Do Your Homework to Ensure Your Kids Are Properly Cared For No Matter What Happens…. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello,

I don’t know about you, but when my kids were young… well lets be real, even now, I worry about them. That’s why, when my kids were young, I did what I could to make sure that if something happened to me, or my husband, my kids would be well cared for.  When I speak with parents during a planning session that is usually the biggest concern…. making sure that the kids are taken care of. This means having a clear financial plan to care for your kids in the event of your early demise, as well as naming guardians. After all, as parents, we all would want the very best surrogate parents caring and raising our children, if we were not able to do so.

If you have minor children at home, and you pass away, the courts may be deciding the fate of your children. I bet that is not what you want. If you agree, then put in place a comprehensive plan to make sure your kids are taken care of by the people you want, in the way that you want and that they receive your financial assets when you want.

Until next week,

Christine

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 Do Your Homework to Ensure Your Kids Are Properly Cared For No Matter What Happens

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It’s back-to-school time again, and when it comes to estate planning you may have homework to do. As a parent, your most critical—and often overlooked—task is to select and legally document guardians for your minor children. Guardians are people legally named to care for your children in the event of your death or incapacity. If you haven’t done that yet, you should immediately do so using our easy-to-use (and absolutely free) website, where you can create legal documents naming the long-term guardians you’d want to care for your children if you could not: https://kidsprotectionplan.com/ 

Don’t think just because you’ve named godparents or have grandparents living nearby, that’s enough. You must name guardians in a legal document, or risk creating conflict and a long, expensive court process for your loved ones—and this can be so easily avoided.

Covering all your bases However, naming permanent guardians is just one step in protecting your kids. It’s equally as important to have someone (plus backups) with documented authority, who can stay with your children until the long-term guardians can be located and formally named by the court, which can take months.

The last thing you want is for police to show up at your home and find your children with a caregiver, who doesn’t have documented or legal authority to stay with them and doesn’t have any idea how to contact someone with such authority. In such a case, police would have no choice but to call Child Protective Services.

Closing the gap This is a major hole in many parent’s estate plans, as we know you’d never want your kids in the care of strangers, even for a short time. To fix this, we’ve created a comprehensive system called the Kids Protection Plan®, which lets you name temporary guardians who have immediate documented authority to care for your children until the long-term guardians you‘ve appointed can be notified and get to your children.

The Kids Protection Plan® also includes specific instructions that are given to everyone entrusted with your children’s care, explaining how to contact your short and long-term guardians. The plan also ensures everyone named by you has the legal documents they’d need on hand and knows exactly what to do if called upon. We even provide you with an ID card for your wallet and emergency instructions to post on your refrigerator, so the contacts and process are prominently available in case something happens to you.

A Foolproof Plan With the Kids Protection Plan®, you’ll name one permanent guardian and one temporary guardian, along with two or more backups, in case the primary isn’t available or cannot serve. And we instruct caregivers to NEVER CALL POLICE IF YOU CANNOT BE REACHED UNTIL ONE OF THE NAMED GUARDIANS ARRIVES AND IS PRESENT WITH YOUR CHILDREN.

Finally, if there’s anyone you’d never want raising your children, we confidentially document that in the plan, preventing them from wasting the time, energy, and assets of the people you do want caring for your children.

With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, you have access to the entire Kids Protection Plan® system to ensure the well-being of your children no matter what. As your kids head back to school, do your homework by contacting us today.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Posted in Beneficiaries, Caregiver, Death, Estate Planning, Ezine, Guardianship, Incapacity, Parenting, Special needs, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on Do Your Homework to Ensure Your Kids Are Properly Cared For No Matter What Happens…. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Tips for Increasing a Small Business’ Online Presence… The Christine Chronicles

Hi,

Online presence and branding should be part of your business planning arsenal. Consider that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine (2016).  While most small businesses – high 70th percentile – use social media in their marketing strategy, only 32% seriously invest in social media marketing.  Considering that most – 81% – of the entire U.S. population has at least one social media profile, you can get ahead of your competition merely by investing more into  just your social medial alone. Below are a few tips on making your business stand out.

Until next week! 

Christine

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Tips for Increasing a Small Business’ Online Presence

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In today’s digital-everything world, nearly every business—no matter how small—has some degree of online presence. Some, like e-commerce shops, may operate completely online, while even brick and mortar businesses likely have a website and Facebook account.

However, unless you’re an online-marketing guru, building your business’ online presence can be challenging. Here. we’ll offer valuable tips for maximizing your online operations, so your company can thrive and grow in the web marketplace.

Be unique: When it comes to e-commerce, you’re competing with businesses around the world, so your web services should stand out by offering something unique. What will attract customers away from your competitors’ websites and toward yours? A website and/or app that speaks to your unique brand is a must, otherwise your business will get lost amidst the sea of other businesses. One key thing to remember is many people shop online for convenience. So make sure you’re not only offering a unique product, but you’re also making the shopping experience quick and easy for customers. A few examples of this are an easy-to-navigate e-store, quick shipping options, and superior customer service.

Be consistent: Whether you’re found only online or boast other retail outlets, your company’s brand and message need to be clearly communicated at every step. It’s vital you create a winning brand identity and stick with it, no matter where a customer encounters your company. To this end, your website, app, social media, and/or physical aesthetic should be consistent as much as possible. Such consistency develops a more uniform experience that customers will become familiar with and remember. This builds brand recognition and repeat business, as people are more likely to seek out companies they recognize and are comfortable with. A uniform style is what allows even small-scale businesses to stand out and thrive on a global scale.

Keep fulfillment standards high: If you have a fulfillment partner that packs and ships your products or you outsource some other business service, it’s essential these vendors offer the same high-quality service as you. If a customer’s online shopping experience is awesome, but their shipment takes weeks to arrive and/or is damaged when it gets there, you’ve likely lost a customer.

