I Don’t Have Kids, So Why Do I Need Estate Planning? Part 1… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hi:

I had an eventful, fitness weekend.  I walked both Saturday and Sunday with my walking group Hands up for Hooters, and attended a gait clinic at Fleet Feet on Saturday morning to fix what is wrong with my form (well this was tailored for runners but applies to walking too).  I’m working on being mindful of my calorie intake, with a goal of maintaining my post Camino weight, which means I already have to lose a few lbs.  Calories in vs. energy expended is the name of the game and I am trying to keep sugar out of my line of sight… pretty tough but once the sugar is gone, it’s amazing how the cravings disappear too.  Staying on track with personal and fitness goals is my focus in order to become more disciplined and actually reach these goals, instead of just thinking about them!

Are you single, and wondering why an estate plan is important? Unless you are ok with a costly, time consuming court process, then planning is essential. Even if your assets were not probated, they could be lost and end up with the state of CA Dept. of Unclaimed Property, already bursting at the seams with over $8 Billion in unclaimed property.  More to the point, no matter how much, or little you feel you have, exerting control to decide who, when and how your assets are distributed is a gift you give to yourself and others. If you have children, ensuring that your assets pass to them expeditiously and with as little cost as possible is a true gift of love. Make it easy, from the beginning, rather than harder in the end.

Until next week!

Christine

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I Don’t Have Kids, So Why Do I Need Estate Planning? Part 1

It’s a common misconception to think that if you don’t have children, you  don’t need to worry about estate planning. But the fact is, it can be even MORE important to do estate planning if you have no children.

Some of the common thoughts behind this mistaken belief may take one of these forms:

“If I die, everything will pass to my spouse anyway, so why bother?”

“I’m single with little wealth, so who cares who gets my few meager assets?”

“Estate planning is an expensive hassle and it doesn’t even benefit me because I’ll be dead, so I’m better off letting a judge handle things.”

This kind of thinking ignores several basic facts about both estate planning and life in general. Regardless of your marital status, if you don’t have children, you face potential estate-planning complications which those with children do not. And this is true whether you’re wealthy or have very limited assets.

Without proper estate planning, you’re not only jeopardizing your personal property, but you’re putting your life at risk, too. And that’s not even mentioning the potential conflict and expense you’re leaving for your surviving family and friends to deal with.

So if you’re childless, consider the first of three inconvenient truths before you decide to forego estate planning.

Someone will get your stuff
Whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, when you die, everything you own will be passed on to someone. Without a will or trust, your assets will go through probate, where a judge and state law will decide who gets everything you own. In the event no family steps forward, your assets will become property of your state government.

Why give the state everything you worked your life to build? And even if you have little financial wealth, you undoubtedly own a few sentimental items, including pets, that you’d like to pass to a close friend or favorite charity.

However, it’s rare for someone to die without any family members stepping forward. It’s far more likely that some relative you haven’t spoken with in years will come out of the woodwork to stake a claim. Without a will or trust, state laws establish which family member has the priority inheritance. If you’re unmarried with no children, this hierarchy typically puts parents first, then siblings, then more distant relatives like nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Depending on your family, this could have a potentially dangerous—even deadly—outcome. For instance, what if your closest living relative is your estranged brother with serious addiction issues? Or what if your assets are passed on to a niece who’s still a child and likely to squander the inheritance?

And if your estate does contain significant wealth and assets, this could lead to a costly and contentious court battle, with all of your relatives hiring expensive lawyers to fight over your estate—which is exactly what’s happening with Prince’s family right now.

Finally, even if you have a spouse and your assets are passed to him or her, there’s no guarantee they’ll live much longer than you. In the event of their death without a will or a trust, everything goes to his or her family, regardless of the fact that you can’t stand your in-laws.

You really don’t want your spouse’s sister, brother, parents (or the new spouse he or she marries after you die) inheriting what you’ve worked so hard for, do you?

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, Celebrity, Death, Divorce, Estate Planning, Inheritances, Pets, Probate, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on I Don’t Have Kids, So Why Do I Need Estate Planning? Part 1… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

5 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Business… The Christine Chronicles

Happy Friday:

What’s on your agenda this weekend?  I have no plans for this evening yet but we may possibly listen to free music at McConnel Winery and drink a glass of their yummy raspberry sparkling wine. Or perhaps we’ll just see a move, but not sure what’s playing. Dave and I are still unwinding from our walk in Spain, with ongoing aches, pains and fatigue 3 weeks later.  I am not super motivated to be busy, but plan to get back into the walking game and up my mileage beginning this weekend, with a goal of at least 5 miles a day. Already, I feel the lbs. creeping back on.

Starting your own business is not easy, so you better make sure you have passion and commitment to tide you through. Today we present tips every entrepreneur should consider before opening their doors, both practical and legal tips. When it comes to problem solving, think about Amazon, who started as a bookseller (MVP). Now look at the plethora of not only products but services they offer. Don’t forget the legal , insurance, financial and tax considerations for any start up to cover your bases.  Read it all here!

Enjoy your weekend.

Christine

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5 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Business

These days, you’ll find all sorts of advice about how best to launch a business. But with so much information out there, it’s hard to know what you should heed and what you can ignore.

To make things simple, we’ve compiled a list of five fundamental tips for starting a business that you can’t afford to miss.

Solve a problem
One of the best ways to come up with a winning business idea is to design your product or service to solve a specific problem. By fixing a problem, you’ll have a solid customer base right out of the gate, who won’t need much selling provided your solution works.

