Author: intrepidlaw

5 Steps to Take When Winding Down Your Business

5 Steps to Take When Winding Down Your Business

There are many reasons business owners close up shop, including retirement, starting a new venture or, hopefully, because they’ve won the lottery.  No matter what the reason, it’s important to diligently wind down a business before moving on.

Here are five steps to take:

  1. Reach consensus. If you’re a sole proprietor, then the only consensus you need is your own.  However, if you’re a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation, you’ll have to reach a consensus with your business partners on how and when to dissolve.  Make sure that everything is in writing (this cannot be stressed enough) and follows whatever guidelines are applicable to your articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other organizational documents.
  2. Seek counsel. Just as you would seek experienced counsel when starting a business, you should do the same when shutting one down.  Dissolution is a multi-tiered process.   Everything must be identified, addressed, and resolved.  This includes canceling licenses and permits, as well as filing legal and tax documents with courts, creditors, and government authorities.
  3. Comply with laws. State law will generally require dissolving businesses to pay employees for any work performed up until the closing date as well as for any unused vacation, sick, or personal time.  State law will also govern possible notice provisions under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) which requires at least 60 days advance notice to those who work for companies with 100 employees.
  4. Resolve financial obligations. All businesses have financial obligations that need to be resolved before dissolving.  Those include:
  • Business taxes. When you file income tax returns for the year in which your business closes, check the box that indicates the document is a “final” return. Many state revenue agencies require additional filings for sales tax as well.
  • Payroll taxes. If you have employees, you must satisfy your payroll tax responsibilities or you will risk personal liability.  Inform your federal and state tax agencies that your business is closing and that you will cease to file unemployment returns and an employer’s quarterly tax form.
  • EIN accounts. Businesses should close their Employer Identification Number (EIN) account by contacting the IRS. The IRS cannot cancel your account, but closing your EIN account notifies the IRS that you are not planning to use the number in the future.
  • Business debts. Notify creditors of your plans to dissolve the business, contact business associates to whom you owe money, and arrange to settle all accounts.
  1. Maintain records. Although your business may be dissolved, you may be legally required to maintain records for a certain number of years depending upon the applicable federal and state law.

Whether dissolving your business is a happy or sad occasion, it should be handled thoroughly.  Failing to wrap up all loose ends can lead to years of frustration and possible litigation with former employees, vendors, and partners.  We’d be happy to help you wrap things up and move on to your next venture.

Important Estate Planning Info That You Should Know

Regardless of your financial situation or family size, you need a comprehensive estate plan that handles the distribution of your assets and legacy wishes if you become incapacitated or upon your passing. Most people will revise their estate plan many times during a lifetime. Here are the most common reasons to update an existing estate plan.

A New Spouse

If you have recently gotten married, you have probably already included your new spouse in your health and life insurance policies, but you should also update other areas of your estate plan. Do you have a prenuptial agreement with your current spouse, kids from a former marriage, or assets that you own with another person? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your assets may not be designated to your spouse after your death if your estate plan is not updated after marriage. To ensure that your new spouse is protected in the event of your death, you need to thoroughly review your existing estate plan as soon as possible.

The Birth or Adoption of Children

The birth or adoption of a child can change everything. From the amount of money that you spend each month to your nightly sleeping habits when a child comes into your life, your world is sure to be turned upside down in some way. Just like your life will significantly change upon the birth of a child, your estate plan should also change. Depending on how your existing estate plan is composed, you may need to add your child as a beneficiary of your policy. As your child slowly grows in age, you should alter your plan to make sure that your assets will be distributed in a way that you think would be appropriate. For example, when your child is a minor, your estate plan should name a guardian who will care for your child upon your death. On the other hand, when your child becomes an adult, you may want to set up installments so that your loved one receives money at certain intervals or ages.

An Unexpected Divorce

While certain states and federal laws may prohibit your former spouse from receiving an inheritance once you and your significant other parts ways, you should still update your estate plan when your divorce is finalized. Following a divorce, you might need to change any beneficiary designations, powers of attorney authorizations, and health insurance spousal coverages. In fact, it’s a good idea to review your entire estate plan during this life-changing event to ensure that your former spouse is not included in your will.