Be everywhere: There are myriad online marketing options to take advantage of to get your brand and message out there. Whether it’s e-newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, online ads, or traditional advertising, it’s critical to stay in the front of a customer’s mind, so whenever her or she wants to make a purchase, you’re just a click away. These e-tools are also an ideal way to engage customers with marketing campaigns—sales, promotions, and VIP services—as well as keep them updated on company news, like the opening of a new location or launch of a new product.

If you’re serious about growing your digital footprint, you’re going to need to ensure your legal systems are in compliance, with up-to-date privacy policies, terms of service, and data management systems. To ensure you’ve got what you need, begin by sitting down with us as your Creative Business Lawyer®. We can help you identify opportunities for growth and put valuable legal and financial protections in place to ensure  the online part of your venture is both secure, in compliance, and competitive in the global marketplace.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Posted in Advertising, Advertising, Building Wealth, Business Article, Business Entities, Entrepreuner, Ezine, Facebook, Financial, Investing, Marketing, Online Presence, Social Media, Success | Tagged , | Comments Off on Tips for Increasing a Small Business’ Online Presence… The Christine Chronicles

The Ins and Outs of Collecting Life Insurance Policy Proceeds…..Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello:

I spent the weekend in Kings Beach on a getaway with Dave. It was nice to get up to Lake Tahoe… have not been for several years. Kings Beach has changed a lot. We noticed that the movie theater where we took our kids in Kings Beach is gone. The city has undergone a nice facelift, with roundabouts and many new restaurants, bars, etc.  I took a dip yesterday and was pleasantly surprised that the water was clear and warm (for Tahoe).  Probably 72 or so, which for Lake Tahoe is pretty warm. I ventured in up to my neck, but Dave was a big “no thanks”. His experience growing up in Florida makes him an unlikely candidate for swimming in Tahoe.  Two weekends of R&R is my idea of living the good life.

Life insurance may be an important component of your investment portfolio. You should understand how the insurance claims process works.  Also, you may not be aware of the pitfalls of naming minor beneficiaries, possibly complicating things substantially later on. The ins and outs of making a claim are our topic for today.

Until next week!

Christine

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The Ins and Outs of Collecting Life Insurance Policy Proceeds

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Unlike many estate assets, if you’re looking to collect the proceeds of a life insurance policy, the process is fairly simple provided you’re named as the beneficiary. That said, following a loved one’s death, the whole world can feel like it’s falling apart, and it’s helpful to know exactly what steps need to be taken to access the insurance funds as quickly and easily as possible during this trying time.

And if you’ve been dependent on the deceased for regular financial support and/or are responsible for paying funeral expenses, the need to access insurance proceeds can sometimes be downright urgent. Here, we’ve outlined the typical procedure for claiming and collecting life insurance proceeds, along with discussing how beneficiaries can deal with common hiccups in the process. However, because all life insurance policies are different and some involve more complexities than others, it’s always a good idea to consult with a Personal Family Lawyer® if you need extra help or guidance.

Filing a claim – To start the life insurance claims process, you first need to identify who the beneficiary of the life insurance policy is—are you the beneficiary, or is a trust set up to handle the claim for you?

We often recommend that life insurance proceeds be paid to a trust, not outright to a beneficiary. This way, the life insurance proceeds can be used by the beneficiary, but the funds are protected from lawsuits and/or creditors that the beneficiary may be involved with—even a future divorce.

In the event that a trust is the beneficiary, contact us so that we can create a certificate of trust that you (or the trustee, if the trustee is someone other than you) can send to the life insurance company, along with a death certificate when one is available.

In any case, you (or the trustee) will notify the insurance company of the policyholder’s death, either by contacting a local agent or by following the instructions on the company’s website. If the policy was provided through an employer, you may need to contact their workplace first, and someone there will put you in touch with the appropriate representative.

Many insurance companies allow you to report the death over the phone or by sending in a simple form and not require the actual death certificate at this stage. Depending on the cause of death, it can sometimes take weeks for the death certificate to be available, so this simplified reporting speeds up the process.

From there, the insurance company typically sends the beneficiary (or the trustee of the trust named as beneficiary) more in-depth forms to fill out, along with further instructions about how to proceed. Some of the information you’re likely to be asked to provide during the claims process include the deceased’s date of birth, date and place of death, their Social Security number, marital status, address, as well as other personal data.

Your state’s vital records office creates the death certificate, and it will either send the certificate directly to you or route it through your funeral/mortuary provider. Once you’ve received a certified copy of the death certificate, you’ll send it to the insurance company, along with the other completed forms requested.

Multiple beneficiaries If more than one adult beneficiary was named, each person should provide his or her own signed and notarized claim form. If any of the primary beneficiaries died before the policyholder, an alternate/contingent beneficiary can claim the proceeds, but he or she will need to send in the death certificates of both the policyholder and the primary beneficiary.

Minors While policyholders are free to name anyone as a beneficiary, when minor children are named, it creates serious complications, as most insurance companies will not allow a minor child to receive life insurance benefits directly until they reach the age of majority. And the age of majority varies between states—with some it’s 18, and others it’s 21.

If a child is named as a beneficiary and has yet to reach the age of majority, the claim proceeds will be paid to the child’s legal guardian, who will be responsible for managing those funds until the child comes of age. Given this, in the event a minor is named you’ll need to go to court to be appointed as legal guardian, even if you’re the child’s parent. This is why we recommend never naming a minor child as a life insurance beneficiary, even as a backup to the primary beneficiary.

Rather than naming a minor child as a life insurance beneficiary, it’s often better to set up a trust to receive the proceeds. By doing that, the proceeds would be paid into the trust, and whomever is named as trustee will follow the steps above to collect the insurance benefits, put them in the trust, and manage the funds for the child’s benefit.

Whatever you decide, you should consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine the best options for passing along your life insurance benefits and other assets to minor children.

Insurance claim payment Provided you fill out the forms properly and include a certified copy of the death certificate, insurance companies typically pay out life insurance claims quickly. In fact, some claims are paid within one-to-two weeks of the start of the process, and rarely do claims take more than 60 days to be paid. Most insurance companies will offer you the option to collect the proceeds via a mailed check or transfer the funds electronically directly to your account.

