less than the legally required minimum wage.
- Failing to compensate employees for overtime work.
- Requesting off-the-clock work before or after scheduled shifts.
- Denying meal breaks.
- Making illegal wage deductions.
- Mishandling tips or not paying the difference between tips and the minimum wage.
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to evade wage and hour laws.
Another issue that can lead to wage and hour violations is withholding or deducting payment from employees beyond legally mandated withholdings. While lawful wage deductions can include taxes, employee benefits, union dues, and authorized expenses, wage garnishment for unpaid consumer debt is permissible only up to a certain limit, with some states having their own garnishment rules.
It’s worth noting that bankruptcy does not necessarily excuse employers from paying employees. Although the FLSA doesn’t specifically address bankruptcy, bankruptcy courts typically prioritize employee wages and salaries over other forms of debt, regardless of whether the business continues operations or closes. However, this doesn’t guarantee that employees will receive their due wages if the employer lacks the financial means to pay them.
Employee payment violations can lead to various consequences for employers, including legal actions initiated by the U.S. Department of Labor, state labor departments, and state attorneys general. Penalties can include both civil and criminal penalties, and employees can file class action lawsuits to recover unpaid wages. In recent years, legal actions have resulted in the recovery of more than $3 billion in unpaid wages for workers.
To mitigate these risks, employers must maintain detailed payroll records in compliance with the FLSA and other relevant laws. FLSA recordkeeping requirements include maintaining information on employees’ personal details, pay rates, hours worked, and wages paid.
Employers should also be prepared for potential audits by the Department of Labor, which can be triggered by employee complaints or occur randomly. During an audit, employers should be ready to provide requested documentation and expect a thorough examination of their records.
Wage and Hour Compliance: A Collaborative Effort
While employees are undoubtedly valuable assets for any business, hiring them introduces a substantial compliance burden. Employers must navigate a complex web of labor laws at both federal and state levels. Diligent recordkeeping is crucial in case disputes over wages arise. However, even meticulous records cannot fully shield an employer from the consequences of payment violations, even when such violations are unintentional. The financial and reputational costs of a wage and hour action can pose significant challenges for small businesses.
To navigate the complexities of employee payment compliance successfully, it’s essential to seek guidance from legal experts specializing in small business matters. Our team of small business attorneys can provide valuable advice to ensure compliance with all relevant laws governing employee compensation and treatment. To arrange a consultation with our team, please call or contact us today.
The realms of buying a business and investing in real estate are distinct in many ways. Business ownership necessitates management skills, market insights, knowledge of consumer trends, and financial acumen. In contrast, real estate ownership typically involves a diligent upfront investigation but offers passive growth with fewer management responsibilities.
The skill sets required for success in business ownership and real estate investment may not significantly overlap. However, when a business for sale includes real property, it’s prudent to consider whether acquiring both entities is a wise decision. If the seller offers them as a package and buying solely the business isn’t an option, it’s crucial for the buyer to comprehend the implications fully to prevent overextension.
Potential Benefits and Drawbacks of Purchasing a Business That Includes Real Property
Some business owners, when selling their business, also intend to sell the physical premises where the business operates. From a buyer’s perspective, this can be an enticing addition to their business investment. Commercial real estate offers an average return of around 10 percent. Beyond return on investment, owning commercial property can yield tax advantages, control over the space, protection from rent hikes, and potential revenue streams.
Acquiring an existing business can alleviate much of the stress, uncertainty, and risk associated with starting a new venture from scratch. However, purchasing an established business often involves higher upfront costs, especially if it includes commercial real estate. The key question to consider when contemplating a business deal involving real property is how it will impact the business’s cash flow. Although an existing business usually has an established cash flow, new owners typically aim to expand the business, necessitating capital. Any funds tied up in real estate become unavailable for business investments. Moreover, in a climate of rising interest rates, adding a real estate loan on top of a business loan could strain the buyer’s post-transaction cash flow.
It’s important to recognize that the costs of commercial real estate go beyond loan payments; they encompass taxes, property insurance, and maintenance expenses. While renting out surplus space to tenants can offset some of these costs, it can also bring additional financial responsibilities and risks for the landlord.
Approaching a Business Transaction Involving Real Estate
For business owners, offering buyers the option to purchase the real estate can expand the pool of potential buyers. It’s common for a business purchase agreement to include a 12- to 24-month lease with a buyer’s option to acquire the real estate associated with the business at a predetermined price or via a defined pricing formula, possibly with a right of first refusal. This arrangement enables buyers to retain more short-term capital while preserving the option to purchase the real estate in the long term.