The Death of a Loved One

Life is often unpredictable and, as a result, there may be appointed people in your estate plan who will pass away before you. When a death of a loved one unexpectedly happens, you will need to designate a new guardian, power of attorney, executor, or health care proxy as soon as possible.

A Substantial Change in Assets

The purchase of a big asset, a generous salary increase, and the loss of a good paying job over a prolonged period are all considered significant changes in assets. When any of these types of situations occur, you must alter your current estate plan immediately. If you have a big estate, there will likely be disputes over the distribution of your assets if there is not an updated plan upon your death.

A Move to A New Country or State

Whenever you move to a new country or state, most expert estate planning attorneys would advise you to draft a completely new estate plan that reflects the legal requirements in the location where you have chosen to reside. If you plan to live abroad, as an American, your estate plan will require professional assistance.

An Expert Estate and Trusts Attorney in St Louis Can Help You Determine Which Items to Update in Your Estate Plan

During the course of your eventful life, protecting yourself and your family should be your primary focus. If you would like to learn more about ways to properly prepare for the future, visit our estate planning page here. Once you have finished reading this important information, remember that an estate planning attorney St. Louis is always ready to help you build a great estate plan. Contact us today and let us help you!

7 Qualities of an Excellent Estate Planning Attorney

The term estate planning can be defined as the process of making a plan in advance to manage a person’s estate in an anticipation of death or illness. A common misconception is that only wealthy people should prepare documents for medical directives, wills, trusts, and guardianship, but this myth couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that estate planning is essential for everyone. Regardless of the person, in order to create a great estate plan you need an experienced family trust attorney who completely understands your situation and unique desires. Even though proper estate planning is a serious pursuit, the right family estate attorney will ensure a smooth execution of the documents by making you feel comfortable disclosing pertinent information, answering any questions about complex terminology, and maintaining contact every step of the way. At Intrepid Law, experienced attorney Adam Tucker truly embodies the qualities of a great estate planning attorney that you can completely trust.

Qualities of a Great Estate Planning Attorney

1. Specializes in Estate Planning

Some lawyers who have little or no experience in trust and estate planning will simply input your information into a software program without completely knowing the ways in which laws of your state can impact your estate. These types of lawyers may be skilled at handling divorces, personal injury cases, traffic tickets, or bill collection, but estate planning is not their main area of practice.

A great family estate attorney is one who only focuses on estate planning. Because these specialized lawyers should also have many years of experience and continuing education dedicated to this field, they are more likely to be fully knowledgeable about the laws in your state. If they are not well-versed and up to date on estate laws, your estate plan may not be approved by the courts after you die.

For extra assurance and peace of mind, make sure that he is certified as a specialist in probate, trust, and estate planning law in the state in which you live. The most qualified family trust attorney must have extensive knowledge of this area of law in his state.

2. Offers a Fixed Price to Create an Estate Plan

Before embarking on the estate planning process, you want to make sure that the lawyer you are hiring is charging you a fixed price for all of the work that he is performing. A flat upfront fee will ensure that there will not be any surprise fees since you will know the exact cost of the services beforehand. As long as you know what the flat fee does and doesn’t cover, you shouldn’t encounter hidden costs.

Although it’s rare these days, a trust planning attorney may charge an hourly rate for providing estate planning services. In most cases, a family estate attorney offering hourly rates are probably not acting in your best interest as he will may be more likely to require many office consultations and multiple drafts of documents to ultimately increase his pay.

Whether he charges a flat fee or an hourly rate, make sure that you do not sign a fee agreement until you completely understand its terms.

3. Performs a Wide Range of Tasks

The practice of estate planning includes an extremely wide range of topics from probates to trust administration. A highly skilled trust attorney will be able to establish trusts for loved ones, minimize estate taxes, avoid probate, create wills, plan for disability, and much more.

If your dad has recently died and you want to hire a family estate attorney to settle his estate, consider selecting a qualified lawyer with expertise in probates. If you have a complex financial and family situation, you probably need to hire a family trust attorney who is skilled at drafting trusts. Or, if you have extensive real estate holdings, the ideal trust planning attorney will have a wealth of knowledge about real property law.