Sometimes an insurance company will request you to send in a completed W-9 form (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification) from the IRS in order to process a claim. Most of the time, a W-9 is requested only if there is some question or issue with the records, such as having an address provided in a claim form that doesn’t match the one on file. A W-9 is simply a way for the insurance company to verify information to prevent fraudulent activity. To this end, don’t be alarmed if you’re asked for a W-9. It’s a common verification practice, and it doesn’t automatically mean the company suspects you of fraud or plans to deny your claim.

While collecting life insurance proceeds is a fairly simple process, it’s always a good idea to consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® if you have any questions or need help to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible during the often-chaotic period following a loved one’s death.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Court, Death, Estate Planning, Ezine, Guardianship, Healthcare Directives, HIPPA, Incapacity, Inheritances, Insurance, Lawsuits, Medical Power of Attorney, Parenting, Probate, Quality of Life, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on The Ins and Outs of Collecting Life Insurance Policy Proceeds…..Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

The GDPR—What It Is, Who It Impacts, and How to Comply …..The Christine Chronicles

Hi and Happy Friday:

We had a great time in a Yucca Valley visiting Joshua Tree. The rock formations were astonishing. The Joshua Tree is the tree of Life, used for many purposes by Indigenous people. I find the desert peaceful and a place to contemplate life!

Does your business work with clients in the European Union? If so, you should familiarize yourself with the GDPR, it’s requirements and penalties.

Until next week!

Christine Faulkner

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The GDPR—What It Is, Who It Impacts, and How to Comply 

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Like everyone else, you’ve probably been getting a ton of emails and online notices announcing that companies are updating their privacy policies and/or website tracking tools. Although businesses do this from time to time as part of routine updates, practically all of the latest notices are aimed at complying with a new European Union (EU) law known as the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR). Some of you probably don’t even know what GDPR is, and for those of you who do, I’m betting only a fraction of you have made serious efforts to comply with the new law. The good news is—you’re not alone. Surveys have shown that up to 90% of U.S. business owners are currently not in compliance with GDPR, which went into effect on Friday, May 25th. But just because only a few people are following the law doesn’t mean it’s something you should ignore. With the maximum fines for non-compliance as high as 4% of your annual revenue or $24.6 million (whichever is higher), doing nothing could potentially devastate your business. But before you go into panic mode, realize that a lot of the hype surrounding the law has been overblown, particularly for small US-based companies.

The GDPR’s vague language, conflicting media reports, and fear-mongering from newly minted “GDPR consultants” have all fanned the flames of anxiety. Fortunately, we’ve thoroughly researched the GDPR, and we’re going to highlight our findings here to clarify what the new law is, who it applies to, and what—if anything—you should do to comply.

Should I be worried? The first thing you should do is stop stressing! First of all, the EU regulatory bodies charged with enforcement have made it clear that excessive fines and other penalties will be a last resort, not the norm.

That said, if your company does business within the EU—even just collecting names and addresses—then you should become familiar with GDPR and possibly take some basic actions to ensure your company is in reasonable compliance.

What is GDPR? In a nutshell, GDPR is aimed at enhancing EU citizens’ data protection and privacy rights. While the law is primarily designed to protect people’s personal data found online, it impacts all of the ways businesses collect and store customer data.

At its core, GDPR gives EU citizens the right to decide how their personal information is collected, stored, processed, and destroyed. According to GDPR, if you collect personal data from people living in the EU, your company must ensure that these customers:

  • can easily request access to their personal data
  • can easily update their own personal information to keep it accurate
  • can easily request deletion of their personal data
  • can easily request that you stop processing their data
  • can easily request that their data be delivered to themselves or a third party
  • can easily object to profiling or automated decision-making that might impact them

Given its vast scope, GDPR is being touted as the world’s most sweeping privacy law. At the same time, because the law just recently went into effect, it remains to be seen how it will actually work when it’s put into practice and enforced.

Does GDPR apply to my business? Whether a small US business needs to comply is based on whether or not the company stores and processes personal data from EU citizens. What’s considered personal data covers a wide range of identifiers, including:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers, and ID numbers
  • Web tracking (“cookies” and other tools that record who visits your website)
  • Social media posts
  • Health and genetic data
  • Race or ethnicity data

If you collect and use this kind of information from EU residents, your company is technically required to comply with GDPR. If you don’t store such data on EU residents and don’t plan to in the future, the law doesn’t apply to your business.

How do I comply? At the very least, you may want to perform a basic data audit to see how much personal information your company is storing from EU residents. If EU residents don’t make up a significant portion of your customer base, you might simply choose to delete that data and stop doing business in the EU. Or you may decide to take the risk of non-compliance.

If you decide that you want to keep working with and/or marketing to customers in the EU, the level of your company’s compliance will need to be determined on an individual basis. One simple way this can be done is to complete a risk/reward analysis that looks at the costs of compliance, the risks your business faces from non-compliance, and the potential rewards compliance might offer. If you’d like our help with such a risk/reward analysis, call us to help you weigh the pros and cons for your particular business and discuss your compliance options.

It’s possible that small businesses with few EU residents in their database will not be targeted at all, and even if they are, they might simply receive a warning letter about future compliance. At this stage, however, it’s impossible to know for certain how GDPR will be enforced and whether such minimal collections of data will create a serious liability for US business owners.

What does the future hold? Ultimately, GDPR is not intended to stop companies from marketing or processing personal data for aboveboard business reasons—it’s aimed at stopping companies from collecting and using individual data for shady purposes, a la Cambridge Analytica.