If possible, create your business around a problem you’ve faced yourself, so you thoroughly understand and trust the value your company offers. If your business truly helps improve people’s lives, you’ll succeed.

Stop waiting and start doing
While it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s often better to launch your business before you feel like your product is 100% perfect. Delaying your start is often an unconscious way of procrastinating—and besides, you’ll probably never feel like your business is totally perfect.

Best to launch fast before anyone else beats you to the market—or before you second-guess yourself out of launching at all. From there, you can adapt and perfect your solution with a small group of paying customers, whom you should give special attention in order to guarantee their happiness and loyalty. The most effective way to learn is to get your product into people’s hands or your service into people’s lives and see how they like it.

Remember, you should be prepared to fail, learn from your mistakes, and keep iterating!

Keep it simple
When you come up with a great business idea, it’s tempting to imagine all of the possibilities of where it might go, and try to add all of those things into your launch. But you should narrow your focus and costs by making your solution as effective as possible, without getting too elaborate or complicated.

Consider the minimum viable product, or MVP, often talked about in the tech sector. What’s the minimum you can offer and get the results you envision for the people you serve? Offer that first, and build upon it from there.

Once your company is up and running and you’ve got some income and customers, it will be much easier and affordable to add additional features.

Be passionate but self-aware
The most successful business ideas are ones that are near and dear to your heart. Focusing on something you’re passionate about will help keep you motivated to do whatever it takes to succeed.

However, just being passionate won’t guarantee success. It takes a certain mindset to endure the rigors of entrepreneurship, so unless you’re comfortable taking risks, learning from failure, and working harder than you ever have before, you might want to rethink things.

When things get challenging—and they definitely will—this mix of passion and fortitude will allow you to stay the course.

Know what it takes to LIFT your business right from the start
Starting a business involves setting up the correct legal, insurance, financial, and tax systems to support your goals and objectives.

You can begin with the MVP of legal, insurance, financial, and tax (LIFT) systems, but don’t go bare. At the very minimum, you need a legal entity (in the right state and of the right type), some basic agreements, and possibly a trademark. You also need basic insurance coverage, financial tracking and reporting systems, and tax planning.

You may be able to do some of this yourself, provided you’ve got the right guidance to make wise decisions. As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we offer exactly this kind of support with our LIFT Start-Up Sessions. Contact us to schedule one before starting your business—or if you’ve started a company but have yet to set up LIFT systems, or if you’re simply not sure they’ve been set up correctly.

We’ll make sure you’ve got the right LIFT foundation to support your vision and goals, so your startup has the best possible chances for both initial success and future growth.

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.

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Wellness Programs Boost Employee Health and Happiness—and Your Bottom Line… The Christine Chronicles

Hello:

I hope you enjoyed a safe and relaxing 4th of July. We had a small get together at our place, and recreated a bit of Spain by making homemade sangria.  It was not even a close 2nd to the sangria in Spain, but we still enjoyed a sweet, fruity red wine concoction.  We are headed into what looks like a busy July, with a Lobster feed next weekend, and speaking presentation for the Farm Bureau the week after, in addition to more fun weekend get-togethers. Tonight we are headed to McConnell Winery for free music with friends. Now that Daniel is 21, he can join us. It’s the best having adult children to hang out–just for fun.

Does attracting and keeping great employees make you shake your head?  Keeping great employees working for you is the goal, but  can seem elusive right? One of the biggest challenges in any business is finding the sweet spot between interesting work duties, benefits and autonomy, that makes employees love their workplace, and want to stay for a while. Offering a wellness program, one that fits your budget and attracts talent is money well spent. Your healthier, happier and more productive staff will no doubt improve your own health by providing for fewer staffing headaches and greater peace of mind.

Enjoy your weekend!

Christine

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Wellness Programs Boost Employee Health and Happiness—and Your Bottom Line

Business owners who launch workplace health and wellness programs can enjoy a wide-range of valuable benefits, not just for their employees, but for the entire company.

Outside of a healthier and happier team, such programs can also increase productivity, save money, and even enhance your brand’s image among current and prospective employees.

If you’re looking for a relatively simple way to motivate your staff and increase loyalty, workplace wellness programs should be at the top of your list. The following are just a few of most powerful benefits participating companies can experience.

Improved employee productivity
The most valuable benefit of employee health and wellness programs for business owners is improved productivity. The healthier your employees are, the better they’ll be at their jobs.

In fact, one study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that employees who participated in health and wellness programs each gained an average of 10 hours in additional productivity annually. This boost saved their companies $335 in productivity costs per person per year compared to non-participants.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.

Wellness programs that help employees develop healthier lifestyles will ultimately improve their productivity—and your bottom line.

Decreased stress and improved morale
Health and wellness programs not only improve employees’ physical health, but they also improve their mental health. This can be incredibly valuable for small business owners, as employees at small to medium-sized companies often feel the most stressed out, as they’re typically shouldering more responsibilities than those at bigger firms.

You don’t need any studies to prove that less stressed-out employees are going to be happier and more productive. Happier and healthier employees are naturally going to have improved work performance, and that’s all the more reason to institute simple things to improve their health outcomes.

Simply providing access to healthy snacks and drinks in the workplace can encourage your team to take short breaks and eat food that will boost their energy levels. Or you might offer flexible work schedules and/or work-from-home opportunities—anything to make employees feel more content.

Fewer sick days
Again, it’s a no-brainer that healthier employees are going to take fewer sick days. To achieve this, you should provide resources to help improve employee health behaviors.

The easiest way to get employees to adopt a healthier lifestyle is no big secret—simply give them increased opportunities to eat better and exercise more frequently. Most people want to eat healthier and exercise, but many feel like they just don’t have the time.