Sometimes it’s necessary to work with attorney who has experience in multiple areas. For instance, if you need to rewrite your estate plan and your wife suddenly becomes ill, you need a family trust attorney who is knowledgeable about special needs trusts and estate tax laws.

4. Prepares Estate Plans Quickly and Efficiently 

A good question to ask an estate planning attorney is the amount of time it will take him to prepare the plan. If you are prepared and organized, most experienced attorneys can prepare a first draft of the plan within a couple of weeks. It will usually take him another two weeks to have corrections made.

Depending on your specific situation, you may not have that luxury of time. For instance, if you or a closed loved one is seriously ill, you need a lawyer who can prepare the necessary documents as soon as possible. An estate planning attorney that you can trust will be able to excite an estate plan in a timely manner.

5. Maintains a Friendly and Understanding Demeanor 

An excellent trust estate attorney’s primary goal is to learn as much information as he can about your family and planning goals so that he can create an estate plan that incorporates your objectives. In fact, most attorneys will begin the estate planning process by asking you some intimate questions about your current assets, family tree, and physical/mental health; as a result, he should make you feel extremely comfortable disclosing this information to him.

An empathetic attorney will understand that disclosing your life insurance policy, savings/checking accounts, and real estate may be invasive, so he will take this opportunity to explain why an estate plan should account for every single asset. Instead of speaking in legalese, he will speak in easy to understand language so that you will feel extremely comfortable with the process. For example, he should ask simple questions like “Who do you want to handle your business, sell your home, or make sure your beneficiaries receive your money when you die?” as opposed to potentially confusing questions like “Who would you like to be the principal beneficiaries of your revocable trust?” The former question is not only one that you can actually understand but it also suggests that your attorney understands and wants to help you in any way possible. The latter question creates a barrier between you and your attorney simply because you probably can’t understand him.

If your trust planning attorney is aloof, unpleasant, or hard to understand, you may unintentionally hold back certain information in the planning process. Such undisclosed information could be vital in creating a proper estate plan.

6. Guides You Through the Entire Process

Once you have disclosed your pertinent information, your estate planning attorney will assist you with completing the beneficiary designation forms for retirement plans and pensions, real estate, bank accounts, and property titles.

The attorney should also ensure that you complete formation documents for a revocable living trust. Make sure to inform your trust planning attorney that you want a living trust that avoids probate when you die.

In addition, a skilled attorney will set up your plan in such a way to minimize estate taxes as much as possible. Other issues that he may want to discuss with you are guardianship of dependents, charitable giving, life insurance, healthcare decisions, and powers of attorney. During this process of creating an individualized plan together, he should make sure that you thoroughly understand its specific details.

Following the completion of the many documents, your attorney should let you know who should receive copies and where to store the originals. Many attorneys retain a copy in their file. Ensuring that your loved ones can access your important documents when needed is just as important as creating the estate plan in the first place.

7. Keeps in Contact with You

Many average family estate attorneys view estate planning as a one-time process. Most are unwilling to keep in touch unless you pay them another fee. Even if your attorney drafts the perfect plan for you, he should still check in with you about every five years to determine if your goals and situation have changed. A formal periodic review process should also be conducted when the laws in your state have been altered.

Choose Intrepid Law for Your Estate Planning Needs

Even if the attorney has all of the right qualifications, you still have to determine if you can see yourself working closely with him. Known as one of the best full-service law firms in Saint Louis, Missouri, Intrepid Law is a trusted place where you can receive sophisticated, long-term estate planning for your family from a highly-qualified lawyer. Our firm proudly provides assistance with family legacy planning, trust and estate administration, estate tax matters, trust formation, and more. Contrary to many large firms in the area, we only accept clients who are interested in business and estate planning. Contact us today to learn more about our exclusive services at 314-797-5202.

5 Estate Planning Tips for Your Retirement

Retirement is something most try to avoid thinking about, but you will eventually be forced to take it into consideration due to its effects on the later stages of your life. After all, no one wants to be short of money to spend when they quit their jobs. People do not want to be working their entire lives (unless you’re passionate about something, of course!).

If you are close to retirement, one thing that has probably been on your mind is your estate plan. If you’re not sure where to start, then we will be going through some of the most important points in this guide with five useful estate planning tips.