In the end, GDPR may turn out to be much ado about nothing, or it could transform the way countries, including our own, handle the privacy rights of their citizens—only time will tell. Until then, you should call us as your Creative Business Lawyer® to set up an appointment to discuss the law’s potential impact on your business. Armed with that knowledge, if and when the GDPR does impact your business, you won’t be caught unaware.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Posted in Asset Protection, Building Wealth, Business Article, Business Entities, Court, Financial, Financing, Insurance, Intellectual Property Protection, Investing, Lawsuits, Success, Succession Planning, Taxes | Comments Off on The GDPR—What It Is, Who It Impacts, and How to Comply …..The Christine Chronicles

Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee, Carefully Consider the Duties and Obligations Involved—Part 2…Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello and Happy Labor Day,

I took the opportunity to celebrate Labor Day by not working the entire weekend. Today I’m returning from Southern California, Yucca Valley to be specific after a weekend with the girls, in the desert. Hope your Labor Day was relaxing!

Choosing your trustee, or agreeing to act as trustee is significant, both in terms of the time involved to complete the job and the complexity. Your trustee must be proactive.  While not a forensic accountant, your trustee should be willing to take financial matters seriously, engage professionals when necessary, and not take the obligations of trustee lightly. Your trusty should understand the meaning of “fiduciary duty” and how that can impact their own liability when managing trust assets.

Until next week

Christine

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Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee, Carefully Consider the Duties and Obligations Involved—Part 2

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Last week, we shared the first part of this series explaining the Powers and Duties that come with Serving as Trustee. Here in part two, we discuss the rest of a trustee’s core responsibilities.

Being asked to serve as trustee can be a huge honor—but it’s also a major responsibility. Indeed, the job entails a wide array of complex duties, and trustees are both ethically and legally required to effectively execute those functions or face significant liability.

To this end, you should thoroughly understand exactly what your role as trustee requires before agreeing to accept the position. Last week, we highlighted three of a trustee’s primary functions, and here we continue with that list, starting with one of the most labor-intensive of all duties—managing and accounting for a trust’s assets.

Manage and account for trust assets – Before a trustee can sell, invest, or make distributions to beneficiaries, he or she must take control of, inventory, and value all trust assets. Ideally, this happens as soon as possible after the death of the grantor in the privacy of a lawyer’s office. As long as assets are titled in the name of the trust, there’s no need for court involvement—unless a beneficiary or creditor forces it with a claim against the trust.

In the best case, the person who created the trust and was the original trustee—usually the grantor—will have maintained an up-to-date inventory of all trust assets. And if the estate is extensive, gathering those assets can be a major undertaking, so contact us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to help review the trust and determine the best course of action.

The value of some assets, like financial accounts, securities, and insurance, will be easy to determine. But with other property—real estate, vehicles, businesses, artwork, furniture, and jewelry—a trustee may need to hire a professional appraiser to determine those values. With the assets secured and valued, the trustee must then identify and pay the grantor’s creditors and other debts.

Be careful about ensuring regularly scheduled payments, such as mortgages, property taxes, and insurance, are promptly paid, or trustees risk personal liability for late payments and/or other penalties. Trustees are also required to prepare and file the grantor’s income and estate tax returns. This includes the final income tax return for the year of the decedent’s death and any prior years’ returns on extension, along with filing an annual return during each subsequent year the trust remains open.

For high-value estates, trustees may have to file a federal estate tax return or possibly a state estate tax return. However, Trump’s new tax law of 2017 doubled the estate tax exemption to $11.2 million, so very few estates will be impacted. But keep in mind, this new exemption is only valid through 2025, when it will return to $5.6 million.

During this entire process, it’s vital that trustees keep strict accounting of every transaction (bills paid and income received) made using the trust’s assets, no matter how small. In fact, if a trustee fails to fully pay the trust’s debts, taxes, and expenses before distributing assets to beneficiaries, he or she can be held personally liable if there are insufficient assets to pay for outstanding estate expenses.

Given this, it’s crucial to work with a Personal Family Lawyer® and a qualified accountant to properly account for and pay all trust-related expenses and debts as well as ensure all tax returns are filed on behalf of the trust.

Personally administer the trust – While trustees are nearly always permitted to hire outside advisers like lawyers, accountants, and even professional trust administration services, trustees must personally communicate with those advisors and be the one to make all final decisions on trust matters. After all, the grantor chose you as trustee because they value your judgment.

So even though trustees can delegate much of the underlying legwork, they’re still required to serve as the lead decision maker. What’s more, trustees are ultimately responsible if any mistakes are made. In the end, a trustee’s full range of powers, duties, and discretion will depend on the terms of the trust, so always refer to the trust for specific instructions when delegating tasks and/or making tough decisions. And if you need help understanding what the trust says, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support.

Clear communication with beneficiaries – To keep them informed and updated as to the status of the trust, trustees are required to provide beneficiaries with regular information and reports related to trust matters. Typically, trustees provide such information on an annual basis, but again, the level of communication depends on the trust’s terms.

In general, trustees should provide annual status reports with complete and accurate accounting of the trust’s assets. Moreover, trustees must permit beneficiaries to personally inspect trust property, accounts, and any related documents if requested. Additionally, trustees must provide an annual tax return statement (Schedule K-1) to each beneficiary who’s taxed on income earned by the trust.

Entitled to reasonable fees for services rendered- Given such extensive duties and responsibilities, trustees are entitled to receive reasonable fees for their services. Oftentimes, family members and close friends named as trustee choose not to accept any payment beyond what’s required to cover trust expenses, but this all depends on the trustee’s particular situation and relationship with the grantor and/or beneficiaries.

What’s more, determining what’s “reasonable,” can itself be challenging. Entities like accounting firms, lawyers, banks, and trust administration companies typically charge a percentage of the funds under their management or a set fee for their time. In the end, what’s reasonable is based on the amount of work involved, the level of funds in the trust, the trust’s other expenses, and whether or not the trustee was chosen for their professional experience. Consult with us if you need guidance about what would be considered reasonable in your specific circumstance.

Since the trustee’s duties are comprehensive, complex, and foreign to most people, if you’ve been asked to serve as trustee, it’s critical you have a professional advisor who can give you a clear and accurate assessment of what’s required of you before you accept the position. And if you do choose to serve as trustee, it’s even more important that you have someone who can guide you step-by-step throughout the entire process.