Stocking the workplace with healthy snacks is one easy option. But you can also give employees more time for lunch, so they don’t have to rely on fast food, or offer to cater lunch for them, and order the food from a nutritious eatery.

It terms of exercise, you can start weekly workplace-sponsored yoga, aerobic, and/or dance classes. Or offer those who use the gym at lunch or right after work an extended break/ earlier time off, so they can more conveniently fit exercise into their daily routine. This might even cause your more sedentary employees to start a fitness regimen out of jealousy.

Enhanced recruitment
Want to attract and retain the best employees? Offer better benefits than your rivals. Employees who feel like they’re treated better by one employer versus another will nearly always go with the employer who takes care of them—-sometimes even if they offer less pay.

Health and wellness programs are a popular way to attract top talent. All of the standout tech and software companies know the draw of impressive health and wellness programs, as they are fighting to hire the top employees in the world. Microsoft, for example, offers a free wellness program, free gym membership, onsite health clinics, and no health insurance premium.

These extra benefits not only help keep Microsoft’s team healthy, happier, and more productive, but they also encourage them to stay with the company, while attracting new talent. With such an array of incredible benefits, why wouldn’t you launch a health and wellness program?

As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can advise you on the most effective ways to improve your employees’ health and wellness. We can also help you navigate any legal, insurance, financial, or tax issues that may come up as a result of the new wellness initiatives. 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.

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6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 2… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello and Happy Monday:

Wow, the 4th of July will be moderate, and not oppressively hot this year. We will likely spend time with friends/family in the pool & BBQing. We’ve been working on plans to remodel parts of our home and the yard is no exception. We purchased tomatoes and some other plants to beautify our backyard. Jean Marie did a fabulous job of planting lovely flowers during our trip to Spain and I was pleasantly surprised to see a super-clean back yard and lovely flowers in the pots. I could not resist purchasing some rather peaked Nasturtium’s at the local hardware store, for a hanging pot I am working on.  In addition to looking beautiful in reds, oranges and yellow, you can eat the entire flower, stem and all.  Should make for some colorful salads this summer.

nasturtiums

We hope you enjoy part 2 of our article on naming guardians for your children. This is about the most important decision you can make in your estate plan, so doing it the right way is what we recommend.

Enjoy your 4th of July, and stay safe. (Don’t forget your pets!)

Christine

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6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 2

Last week, we shared the first part of our series on selecting and naming the right guardians for your children. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. Here in part two, we discuss the final three steps in the process.

4. Narrow candidate list, and rank your choices
When you’ve come up with all of the potential candidates for guardian, narrow down the list to your top five people. There’s no guarantee that your ideal candidate(s) will be willing to serve as guardian, so having more than one or two is a practical necessity.

To aide in this process, you should consider things, such as who really loves your children and who do your kids really get along with? Will this person be physically, mentally, and emotionally able to raise your kids to adulthood? The most important thing is to choose SOMEONE, even if you aren’t 100% sure about them, since you can always select a new guardian later.

Then rank your choices from top choice down to last. Again, backups are critical in case your first choice cannot serve.

5. Sit down with top candidates and discuss what’s involved
When it comes to asking someone to be your child’s guardian, you need to provide crystal-clear guidance about what’s involved. The discussion should cover all of your expectations about how you want your kids raised. Speak openly about finances, discipline, education, spirituality, and any needs that are unique to your children.

Once the discussion is complete, give them a few days to carefully consider the choice, even if they seem immediately gung-ho about doing it. Depending on the age of your kids, this could be a more than decade-long commitment. If they don’t carefully think it over, the responsibility can easily turn into resentment.

6. Legally document your plan
It’s essential to legally document your choice as soon as possible. Verbal commitments mean nothing in the eyes of the law. This is especially true when you name a friend over a family member.

Work with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to create a comprehensive plan that includes all of the necessary legal documents to ensure the well-being of your children and the assets you’re leaving behind, no matter what happens.

With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, you’ll have a trusted advisor who can help you navigate all of the legal, insurance, financial, and tax issues involved with estate planning. Indeed, we can put a plan in place that not only protects and provides for your children, but your entire family.

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 find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Posted in Estate Planning, Guardianship, Parenting | Comments Off on 6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 2… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Independent Contractors… The Christine Chronicles

Hello:

We have returned from our trip to Spain, a true physical and emotional adventure.  The boys and I walked 500 miles and Dave walked 400. The scenery was amazing and we enjoyed lovely cool weather. I am about 20 pounds lighter and not surprised, given the herculean effort required at times. I am glad to be home. My feet and calves still hurt and I wonder if they will ever stop hurting? Nevertheless, I must admit, despite the pain, and mental challenges, I already miss the physicality of walking every day for over a month. I am committed to walking regularly to keep the weight off, and stay fit, but mostly to enjoy our beautiful community more often.

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 employment, which would, or could, result in a wage and hour liability, with penalties, along with Franchise Tax Board exposure and workers compensation payroll issues.  Be very careful if you have what you believe are contractors working for you. We discuss this subject in our newsletter today.

Enjoy your weekend.

Christine

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The Pros and Cons of Hiring Independent Contractors

If you’re a business owner, one of the most important choices you must make is whether to hire full-time employees or use independent contractors (IC). While the two classifications may seem quite similar, they both come with a wide array of unique advantages and disadvantages.

What’s more, if you make a mistake when classifying your workers, you can suffer serious penalties and even lawsuits. Here, we’ve broken down the pros and cons that come with hiring ICs, so you can better assess whether or not such workers are a good fit for your company.