Creativity can play a pivotal role in facilitating a successful deal. However, before entering negotiations, buyers should evaluate various factors:
Business Value vs. Real Estate Value: When both the business and real estate are offered as a single package, obtaining separate appraisals for each is essential. This provides a clearer understanding of their individual values and can prove invaluable during negotiations. A commercial real estate agent can assess property value based on comparable sales, while business valuation, conducted by a qualified appraiser, tends to be more subjective, with various methods available for assessment.
Cash Flow: To determine the financial viability of buying a business with real estate, it’s crucial to calculate both short-term and long-term costs for purchasing and leasing the property. Generally, purchasing is more cost-effective over the long term, but this may not hold true in all markets and economic conditions. In the short term, leasing might be more attractive from a cash flow perspective. Professional inspections and comprehensive due diligence are necessary to accurately calculate costs, which extend beyond the purchase price and encompass taxes, improvements, insurance, and environmental remediation expenses.
Financing: Including real estate in a business purchase may enhance a buyer’s prospects of securing third-party financing, as the property can serve as collateral. Lenders might be willing to consolidate real estate and business loans, potentially extending the repayment term. Seller financing is another option to explore.
Legal Guidance for Business Acquisition
In the realm of business acquisition, virtually everything is negotiable, provided both parties are willing to reach an agreement. Deciding whether buying a business that includes real estate is favorable for the long term is complex. Our team of attorneys can provide guidance and advice on all facets of business acquisition, from conducting due diligence to negotiation and document creation and review. Schedule an appointment to learn how we can assist you in making informed decisions.
Married life often entails sharing nearly every aspect of existence, but when it comes to confronting mortality, conversations can grow difficult. Surprisingly, studies show that half of all couples fail to discuss their end-of-life wishes.
Death may be an irrevocable departure for the deceased, but for the surviving spouse, it can raise numerous unanswered questions. While topics like burial arrangements and remarriage might seem uncomfortable, they are essential components of comprehensive estate planning. Even seemingly mundane details, such as the location of crucial documents and contact information, should not be overlooked.
Location of Important Documents
In many marriages, especially among older couples, financial matters are often intertwined. However, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to assume the primary responsibility for managing finances. According to statistics, fewer than one in four couples report that both partners equally manage household finances.
This can lead to potential issues, not just in everyday life but also during estate planning and after one’s passing. It’s vital for couples to maintain open communication and ensure that they’re both aware of the location of essential documents, including:
- Estate planning documents
- Life insurance paperwork
- Loan documents
- Financial account information (e.g., savings, retirement, and investment accounts)
- Usernames, passwords, and other information for digital accounts and assets
Even in community property states where spouses are considered joint owners of most assets acquired during marriage, keeping certain finances separate can raise estate planning challenges. If one spouse has separate accounts and property with their estate planning documents, the other spouse should be aware of them to facilitate estate administration.
In the event of a spouse’s passing, the surviving spouse is often the first to be informed. Beyond that, there may be a predetermined hierarchy of contacts based on need-to-know. While the surviving spouse may have an idea of whom to contact and in what order, it’s crucial to remember that contact information today is typically stored in digital devices rather than physical directories.
To ensure that this information is accessible, consider maintaining a separate document or sharing phone login credentials. Beyond immediate family and close friends, the surviving spouse might be unsure about whom to contact, including extended family, religious leaders, club members, professional contacts, and the deceased’s employer if they were still working. Some individuals may also be named in the will and require inheritance notifications.
The topic of handling a person’s remains is arguably one of the most uncomfortable aspects of discussing death. However, respecting a person’s burial preferences ensures they receive a fitting farewell. Whether someone opts for cremation, a traditional burial, natural burial (without a casket), or body donation to science, these choices should be discussed.
While some states grant primary authority over these decisions to the surviving spouse if no specific instructions exist, it’s still crucial to have these discussions. Although discussing these matters can be difficult, it ensures that the departed’s most personal wishes are honored.
In traditional wedding vows, we often hear the phrase “’til death do us part.” But what happens after death? Are spouses still bound by this promise? In most cases, both religious and secular perspectives accept that a widowed spouse is not wrong to remarry. However, personal feelings about remarriage can vary.