In either case, you can rely on us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to offer the most accurate advice, guidance, and assistance with all trustee duties and functions. We can ensure that you’ll effectively fulfill all of the grantor’s final wishes—and do so in the most efficient and risk-free manner possible. Contact us today to learn more.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Caregiver, Court, Durable Power of Attorney, Estate Planning, Ezine, Financial, Inheritances, Investing, Lawsuits, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee, Carefully Consider the Duties and Obligations Involved—Part 2…Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

3 Unparalleled Advantages of Family-Owned Businesses…..The Christine Chronicles

Hi:

I’m headed out of town this weekend for a visit to Joshua Tree National Park with my girlfriends. I’m looking forward to exploring new places, doing some hiking and rock climbing and just relaxing… that is after we make it through what will undoubtedly be hectic LA holiday traffic Friday afternoon. If you have a family business, you likely know about the pros and cons when working with family. Family businesses tend to be more informal than other types of businesses because of the relationships and expectations. However, keep in mind that you should treat your family business and your family members the same way you would as any other business partner and create business agreements. Your written agreements never guarantee things will always be perfect. However reducing your verbal understanding to writing will clarify the scope of rights/responsibilities of the principals in your business.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Christine Faulkner

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3 Unparalleled Advantages of Family-Owned Businesses

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Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Wal-Mart, Porsche—what do these companies have in common? Outside of being globally recognized brands and generating billions in revenue, they’re also family-owned businesses.

Though family businesses definitely aren’t for everyone and come with some unique challenges, for those who are able to make them work, they offer an array of benefits that simply aren’t available to other companies. If you own a family business or are thinking about starting one, focus on leveraging the following three qualities to gain an upper hand on your competition.

1) Solidarity: A lot of businesses say, “We’re like a family here,” but when it comes to being tight-knit, supportive, and committed to one another, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Indeed, a family business already has a level of intimacy and communication built in that would take years—if ever—to match in a traditional company.

This closeness can foster a sense of shared responsibility, teamwork, and dedication you won’t find anywhere else. What’s more, since these are the people you go home to at the end of the day, it would be hard to find a team with a deeper sense of trust and shared accountability.

On the flip side, working with family can trigger our deepest wounds around trust and betrayal. We strongly recommend you work with a guide to support your family into awareness around power dynamics and handling conflict. Please let us know if we can help in that area.

2) Longevity: While turnover can be near constant in a traditional company, employees in family-owned business often start working with the company when they’re children or young adults. This ensures that there will not only be well-qualified heirs waiting in the wings to lead the company when someone retires, but the entire staff will know the business’ operations from the ground up, which is invaluable in terms of efficiency and respect. In addition, with multiple generations on the job, you’ll have a built-in mechanism for keeping up with the latest trends, technology, and other industry developments without having to hire new people. This mix of old and new blood will keep the company on the cutting edge, while providing a solid foundation of wisdom and experience to fall back on. Finally, with a well-crafted business succession plan as part of the family estate, the elders of the clan can keep the company’s core values and vision intact even when they’re no longer at the helm.

If you want your children to work in the family business, it’s never too early to begin talking with them about how they can get involved, and to invite them to the business table.

3) Flexibility: If you need to take a few days off when your kid gets sick or just want some extra time to relax and recharge, you’ll likely find that your family will be much more flexible and amenable to your personal needs than would a regular boss.

Working with family, you’ll not only have more leniency when it comes to your work schedule, but they’ll likely be more forgiving when it comes to making mistakes as well as more supportive when it’s time to make tough decisions.

But make sure you don’t make the same mistake many family business owners make in thinking that you don’t need legal agreements and clear boundaries in place just because your family. In fact, you may need these tools even more to protect your family relationships in the long-run. No matter how tight-knit and successful your family business is, with us as your Creative Business Lawyer®, you’ll have access to a trusted, unbiased advisor for your legal, financial, insurance, and tax issues. Moreover, our expertise in estate planning is ideal for crafting a winning business succession plan to ensure your family company thrives for generations to come. Contact us today to learn more.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Posted in Asset Protection, Business Article, Business Entities, Employment, Ezine, Family Business, Financial, Startup, Success | Comments Off on 3 Unparalleled Advantages of Family-Owned Businesses…..The Christine Chronicles

Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee, Carefully Consider the Duties and Obligations Involved—Part 1….Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hi,

I hope your week is starting out great. We are traveling to Yucca Valley for a girl’s trip over Labor Day. Ever since Daniel started at ASU 3 years ago, I’ve wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Now I’m going! Super excited to see Pappy & Harriet’s, a local hangout known for casual dining and a great nightlife. We’ll also visit Pioneertown, famous as a movie set for such films as The Cisco Kid and Judge Roy Bean, to name just a few.

Part of what we do at Cava & Faulkner is guide trustees through the administration process. If you are a Trustee, or considering the best person for the job, you should understand the scope of the job as trustee either before saying yes or choosing your trustee. The name trustee is used for a reason!

Until next week

Christine Faulkner

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Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee, 

Carefully Consider the Duties and Obligations Involved Part 1

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If a friend or family member has asked you to serve as trustee for their trust upon their death, you should feel honored—this means they consider you among the most honest, reliable, and responsible people they know. However, being a trustee is not only a great honor, it’s also a major responsibility. The job can entail a wide array of complex duties, and you’re both ethically and legally required to effectively execute those functions or face significant liability. Given this, agreeing to serve as trustee is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly, and you should thoroughly understand exactly what the role requires before giving your answer. Of course, a trustee’s responsibility can vary enormously depending on the size of the estate, the type of trust involved, and the trust’s specific terms and instructions. But every trust comes with a few core requirements, and here we’ll highlight some of the key responsibilities. That said, one of the first things to note about serving as trustee is that the job does NOT require you to be an expert in law, finance, taxes, or any other field related to trust administration. In fact, trustees are not just allowed to seek outside assistance from professionals in these fields, they’re highly encouraged to, and funding to pay for such services will be set aside for this in the trust.

To this end, don’t let the complicated nature of a trustee’s role scare you off. Indeed, there are numerous professionals and entities that specialize in trust administration, and people with no experience with these tasks successfully handle the role all of the time. And besides, depending on who nominated you, declining to serve may not be a realistic or practical option.

Adhere to the trust’s terms – Every trust is unique, and a trustee’s obligations and powers depend largely on what the trust creator, or grantor, allows for, so you should first carefully review the trust’s terms. The trust document outlines all the specific duties you’ll be required to fulfill as well as the appropriate timelines and discretion you’ll have for fulfilling these tasks.

Depending on the size of the estate and the types of assets held by the trust, your responsibilities as trustee can vary greatly. Some trusts are relatively straightforward, with few assets and beneficiaries, so the entire job can be completed within a few weeks or months. Others, especially those containing numerous assets and minor-aged beneficiaries, can take decades to completely fulfill. To ensure you understand exactly what a particular trust’s terms require of you as trustee, consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer®.

Act in the best interests of the beneficiaries – Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the named beneficiaries at all times, and they must not use the position for personal gain. Moreover, they cannot commingle their own funds and assets with those of the trust, nor may they profit from the position beyond the fees set aside to pay for the trusteeship.

If the trust involves multiple beneficiaries, the trustee must balance any competing interests between the various beneficiaries in an impartial and objective manner for the benefit of them all. In some cases, grantors try to prevent conflicts between beneficiaries by including very specific instructions about how and when assets should be distributed, and if so, you must follow these directions exactly as spelled out.

However, some trusts leave asset distribution decisions up to the trustee’s discretion. If so, when deciding how to make distributions, the trustee must carefully evaluate each beneficiary’s current needs, future needs, other sources of income, as well as the potential impact the distribution might have on the other beneficiaries. Such duties should be taken very seriously, as beneficiaries can take legal action against trustees if they can prove he or she violated their fiduciary duties and/or mismanaged the trust.

Invest trust assets prudently – Many trusts contain interest-bearing securities and other investment vehicles. If so, the trustee is responsible not only for protecting and managing these assets, they’re also obligated to make them productive—which typically means selling and/or investing assets to generate income. In doing so, the trustee must exercise reasonable care, skill, and caution when investing trust assets, otherwise known as the “prudent investor” rule. The trustee should always consider the specific purposes, terms, distribution requirements, and other aspects of the trust when meeting this standard. Trustees must invest prudently and diversify investments appropriately to ensure they’re in the best interests of all beneficiaries. Given this, trustees are forbidden from investing trust assets in overly speculative or high-risk stocks and/or other investment vehicles. Unless specifically spelled out in the trust terms, it will be up to the trustee’s discretion to determine the investment strategies that are best suited for the trust’s goals and beneficiaries. If so, you should hire a financial advisor familiar with trusts to help guide you.

Given the unpredictable nature of the economy, it’s important to point out that poor performance of trust investments alone isn’t enough to prove a trustee breached his or her duties to invest prudently. Provided the trustee can show the underlying investment strategies were sound and reasonable, the mere fact that the investments lost money doesn’t make them legally liable. Next week, we’ll continue with PART TWO in this series explaining the scope of powers and duties that come with serving as trustee.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Posted in Beneficiaries, Caregiver, Court, Death, Divorce, Ezine, Guardianship, Healthcare Directives, HIPPA, Incapacity, Inheritances, Insurance, Medical Power of Attorney, Parenting, Pets, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee, Carefully Consider the Duties and Obligations Involved—Part 1….Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

3 Steps to Avoid Getting Taxed or Sued for Misclassifying Your Independent Contractors…The Christine Chronicles

Hello and Happy Friday,

Staying out of litigation seems to be on every business owner’s priority list.  Hiring can be perplexing for employers. Wanting solid people to work in or on your business is the goal. Properly characterizing employees’ vs. independent contractors will make a big difference in your bottom line. Allowing someone to set their own hours, or use their own equipment does not, in and of itself, make them an independent contractor. California is liberal on this issue, and if any doubt exists, the courts will side in finding an employment relationship. This could result in a possible trip (multiple trips) to the labor board for wage and hour liability, with penalties. You might also have Franchise Tax Board exposure and workers compensation payroll issues.  Be very careful if you have, what you believe are, independent contractors working for you. We outline our good practices checklist below.

Until next week!

Christine

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3 Steps to Avoid Getting Taxed or Sued for    Misclassifying Your Independent Contractors

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With the rapid rise of the “gig economy,” which primarily relies on independent contractors instead of W2 employees, there’s been an equally steady climb in the number of Independent Contractor (IC)  misclassification cases filed against businesses. Most misclassifications are not the result of intentional violations of federal and state law, but rather, unintentional mistakes made by business owners, maybe including you, who aren’t aware of the legal landscape.

Up until the last 10 years, most regulatory agencies did little to enforce classification laws, leaving many to believe there wasn’t much risk in failing to strictly comply with the laws. But today there’s heightened scrutiny from regulatory agencies at all levels and numerous lawsuits in the courts.

You could owe back taxes on behalf of team members you’ve mischaracterized, and you may even be subject to criminal charges for misclassification. That said, with the proper legal guidance from us, it’s quite simple to stay safe and compliant. The following are three steps you should take to ensure your IC classifications are up to snuff.

1) Conduct an internal audit of your IC classifications

The first step to ensuring that your ICs are classified properly is to conduct an internal audit of your current classification policies and practices. And if you don’t have any formal policies or practices in place, now is the time to create them. While the federal government, the states, and the courts don’t have a single common test to determine a worker’s classification, there are some overarching themes that they all consider. In general, if you have the right to control or direct how an IC’s work is done, not just what’s to be done, the worker is more likely to be an employee, not an IC. With ICs, you’re only permitted to direct and control the end result of their work, not the manner and methods of getting it done.