Estate Planning Tip #1: Create a Will

It is understandable that you do not want to think about your will just yet. Growing old isn’t exactly the most exciting point in your life so thinking about a will before you even retire might be strange. Sadly, it is an important part of your estate plan that you should attend to as soon as possible. Your estate plan will decide who inherits your assets such as your property, car, valuable items, and even your digital accounts which is why it is important to draw up plans at an early stage.

You want to approach creating your will wisely; that being said, contact a lawyer. An attorney will help you come up with the right words and structure for your will so that when it is used your executor will have a much easier time carrying out your will. Just remember that certain things cannot be put on your will which is why it is important to have a trusted attorney to walk you through the process.

Estate Planning Tip #2: Planning Tax-Efficient Strategies

When you leave behind a large sum of money to be inherited you may be forced to pay high amounts of tax. Thankfully, it is possible to reduce the amount of tax you pay by utilizing tax-efficient strategies. For example, donating to charities means you do not pay tax on those assets you own. This could be a sum of money or something valuable. If you own something that you do not want to pay tax on when handling down to your relatives and loved ones then simply donate it and you will be spared the tax charges.  If you do not want to give it away, there are life insurance options we can talk about to offset taxes.

Some assets are free from estate taxes. For example, a life insurance policy can be left to someone without being forced to pay tax on it. Retirement accounts are also exempt from estate taxes.  It is good to learn where you can and cannot avoid paying taxes. Do not worry if you are unsure—your professional lawyer (Intrepid Law) will be able to guide you through this step with ease.

Estate Planning Tip #3: Cover Expenses with a Trust

If you feel like there will be monetary issues when you are no longer around, then it might be worth using your current assets to cover expenses by using a trust plan. Whether it is schooling fees, insurance payments, or even health care, our experienced lawyer can help you set up a trust that can be used to pay for future expenses when you have passed away.

Here is an example of how this works:

Let’s say that you want to provide a great education for your grandson when he comes of age. You can set up the trust to trigger when your grandson reaches the age of 18 where they receive the money you have left in the trust to pay for their college tuition. However, the money must be used for the agreed purpose or else the money will not be released. Using a trust to cover expenses is a great way to feel at ease when you are close to passing on. Many want to provide for their family even when they are not around and it gives your loved one’s peace of mind for their futures.

Estate Planning Tip #4: Use Your Life Insurance to Offset Taxes

The people you have entrusted your assets to will likely be subject to fees and income taxes. This can put them under a lot of financial stress despite inheriting all of your assets. Thankfully, you can use your life insurance to offset those costs so that they can cover all of these payable taxes.

For instance, if your estate planner does the calculations and estimates that a total of $250,000 needs to be paid in estate and income tax, then you can set up a life insurance plan in their name. The beneficiary of your life insurance is not forced to pay tax, so they may use the $250,000 to help pay the taxes owed on the assets inherited. This is a brilliant tax-efficient strategy that will help your loved ones a great deal.

Estate Planning Tip #5: Hire a Reputable Estate Planning Team

Estate planning is not something you can do on your own easily. It takes a great deal of patience, knowledge, and understanding of the law in order to accomplish everything and hiring just a single person will not cut it. You need several experts that are knowledgeable in their fields if you want to get the best estate planning assistance possible.

This usually consists of an estate planning attorney, a tax specialist, and possibly a financial advisor. These are three main roles you will need in your team. The estate planning attorney will help you write up a will and set up any trusts that you may want. This helps ensure that your plan will meet any federal and state criteria so that it becomes legally binding. You must find a professional that knows the law in your state. For example, if you live in Missouri then you will need to find a lawyer from a city such as St. Louis.

The tax professional will be helping you minimize the amount you have to pay in taxes, and your financial advisor will help you design an investment portfolio for the assets you have. Make sure your financial advisor has some experience with estate planning before you hire them.  While we do not offer investment advice, Intrepid Law can assist you with both estate and tax planning.

Summary

Hopefully, these five tips have given you some insight into estate planning and how you can prepare for your retirement. Make sure you do this as soon as possible so you can enjoy the rest of your life as a carefree soul.