In today’s world, where divorce rates are high, the idea that a bereaved spouse should not remarry is outdated. Nevertheless, some individuals may have strong opinions on the matter, depending on their age, history, and beliefs. Estate planning can address these concerns, especially if one spouse wants to protect their children’s inheritance from a new spouse.
Remarriage is a topic worth discussing, as couples may not always see eye-to-eye on the matter. Couples with separate finances are free to handle their assets as they see fit. One spouse might be comfortable with remarriage and take no action, while the other may set up a trust to safeguard their assets.
In conclusion, estate planning is a thoughtful gift to your spouse. It’s the best way to take care of them when you’re no longer present. To demonstrate your love, consider contacting an estate planning attorney to discuss your options and ensure a smooth transition for your loved ones when the time comes.
Transactions often lead to debts owed to individuals, whether it’s lending money to a friend, conducting business deals, or leasing property. But what happens when the person to whom the money is owed passes away before they can collect? Can someone else step in to recover these outstanding debts? If you’re grappling with the passing of a loved one and believe they were owed money at the time of their death, here’s what you need to know.
Does the Debt Disappear with the Person?
The passing of an individual does not erase the debts owed to them. These debts survive the creditor’s death and become an asset of the deceased person’s estate. Such debts are considered part of the estate’s value and can be collected during the probate process, which concludes with the distribution of the deceased person’s assets, including money and property, to the beneficiaries as outlined in their will or designated by state law if there’s no will. Similarly, if the debt is owed to a trust established by the deceased person, the trust retains the right and responsibility to collect the debt after the trustmaker’s passing.
Who Can Act to Collect the Debt?
Before anyone can act on behalf of a deceased person’s estate, they must be officially appointed by the probate court. If the deceased person had a will, they typically designate someone they trust to serve as the executor (also known as a personal representative). In cases where no will exists, the probate laws of the state usually prioritize a family member to petition the court for appointment as the estate’s administrator. Once appointed, the executor or administrator has the authority and duty to act on behalf of the estate to collect the outstanding debt. In situations where the debt is owed to a deceased person’s trust, the successor trustee assumes the obligation to attempt debt collection.
How Can an Executor or Trustee Determine Outstanding Debts?
An executor or trustee who is a surviving spouse may be well-acquainted with the deceased person’s assets, including any outstanding debts and the debtors’ identities. However, a non-spouse executor or trustee might have limited knowledge about the deceased person’s assets. Regardless, all executors or trustees should thoroughly review the deceased person’s essential documents and financial records to identify any indications of owed money. Ideally, they might discover written loan agreements, mortgage contracts, or other formal agreements that offer clear proof of the debt’s existence and its terms of repayment. Even without formal documentation, other written evidence, such as emails or text messages indicating a debt owed to the deceased person, can help establish the debt’s existence and conditions. Moreover, if the deceased person maintained records, books, or canceled checks showing the debt’s existence and regular payments from the debtor, these can serve as evidence for the executor or trustee. While written evidence holds more weight, the executor or trustee might also rely on witnesses who overheard discussions between the deceased person and the debtor regarding a loan or other business transactions. Debtors themselves might admit to the debt when questioned by the trustee or executor.
What Occurs After Discovering the Debt?
Once the executor or trustee learns of a debt owed to the deceased person’s estate, their first task is to ascertain whether there are any outstanding amounts—payments due at the date of death. For example, if Bob loaned $5,000 to his friend Julie, who was obligated to make monthly payments of $250 on the fifteenth of each month until the loan was fully repaid in December 2024, and Bob passed away on January 16, 2024, the executor needs to determine Julie’s payment status, collect any overdue payments (including interest) as of Bob’s death, and monitor future payments.
After identifying the debt owed to the estate, the executor or trustee should send a formal written notice to the debtor. This notice should include information about the deceased person’s passing, the date of death, the estate’s status as the new creditor, and instructions to make future payments to the estate through the executor or trustee. The notice should also provide the contact details of the executor or trustee and any other information necessary to facilitate debt payments. It’s essential to initiate collection efforts for past-due amounts and arrange for the payment of any future obligations, such as rental payments for lease agreements extending beyond the date of death.
What if the Debtor Refuses to Pay the Debt?
While an executor or trustee initially seeks debt collection by contacting the debtor and requesting payment, they may resort to legal means if these efforts prove fruitless. This may involve having an attorney send a demand letter to the debtor or filing a lawsuit on behalf of the estate to recover the outstanding debt.