Advantages of Independent Contractors

Financial savings
One of the biggest benefits of hiring ICs over employees is the money you can save on taxes and worker’s compensation insurance. While ICs may be paid more per hour than employees, you end up saving money in the long run due to the numerous expenses that come with hiring regular employees.

In addition to the cost of maintaining office space and providing employees with the equipment and materials they need to do their job, you’re also required to pay your share of your employees’ Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as pay for state unemployment compensation insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

And that’s not even considering any extra benefits you provide your staff, such as health insurance, paid time off, and/or retirement vehicles like 401Ks. Paying for all of these expenses can be a huge hit to your finances, especially if you own a small startup.

Less legal liability
Under state and federal laws, employees have an array of legal rights, which means they can bring a wide variety of employment-related lawsuits against you if they feel those rights were violated. While ICs do have some legal rights to sue you, they enjoy far less protections than employees.

Some of the rights employees have that are not afforded to ICs include the right to a minimum wage and overtime pay, employment discrimination protections, rights to sick and family leave, and the right to form unions.

What’s more, employees may also sue employers for wrongful termination. ICs cannot bring such a lawsuit, as their rights to termination disputes are spelled out in the independent contractor agreement created by you.

Increased staffing flexibility
By hiring ICs, you have much more freedom to staff your company however you see fit. This allows you increased flexibility to adjust your staff based on fluctuations in the market and your workload. This freedom can be especially valuable when you’re just starting your business and aren’t sure what kind of demand your products and services will see.

Additionally, you face far less headache, expense, and potential legal liability when it comes to firing or laying off employees. You can hire ICs for a specific task or project and then be free to walk away from the relationship with no hassles once the work is complete.

Disadvantages of Independent Contractors

Less control
One of the great advantages to ICs is the lack of oversight, training, and physical space they require. However, the tradeoff for this freedom is that you have little, if any, control over how they actually do the work you hired them to do.

Indeed, while you’re able to dictate the overall outcome of an IC’s work, they have total “independence” when it comes to how they choose to complete the task at hand, provided it meets the quality and deadline requirements listed in their contract.

Giving workers such total freedom can be difficult for some business owners, especially those that prefer that the work be done using specific processes and/or tools. But it’s vital you don’t interfere too much with a IC’s work, since doing so can result in the IRS re-classifying them as employees, which can result in hefty penalties and expenses.

Increased risk of audits
As mentioned earlier, hiring ICs automatically increases your chances of being audited by the IRS, as the tax agency has a vested interest (in terms of taxes and insurance payments) in ensuring that you maintain an appropriate relationship with independent contractors.

And it’s not just the IRS that can audit your business. A number of federal and state agencies, like the Department of Labor and your state’s unemployment compensation agency, can audit/investigate your company if they think you’re misclassifying employees as ICs.

The bottom line is, if you hire ICs, be sure you take the appropriate steps to ensure that your contractors are truly “independent,” or it can cost you big time.

Contractual disputes
While ICs cannot sue your company for wrongful termination, that doesn’t mean they have zero rights to bring suit. The written contract you both signed controls all aspects of the employment relationship, including your ability to terminate them.

Depending on the terms of the contact, you may not be able to fire an IC as easily as you would an employee. Moreover, if the IC feels you’ve violated the terms of the contract, they can sue you for breach of contract, which leaves you on the hook for attorney’s fees and potential damages.

Another area that can be at risk for dispute with ICs is ownership rights to intellectual property such as copyrights. Unlike employees, with whom you generally own automatic copyrights to what they produce while working for you, ICs typically own full rights to their work product, unless the contract contains a clause transferring ownership rights to you. Make sure you have a “work for hire” clause in all of your independent contractor agreements to ensure you own the rights to anything created by your ICs.

As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we’re your trusted advisor when it comes to employment law and worker classification. If you’re trying to decide whether to hire independent contractors versus employees, or you need to ensure your independent contractor agreements offer your company the best protection from liability, as your Creative Business Lawyer®, we’re here to help.

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 Business Article, Employment, Lawsuits | Comments Off on The Pros and Cons of Hiring Independent Contractors… The Christine Chronicles

Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

 

We are back and up and running.  We returned from Spain on Wednesday 6/20/18, having walked 500 miles over 33 days. I lost about 20 lbs.–now to keep it off. Spain was beautiful and our family had an amazing adventure. We met truly unique and wonderful people and hopefully forged some lifelong friendships.

The boys completed the walking hours ahead of us on most days, with little effort. Dave and I on the other hand, struggled but did it anyway. The days were thankfully cool and mostly overcast/breezy, with a tad bit of rain here and there. This was a bucket list for me, and I cannot truly convey the pride I feel at accomplishing this goal. My feet and legs still hurt but remind me still why enduring, especially during difficult times, is deeply meaningful and what makes us human. Here’s a photo of us in Santiago, after walking about 14 miles in the heat and ending our 500 mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela Spain.

Spain Finish 4

Your kids are just about the most important focus in your life. Making sure that you have a comprehensive plan in place naming both short and long term guardians is, in our opinion, one of the responsibilities of parenthood.  Should you become disable, or worse, do you really want the courts deciding who will raise your children?  I have not met a single parent that is ok with a Judge making such a decision. Yes, it’s that important. We’ve outlined important decision making points in our newsletter to help you identify just who in your life would be the best guardian for your minor children, also highlighting the different roles short and long term guardians play.  Take a few minutes and dive in.

Until next time!

Christine

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6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children

One of your most important responsibilities as a parent is to select and legally document guardians for your children. This doesn’t mean just naming godparents or trusting the grandparents will step in if necessary. It means consciously deciding who would raise your children if you cannot. And then it means legally documenting your choices and making sure the people you’ve chosen know what to do if they’re ever called upon.

However, most people have no idea how to even start this process, much less create a legally binding plan. Because of this, many parents simply never get around to doing it. And those who do often make one of several common mistakes—even if they’ve worked with a lawyer.

Why? Because most lawyers haven’t been trained properly to help parents with this vital issue. As a result, unless you’ve worked with us or another trained Personal Family Lawyer®, it’s likely your children are extremely vulnerable to being taken out of your home and placed in the care of strangers. This might be temporary, while the authorities figure out what to do, or they could end up being raised to adulthood by someone you’d never choose.

Even if you don’t have any minor children at home, please consider sharing this article with any friends or family who do—it’s that important. While it’s rare for something to happen to both parents of a minor child, it does occur, and the consequences are simply too severe to not take a few simple steps to select and legally name guardians the right way.

To help with this process, we’ve outlined some basic steps to select and name a legal guardian. Regardless of whether you own any other assets or wealth, it’s vital to complete this process immediately, so you know that who you care about most—your kids—will be cared for the way you want, no matter what.

1. Define your ideal candidate
The first step in selecting a guardian is to come up with a list outlining the qualities and attributes you and your partner value most when it comes to the long-term care of your children. The list can mirror your own parenting philosophy and style, as well as list the qualities that would make up your absolute “dream” guardian.

In addition to qualities like parental values, discipline style, religious/spiritual background, kindness, and honesty, you also need to consider more practical matters. Is the person young enough and physically capable of raising your kids to adulthood? Do they have a family of their own, and if so, would adding your kids to the mix be too much?

Geography should also come into play—do they live nearby, and if not, would it be a major hardship to relocate your children? Is their home in a location you would feel comfortable having your kids grow up in?

One thing you may think you should consider is financial stability, and that’s a frequent misconception. However, the people you name as legal guardians for your children are the people making decisions for their healthcare and their education, but they don’t need to be the ones managing your children’s financial needs.

Ideally, you’ll leave behind ample financial resources for your children and the people raising them. You can do this by establishing a trust for those resources and naming a financial guardian, or trustee, to oversee them. Please contact us for help with that, as there are many options to consider.

2. Make a list of candidates
Based on those parenting qualities, start compiling a list of people in your life who match your ideals. Be sure to consider not only family, but also close friends.

Though you may feel obligated to choose a family member, this decision is about what’s best for your children’s future, not trying to protect someone’s feelings. And if you’re having trouble coming up with enough suitable candidates, try coming up with people who you would definitely NOT want as guardians, and work backwards from there.

Or consider the person a judge would likely select if you didn’t make your own choice and whether there are any other people you’d prefer to raise your children.

3. Select first responders (temporary guardians)
In addition to legally naming long-term guardians, you also need to choose someone in your local area to be a “first responder,” or temporary guardian. This is someone who lives near you and who’s willing to immediately go to your children during a time of crisis and take care of them until the long-term guardian is notified and appointed by the court pursuant to your long-term guardianship nomination.

If your children are in the care of someone like a babysitter without legal authority to have custody of them, the police will have no choice but to call Child Protective Services and take your children into the care of the authorities. From there, you children could be placed in the care of strangers until your named long-term guardian shows up, or until the court decides on an appropriate guardian.

This is an area where plans that only name a legal guardian through a Will typically fail. Beyond naming just a long-term guardian, you need a short-term, temporary guardian who’s named as the first responder and knows exactly what to do if something happens to you.

Once you’ve chosen your long-term guardian, it’s imperative that all temporary caretakers know exactly how to contact them. This precaution is not just about your death—it also covers your incapacity and any other situation when you’re unable to return home for a lengthy period of time.

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 Estate Planning, Guardianship, Incapacity, Parenting, Wills | Comments Off on Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

The Key Differences Between Wills and Trusts… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Spain poppiesHi there.  It’s Jean Marie this week.

Christine and her family have been on their trip of a lifetime in Spain for over 2 weeks.  They are walking the Camino del Santiago, which is a network of pilgrimage routes to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain. Here, legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried.  Walkers come from around the world, as pilgrims, to test their resolve & endurance, for personal reflection or for all of these reasons.

The route Christine, Dave, Cameron & Daniel are taking is approximately 500 miles.  YES–500 miles, and passes through beautiful countryside.  As of Wednesday, they’d just about reached the halfway mark.  They’re walking about 14-20 miles everyday, and have about 3 weeks to go!  AND, they’re each carrying a backpack with everything they brought with them.  They’re doing great and we’re so proud of them!

Prepared for rain!

Prepared for rain!

Meanwhile Sandra and I are holding down the fort and, a bit surprisingly, keeping quite busy with things that, in Christine and Dave’s absence, are more involved and time consuming. So, no “while the cat’s away…” going on here.  OK, maybe just a tiny bit :-)

We’ve often been asked about the difference between wills and trusts.  Today’s article answers that question.

Until next time,

Jean Marie

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The Key Differences Between Wills and Trusts

When discussing estate planning, a will is what most people think of first. Indeed, wills have been the most popular method for passing on assets to heirs for hundreds of years. But wills aren’t your only option. And if you rely on a will alone to pass on what matters, you’re guaranteeing your family has to go to court when you die.

In contrast, other estate planning vehicles, such as trusts, which used to be available only to the uber wealthy, are now being used by those of all income levels and asset values to keep their loved ones out of the court process.

But determining whether a will or a trust is best for you depends entirely on your personal circumstances. And the fact that estate planning has changed so much makes choosing the right tool for the job even more complex. The best way for you to determine the truly right solution for your family is to meet with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® for a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During that process, we’ll take you through an analysis of your personal assets, what’s most important to you, and what will happen for your loved ones when you become incapacitated or die. From there, you can make the right choice for the people you love.

In the meantime, here are some key distinctions between wills and trusts you should be aware of.

When do they take effect? A will only goes into effect when you die, while a trust takes effect as soon as it’s signed and your assets are transferred into the name of the trust. To this end, a will directs who will receive your property at your death, and a trust specifies how your property will be distributed before your death, at your death, or at a specified time after death. This is what keeps your family out of court in the event of your incapacity or death. Because a will only goes into effect when you die, it offers no protection if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make decisions about your financial and healthcare needs. If you do become incapacitated, your family will have to petition the court to appoint a conservator or guardian to handle your affairs, which can be costly, time consuming, and stressful. With a trust, however, you can include provisions that appoint someone of your choosing—not the court’s—to handle your medical and financial decisions if you’re unable to. This keeps your family out of court, which can be particularly vital during emergencies, when decisions need to be made quickly.

What property do they cover?  A will covers any property solely owned in your name. A will does not cover property co-owned by you with others listed as joint tenants, nor does your will cover assets that pass directly to a beneficiary by contract, such as life insurance. Trusts, on the other hand, cover property that has been transferred, or “funded,” to the trust or where the trust is the named beneficiary of an account or policy. That said, if an asset hasn’t been properly funded to the trust, it won’t be covered, so it’s critical to work with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to ensure the trust is properly funded.

Unfortunately, many lawyers and law firms set up trusts, but don’t then ensure your assets are properly re-titled or beneficiary designated, and the trust doesn’t work when your family needs it. We have systems in place to ensure that transferring assets to your trust and making sure they are properly owned at the time of your incapacity or death happens with ease and convenience.

How they’re administered  In order for assets in a will to be transferred to a beneficiary, the will must pass through the court process called probate. The court oversees the will’s administration in probate, ensuring your property is distributed according to your wishes, with automatic supervision to handle any disputes.

Because probate is a public proceeding, your will becomes part of the public record upon your death, allowing everyone to see the contents of your estate, who your beneficiaries are, and what they’ll receive.

Unlike wills, trusts don’t require your family to go through probate, which can save both time and money. And since the trust doesn’t pass through court, all of its contents remain private.

How much they cost  Wills and trusts do differ in cost—not only when they’re created, but also when they’re used. The average will-based plan can run between $1000-$2000, depending on the options selected.  An average trust-based plan can be set up for $4,000-$6,000, again depending on the options chosen. So at least on the front end, wills are far less expensive than trusts.

However, wills must go through probate, where attorney fees and court costs can be quite hefty, especially if the will is contested. Given this, the total cost of executing the will through probate can run as high as $8,000-$10,000 or more.

Even though a trust may cost more upfront to create than a will, the total costs once probate is factored in can actually make a trust the less expensive option in the long run.

During our Family Wealth Planning Session™, we’ll compare the costs of will-based planning and trust-based planning with you, so you know exactly what you want and why, as well as the total costs and benefits over the long-term. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we offer expert advice on wills, trusts, and numerous other estate planning vehicles. Using proprietary systems, such as our Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment™ and Family Wealth Planning Session™, we’ll carefully analyze your assets—both tangible and intangible—to help you come up with an estate planning solution that offers maximum protection for your family’s particular situation and budget. 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 Beneficiaries, Death, Estate Planning, Incapacity, Inheritances, Insurance, Probate, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on The Key Differences Between Wills and Trusts… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

What Business Owners Should Know About Non-Compete Agreements… The Christine Chronicles

Hello and Happy Friday:

I am in Arizona, working with my family to landscape the front yard of home we own where Daniel and his college peeps live.  Lucky for us, Daniel is a landscape design major and has come up with a beautiful design which will no doubt make he and Serena want to sit outside and enjoy the view from now on.   Here’s where we are right now. I’ll post a picture next week of the after.

Non-compete clauses in employment contracts are difficult to enforce in California.  If you use employment contracts in your business, be sure that any non-compete clauses are very precisely and narrowly drafted. Otherwise they could be construed as being against public policy and unenforceable. Work with an attorney well-versed in these types of employment laws to make sure that your money is well spent but more importantly, that you obtain the hoped for and expected outcome.

Until next time,

Christine

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What Business Owners Should Know About Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements are commonplace in today’s workforce. According to reports from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, roughly 19 percent of American workers, or 30 million people, are currently covered by non-compete agreements.

While non-compete agreements are fairly widespread, they’ve come under fire lately in the courts as being unfair to employees and imposing overly harsh restrictions on competition and innovation. Indeed, some states deem non-competes unenforceable, and in others, they can only be enforced if they meet strict requirements.

In light of this increased scrutiny, we’ve detailed here exactly what these agreements are designed to do and what conditions must exist to ensure they’re legally valid and enforceable. Armed with this information, business owners should be more capable of deciding whether or not their employees need to sign non-compete agreements.

What is a non-compete agreement?
A non-compete agreement is a legally binding contract between an employer and an employee that seeks to restrict the employee’s ability to compete with the employer once the employment relationship has ended. The restrictions typically cover a set period of time and a specific geographic region.

Non-compete agreements are designed to prevent an employee from leaving your company and taking a new position with a competing company—or starting their own company—and using your proprietary company information to compete with you.

Governed by state law
Because there is no federal law governing non-competes, the rules covering how these agreements work is left up to the states. And the manner in which they are enforced varies widely depending on the state.

For example, California considers employee non-competes totally unenforceable and will only consider enforcement if it involves the sale of a business. Beyond California, roughly one-third of all states impose some level of restriction on the enforceability of non-competes.

Since enforcement of non-competes varies so much between states, it’s important that an agreement be tailored specifically to meet your state’s requirements. This is even more important if your company does business in more than one state, as you should have different agreements for each state to reflect their unique laws.

Balancing the rights of employers and employees
In order to be legally valid, the terms of a non-compete agreement should seek to protect your company’s legitimate business interests without harming the employee’s ability to make a living once their employment has terminated.

When challenged, the courts typically scrutinize three elements of a non-compete. To be considered legally valid, a non-compete must:

● Be aimed at protecting the legitimate business interests of an employer
● Be supported by consideration at the time the agreement was signed
● Be reasonable in terms of scope, geography, and time

Protecting legitimate business interests: When creating a non-compete, you should consider what you’re trying to protect with the agreement. Most companies use non-competes to prevent an employee from sharing confidential company information, or trade secrets, with a competitor.

However, for the information to be deemed a trade secret, courts look at whether or not that information was clearly identified as confidential and what steps the company took to protect it. What’s more, you should ensure that an employee actually has access to confidential information before making them sign a non-compete.

Indeed, non-competes should generally target high-level employees with ready access to sensitive company information, rather than using them as a blanket policy for all employees.

Supported by consideration: Another important element of a non-compete is whether or not there is some form of consideration or payment made in exchange for the employee signing the agreement. If the agreement is signed when the employee is hired, courts typically view employment as the consideration.

But if an employee is asked to sign the non-compete after working for the company for some time, courts will often invalidate the agreement if the employee was not offered some payment (raise) or other benefit (promotion) in exchange for signing.

Reasonable scope, geography, and time: In order to be upheld in court, a non-compete agreement that has restrictions on where and for how long an employee is forbidden from competing with your company must be reasonable. For example, the agreement cannot bar an employee from working indefinitely or within the entire U.S., since this would place unreasonable hardship on the employee’s ability to make a living.

What’s considered “reasonable” depends greatly on the type of business, industry, and location. For example, business owners have the right to restrict competition in the immediate area where they operate, but they cannot forbid an ex-employee from operating a similar business in a distant region, where the former employer doesn’t do business.

Similarly, the duration of the non-compete agreement cannot be so long that it would seriously affect the ex-employee from being able to support themselves. Given this, the duration of most non-compete agreements is less than two years, and some last only a few months.

Because striking a balance between protecting your company’s business interests and not unfairly restricting an employee from earning a living can be quite challenging, you should contact us as your Creative Business Lawyer® to help you draft all non-compete agreements.

As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we’re experts in state contract law, so we’ll know the specific requirements that must be met in your particular area of operations. Moreover, we’re experienced in drafting non-compete agreements that will keep you out of court by offering maximum protection for your business without imposing unreasonable restrictions on your team.

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 Business Article, Employment, Entrepreuner, Financial, Intellectual Property Protection | Comments Off on What Business Owners Should Know About Non-Compete Agreements… The Christine Chronicles

Before Your Kids Leave For College, Make Sure They Sign These Documents… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello,

This weekend was a weekend of work for me. I enjoyed a Friday night out with Dave….dinner and a movie, but that was it for fun. I am on a fast countdown to our departure in about six weeks to Spain and I feel very behind in my training to get ready to walk 17 miles a day for a month. There is still much to do, but I am taking a deep breath and doing my best to enjoy my time at work, and when I do have a moment to train, believing it will all fall into place.

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Preparation is what we do here at Cava and Faulkner. Having two college age children myself, and having put these documents in place for my children, I can attest to the importance of putting in place incapacity planning for your children over the age of 18. You likely still think of your teenager as a “kid”, and for all intents and purposes your child is still financially dependent upon you. The irony is that while your financial obligation continues, your ability to help your child make decisions and take care of medical bills becomes virtually impossible without these documents in place. Have a look and think about making an appointment over the summer so that as your child departs for college, you’ll know that you can take care of them even if they are across the country or across town!

Christine

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Before Your Kids Leave For College, Make Sure They Sign These Documents

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With high school graduation coming up, many parents will soon watch their children become adults (at least in the eyes of the law) and leave home to pursue their education and career goals. Turning 18, graduating high school, and moving out is a huge accomplishment. And it also comes with some serious responsibilities that probably aren’t at the forefront of their (or your) mind right now. Once your children become legal adults, many areas that were once under your control are now solely up to them.

Here’s the big one: Before they turned 18, you had access to their financial accounts and had the power to make all of their healthcare decisions. After they turn 18, however, you’re no longer able to do either. Before your kids head out into the world, you should discuss and have them sign the following estate planning documents, so if they become incapacitated, you can easily access their medical records and financial accounts without having to go to court. Signing these documents will ensure that if they ever do need your help and guidance, you’ll have the legal authority to easily provide it.

Medical Power of Attorney

Medical power of attorney allows your child to name an agent (like you), who has the power to make healthcare decisions for them if they’re incapacitated and cannot make such decisions for themselves. For example, this authority allows you to make medical decisions if your child is knocked unconscious in a car accident or falls into a coma due to an illness.

That said, while medical power of attorney would give you authority to view your child’s medical records and make treatment decisions that authority only goes into effect if the child becomes incapacitated. This means that unless your child is incapacitated, you do not have the authority to view their medical records, which are considered private under HIPAA. HIPPA Authorization Passed in 1996, the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” or HIPPA, requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of a patient’s health records. Once your child becomes 18, no one—not even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission. But this is easily remedied by having your child sign a HIPPA authorization that grants you the authority to access his or her medical records. This can be critical if you ever need to make informed decisions about your child’s medical care.

Living Will

While medical power of attorney allows you to make medical decisions over your child’s ongoing healthcare if they’re incapacitated, a living will provides specific guidelines for how their medical care should be handled at the end of life. A living will details how they want medical decisions made for them, not just who makes them. But such power only goes into effect if the child is terminally ill, which typically means they have less than six months to live. Your child may have certain wishes for their end-of-life care, so it’s important you discuss these decisions with them and have such provisions documented in a living will. For example, a living will allows the child to decide when and if they want life support removed if they ever require it. Since these are literally life-or-death decisions, you should document them in a living will to ensure they’re properly carried out.

Durable Power of Attorney

In the event your child becomes incapacitated, you’ll also need a durable power of attorney to access his or her financial accounts. If you do not have a signed, financial durable power of attorney, you’ll have to go to court to get access. While medical power of attorney will authorize you to make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf, durable power of attorney will give you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying bills, applying for Social Security benefits, and/or managing banking and other financial accounts. If your child is getting ready to leave the nest to attend college or pursue some other life goal, you can trust us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to help your child articulate and legally protect their healthcare and end-of-life wishes. With us in your corner, you’ll have peace of mind that your child will be well taken care of in the event of an unforeseen accident or illness.

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, Death, Durable Power of Attorney, Estate Planning, Healthcare Directives, HIPPA, Incapacity, Insurance, Lawsuits, Medical Power of Attorney, Parenting, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on Before Your Kids Leave For College, Make Sure They Sign These Documents… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

6 Types of Insurance Every Business Should Have in Place…The Christine Chronicles

Hello and Happy Friday,

Today’s newsletter covers a crucial topic that every business owner should understand.  Many new business owners just don’t have the capital to invest in multiple insurance policies which adds to their overhead….. at least until they receive greater cash flow. However, certain coverage is mandatory, such as workers compensation and auto insurance is you use your auto for your business.  Not having these coverages can bankrupt you after just one claim so do yourself a favor, and make sure you absolutely have these coverages. Without them, your personal assets are up for grabs and even if you have a business entity to provide asset protection, your business assets are still on the line.

If you are more seasoned in your business, invest in these other coverages to ensure that you are fully protected.  Insurance 121 is a full service Commercial Lines Brokerage firm here in Elk Grove. If you are looking for a professional to assist and educate you on these coverages, we recommend Nicolette Eberle with Insurance 121. Time is money in business and working with an insurance professional who provides great service to your company will save you money and free you up to work in your business and do what you do best.

Christine

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6 Types of Insurance Every Business Should Have in Place
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Before you open your business, it’s imperative to have proper insurance coverage. A single lawsuit or catastrophic event can wipe out a company before it even has a chance to get off the ground.

That said, there are many types of insurance out there, and some policies can be extraordinarily expensive, so it’s critical to know what specific risks your company faces and what types of insurance will best cover those risks. The following insurance types are among the most-often needed for practically every business, no matter how big or small.

1. General liability insurance

All businesses need general liability insurance, which covers lawsuits initiated by third parties (non-employees) for bodily injuries and/or property damage that are directly or indirectly related to your business. It’s important to note that such coverage—and indeed most coverage listed here—is needed even if you aren’t at fault. Remember: anyone can sue anyone for anything, and it’s the lawyer’s fees that will cripple your business, even if you are in the right. The right insurance will cover your legal fees.

2. Professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance covers lawsuits alleging your professional services and/or advice caused a client to suffer financial losses, arising from actions like negligence, mistakes and omissions, and violation of contract. Such coverage is applicable for a wide range of businesses—accountants, lawyers, real-estate agents, consultants, IT firms, among others.

3. Property insurance

Regardless whether you own or lease your office space, property insurance is a must. Such policies cover damage to equipment, furniture, and signage from events like fires, storms, and theft. Some natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes, may not be covered, so be sure to check with your agent to add additional coverage if you live in a disaster-prone region. You may also want to consider business interruption insurance to protect your revenue if your company is unable to operate due to a natural disaster or other catastrophic event.

4. Workers’ compensation insurance

If you have any W2 employees, state law require workers’ compensation insurance, so it’s mandatory in many cases. Workers’ comp offers medical treatment, disability, and death benefits for employees. And even if your business is relatively low-risk, coverage is still needed for claims like slip-and-fall injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.

5. Vehicle insurance

If your employees use a company-owned vehicle to conduct business, those vehicles  should have comprehensive commercial auto insurance to protect against liability as well as any injury/damage to your employees, vehicles, products, and equipment. If your employees use their own vehicles, their personal insurance often covers them. But it’s a good idea to purchase “non-owned auto liability coverage” in case an employee fails to renew their insurance or has inadequate coverage.

6. Employment Practices insurance

If you have employees, one of your biggest risks is getting sued by one of them. If you have employment practices insurance in place, however, a lawsuit against you would be covered by your policy.

As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we’re experts at helping business owners assess the legal risks they face and determine the insurance they need. Contact us today to discuss exactly what kind of insurance you need and what levels of coverage will best protect your company.

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 Entities, Court, Employment, Insurance, Investing, Lawsuits, Success | Comments Off on 6 Types of Insurance Every Business Should Have in Place…The Christine Chronicles