Since there are many complex legal issues related to this process, it’s important that you work with us as your Creative Business Lawyer® to review each worker’s on-the-job practices. Often an IC’s contract may state one thing, but their actual work performance and relationship with you may be something entirely different.

For instance, an IC’s contract might state that they’re to work independently, but in reality they work under close supervision. Or their contract may state that they’re free to work with other clients, but the audit shows that the way you’ve structured the relationship makes it impractical or impossible for them to work for anyone but you. By auditing your policies and practices in this way, you can identify and change any problem areas internally, before a regulatory agency steps in to investigate.

2) Revisit and revise contracts when needed

Even if you’ve worked with someone for years without any problems using only a verbal agreement, it’s vital that every IC you hire has a properly drafted written contract in place, describing exactly what’s expected of them and laying out the parameters of their relationship with you.

You can see that we bolded, underlined, and italicized the fact that you need a contract in place for each of your ICs, and that’s because we cannot emphasize this point enough—it’s the foundation of your protection from misclassification. Your IC contract should clearly define the scope of work, the time frame involved, their communication process with you, and the terms of payment. Additionally, the contract should clearly state that the worker is responsible for his or her own workplace, equipment, and expenses.

From there, be sure to have us carefully analyze and rework the contract language when and where needed—even if another lawyer prepared the contract for you. In recent court cases, attorneys for ICs have successfully used the company’s own contracts to show that the business had the right to direct and control the methods and means of the worker’s contracted services, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A fairly significant safe harbor for you would be if your IC is using their own contract and had their own business entity set up.

3) Implement and enforce classifications

Once you’ve identified and revised any gaps or areas needing improvement in your IC classification policies and practices, the final step is to make certain these criteria are implemented and enforced. Your policies and contracts are worthless if they’re not actually being followed. Remember, the Department of Labor (DOL), state agencies, and the courts are only concerned with what an IC is doing, not what’s in their contract or job description.

If necessary, revise your company’s operating manual and procedures to ensure that the provisions of the contracts and policies are documented, implemented, and enforced. Try to foresee any likely barriers to implementing your policies, and then develop strategies to overcome those obstacles with an adoption process that can evolve to fit your company’s needs both now and in the future.

Whether you need help reviewing your IC classification practices and/or properly drafting IC contracts, trust us as your Creative Business Lawyer® to guide and assist you. Although there’s an uptick in IC misclassification cases right now, with the proper policies and contracts in place, you can rest assured your company is entirely compliant and up to date.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Posted in Asset Protection, Business Article, Court, Employment, Lawsuits, Success | Comments Off on 3 Steps to Avoid Getting Taxed or Sued for Misclassifying Your Independent Contractors…The Christine Chronicles

Create a Special Needs Trust to Protect the Financial Future of Your Child with Special Needs ….Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello,

This has been a difficult weekend for our family. Our youngest son Cameron lost one of his good friends from kindergarten on Friday night. It’s been very hard on him and his close group of friends. These situations remind me to never miss an opportunity to tell my family how much I love and value them, and to literally touch them, a gesture of how much they mean to me.

Creating a special needs trust is also a gesture of love for your child. Ensuring their assets are preserved to enhance their lives is huge. Not sacrificing their public benefits, such as social security and Medicare during this process, is why you create a special needs trust plan.

Until next week!

Christine Faulkner

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Create a Special Needs Trust to Protect the Financial Future of Your Child with Special Needs

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It always surprises me to hear parents who have a child with special needs tell me that they were not aware of what they needed to do to ensure the future well-being and care of their child is properly handled. Or sometimes, they tell me they didn’t know they needed to do anything at all. If that’s you, and you have a child with special needs at home, this article is for you. And if you have friends or family who have a child with special needs, please share this article with them.

Every parent who has a child with special needs must understand what’s needed to provide for the emotional, physical, and financial needs of their child, if and when something happens to them. Naming guardians Of course, the first and most critical step in ensuring the well-being and care of your child with special needs’ future is to name both short and long-term legal guardians to take custody of and care of your child, in the event of your death or incapacity. And as you well know, this responsibility doesn’t end at age 18, if your child will not grow into an adult who can independently care for him or herself.

While we understand this lifetime responsibility probably feels overwhelming, we’ve been told repeatedly by parents that naming legal guardians in writing and knowing their child will be cared for in the way they want, by the people they want, creates immense relief.

We frequently build in plans where the named guardians are properly instructed—and even incentivized—to give your child the same care you provide. For example, we’ve created plans whereby the named guardian is compensated for taking the child to dinner and the movies weekly, or doing something similar if this is something the child used to enjoy doing with his or her parents. But without written instructions (and perhaps compensation) built into the plan, fun activities like this can often go by the wayside when you’re no longer available. For guidance on selecting legal guardians and properly instructing them to provide your child with special needs the same level of care and attention you do, consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer®. Beyond naming a guardian, you’ll  also need to provide financial resources to allow your child to live out his or her life in the manner you desire. This is where things can get tricky for children with special needs. In fact, it may seem like a “Catch-22” situation. You want to leave your child enough money to afford the support they need to live a comfortable life. Yet, if you leave money directly to a person with special needs, you risk disqualifying him or her for government benefits.

Special Needs Trusts –  Fortunately, the government allows assets to be held in what’s known as a “special needs trust” to provide supplemental financial resources for a physically, mentally, or developmentally disabled child without affecting his or her eligibility for public healthcare and income assistance benefits. However, the rules for such trusts are complicated and can vary greatly between different states, so you should work with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® in order to create a comprehensive special needs trust that’s properly structured and appropriate for your child’s specific situation.

Setting up the trust –  Funds from a special needs trust cannot be distributed directly to a beneficiary and must be disbursed to a third-party who’s responsible for administering the trust. Given this, when you initially set up the trust, you’ll likely be both the “grantor” (trust creator) and “trustee” (the person responsible for managing the trust), and your child with special needs is the trust’s “beneficiary.” You’ll then name the person you want responsible for administering the trust’s funds once you’re no longer able to as “successor trustee.” To avoid conflicts of interest, overburdening the named guardian with too much responsibility, and provide checks and balances, it can sometimes be best to name someone other than your child’s guardian as trustee. As the parent, you serve as the trustee until you die or become incapacitated, at which time the successor trustee takes over. Each person who serves as trustee is legally required to follow the trust’s terms and use its funds and property for the benefit of the individual with special needs.

And in all cases, you should name a series of successor trustees, which can even be a bank, trust company, or other professional fiduciary, as backups to your primary named trustee.

Placing money and property into a special needs trust There are two ways to set up a special needs trust. In one situation, we build it into your revocable living trust, and it will arise, or spring up, upon your death. From there, assets that are held in your revocable living trust will be used to fund your child’s special needs trust.

In other cases, we can set up a special needs trust that acts as a vehicle for receiving and holding assets for your child now. This makes sense if you have parents or other relatives who want to give your child with special needs gifts sooner rather than later.

We’ll be dedicating a future article on the available estate planning options you can use to pass money to a special needs trust. Until then, consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® if you need guidance on the planning vehicles that are best suited for this purpose. The trustee’s responsibilities Once the trust is funded, it’s the trustee’s job to use its funds to support the beneficiary without jeopardizing eligibility for government benefits. To handle this properly, the trustee must have a thorough understanding of how eligibility for such benefits works and stay current with the law.  The trustee is also required to pay the beneficiary’s taxes, keep detailed records, invest trust property, and stay current with the beneficiary’s needs. Given this huge responsibility, it’s often best that you name a legal or financial professional who’s familiar with the complexities of the law as trustee or co-trustee, so they can properly handle the duties and not jeopardize eligibility. If you need help creating a special needs trust for your child, contact us as your Personal Family Lawyer ®. We can develop a sustainable living plan for your child with special needs that will provide her or him with the financial means they need to live a full life, while preserving their access to government benefits. Contact us today to get started.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Death, Estate Planning, Ezine, Guardianship, Inheritances, Insurance, Medical Power of Attorney, Parenting, Probate, Special needs, Success, Trusts | Comments Off on Create a Special Needs Trust to Protect the Financial Future of Your Child with Special Needs ….Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Protect Your Intellectual Property With Copyrights…..The Christine Chronicles

Hello,

So I had an interesting morning.  I was headed to court and my rear tire starting thumping, which got louder and louder. Fortunately for me, I never got on the freeway, realizing that I likely had a flat.  I ended up a local gas station, thinking I might just air up the tire enough to make it to the tire store.  Not to be… by the time I arrived at the gas station, the tire was completely blown out, with black, rubber material leaking all over the ground.  Luckily for me I did not damage the rim, which as you know, is just one more expense. In talking to Dave, he tells me NOW, that I should be checking the air in my tires monthly. Well honestly, who knew (probably a lot of folks, just not me). I try to take vehicle maintenance seriously, but I just did not know!

Not being in the know can cost you, just like the set of new tires I’m now invested in.  In business, your online presence has a huge impact on your ability to attract and inform prospective clients and customers. Be smart, and protect your intellectual property to the fullest extent available to you. Understanding what IP you can and should protect and the legal steps necessary, if any, is the first step in your education.  Once educated, you can make an informed decision on whether formal copyright is necessary to adequately protect your intellectual property from would be poachers. Position yourself and your business to take advantage of the broadest legal remedies available.

Until next week.

Christine

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Protect Your Intellectual Property With Copyrights

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Just about every business owner, whether they know it or not, has created some form of intellectual property (IP) during the life of their company. IP is an extremely important part of your business. Indeed, valuation experts estimate that IP makes up 40% to 90% of the total value of some companies.

When it comes to IP protection, patents protect inventions and trademarks protect brand names, while copyrights protect a wide range of original creative output, including literary, musical, dramatic, and artistic works, among others. For instance, if you’re the original creator, all elements of your website—written content, photos, graphics, audio, and video—are eligible for copyright protection. But if you’re not the original creator of these elements and don’t have the correct legal agreements in place, you may not own the work displayed on your company’s website. In an upcoming article, we’ll look into this topic more deeply, explaining how you can protect work created for you by someone else using work-for-hire clauses.

All of this makes copyrights among the most vital and valuable forms of IP. If you’re serious about enforcing your ownership (and you most definitely should be), you need to register your work through the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright Protection That said, you do not have to formally register to own a copyright—the original authorship of the material is enough. In fact, any work created since 1978 is protected for the owner’s lifetime plus 70 additional years.

But if you’re using the work as part of your business, and you want to ensure you are able to protect your ownership, you absolutely should register your creations. This will provide you with much more leverage to enforce ownership, up to and including filing a lawsuit against an infringer. And you’ll want to register promptly, as “timely registration,” or registering within three months of publication, makes it far easier to prevent infringers from stealing you work.

With timely registration, there’s a legal presumption that your copyright is valid, and you can potentially recover up to $150,000, including legal fees, without having to prove actual monetary harm. But you don’t even have to sue an infringer to get them to stop—copyright registration also allows you to file for injunctions and restraining orders against violators to prevent further use.

The Copyright Symbol A copyright notice, or the symbol ©, and is used to identify copyright ownership in tangible works. Although using the symbol used to be required for enforcement, the law changed in 1989, making its use optional. To properly identify your copyright, you should use the © as well as list the original publication date and name of the owner.  An example of a properly listed copyright: © 2018 Jane Doe.

If you need any guidance regarding copyright use or help navigating any area of intellectual property law, you should contact us as your Creative Business Lawyer®. We have years of experience working with business owners just like you to help them properly protect—and profit from—all of their creative assets.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Posted in Asset Protection, Business Article, Business Entities, Court, Ezine, Financial, Investing, Lawsuits, Success | Comments Off on Protect Your Intellectual Property With Copyrights…..The Christine Chronicles