How We Can Assist
If you’re grappling with the loss of a loved one and are either the executor of their will or seeking appointment as the administrator of their estate, we can guide you through the probate process. Similarly, if you’re a successor trustee, we can provide assistance in administering your loved one’s trust.
Among an executor or administrator’s crucial responsibilities is the collection, preservation, and inventorying of all assets within the deceased person’s estate, including owed debts. Seeking the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney can ease the process during this emotional and challenging period following the loss of your loved one. If you require assistance, please contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Small businesses, typically employing fewer than 50 individuals, aren’t legally obligated to offer employee health insurance. However, providing health coverage is a highly sought-after job benefit. In fact, about two-thirds of business owners use health insurance as an attractive tool to recruit and retain top talent.
Whether health insurance for employees is mandated by law or chosen as an optional incentive, businesses aiming to provide this benefit should consider various plan options, including those that can tie into your broader estate planning strategy.
Understanding Health Insurance Legal Requirements
Here’s a key piece of information regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), often referred to as Obamacare:
- The ACA necessitates that businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees provide health insurance, known as the employer mandate.
- Failure to comply with the mandate by not offering coverage or offering inadequate coverage can lead to annual penalties.
- ACA regulations mandate that employers provide employees with a Summary of Benefits and Coverage form, with noncompliance resulting in penalties.
- Employers may be required to provide information about the ACA’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace plans to their employees, irrespective of whether they offer health insurance.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also enforces ACA tax provisions, including reporting requirements.
- When an employer sets up a group health plan, they must adhere to other state and federal laws, such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Health Insurance for a Healthier, More Productive Workforce
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the ACA’s employer mandate. Nevertheless, they may opt to provide health insurance as a discretionary benefit.
An employer-sponsored health plan offers several advantages:
- Helps attract and retain talent.
- Keeps employees healthier and more productive.
- Reduces sick days and workplace injuries or illnesses.
- Boosts employee satisfaction.
- Potentially saves money through ACA tax credits for group health plans.
Regarding tax credits, businesses with fewer than 25 full-time workers that pay at least half of their employees’ health insurance premiums and meet other criteria may qualify for a tax credit covering up to 50 percent of the premiums they pay.
Exploring Group Health Insurance Options
Small business owners interested in obtaining group health insurance typically have two primary avenues: working directly with private insurers or exploring plans through the ACA’s SHOP Marketplace.
- SHOP healthcare plans are often the sole means for companies to qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. These plans, offered by private insurance companies, include various types such as Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO), Point of Service (POS), and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP). Availability may vary by location, with major insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealthcare, and Aetna participating. ACA plan enrollment typically follows specific periods.
- Companies that don’t meet SHOP plan criteria can explore the private health insurance marketplace for group plans. Although these non-SHOP plans may not align with the requirements for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, the premiums employers pay may be tax-deductible. Enrollment in private plans is usually available year-round, offering similar group plan types (e.g., HMO, PPO, and EPO).
With group health plans, the costs are typically shared between employers and employees, with employers determining the extent of their contribution. Typically, employees can choose from different plans with varying costs.
For employers seeking the advantages of offering health benefits but are wary of the expenses associated with sponsoring a plan, they might consider a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), like the qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA) or Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement (ICHRA).
- QSEHRAs and ICHRAs enable employers to maintain fixed healthcare spending while offering employees more flexibility in selecting a plan.
- These arrangements, funded solely by employers, enable businesses to provide health insurance coverage to employees by reimbursing them for premiums on health insurance they purchase independently. Employers set a maximum allowance for disbursement through the arrangement.
- QSEHRAs are available for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, with the IRS determining annual contribution limits.
- ICHRAs are available to employers of any size, with no contribution limits for fewer than 50 employees.
- Employees submit eligible health plan expenses to their employer, who then reimburses them. Payments made through an HRA arrangement are generally 100 percent tax-deductible for employers and usually tax-free for employees, provided they maintain minimum essential coverage (MEC) as per the ACA.
Make Group Benefits a Group Effort
Navigating health insurance laws can be as intricate as understanding the tax code. It’s crucial to grasp the legal responsibilities of employers and how you can align group health plans with your broader estate planning strategy. Our business attorneys are here to assist you in ensuring your business complies with relevant health insurance laws. Don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation.