Common Estate Planning Issues You Must Navigate When Contemplating a Second (or more) Marriage… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello,

I’m in Scottsdale Arizona at the moment about to embark on the go to local hike…..Camelback. I’m looking forward to hitting the trail with my son Daniel and his girlfriend Serena. We celebrated Daniel’s 21st birthday yesterday and it was great to be with the kids! I’m looking like a local in my blue cowboy hat. Check us out!! 

Camelback

Second marriages and blended families take estate planning to another level. If you’re contemplating remarrying or are a blended family come see us to put thoughtful planning in place!! 

Until next week!

Christine

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Common Estate Planning Issues You Must Navigate When Contemplating a Second (or more) Marriage

These days, second and even third marriages are fairly commonplace. And the estate planning issues that arise from multiple marriages can be highly complex and confusing. Merging two families into one presents unique legal and financial challenges that can cause significant conflict and distress unless effective estate planning has been put into place early on. Here are a few of the most common issues that blended families should keep in mind when it comes to estate planning.

Keeping assets separate                                                                                                                 If you get remarried and have children from your previous marriage(s), you need to think about how you want to balance providing for your new spouse and ensuring the children from your previous marriage are taken care of in the event you become incapacitated or when you die. If you intend to keep your assets separate, so each spouse can pass an inheritance to his or her own children, you’ll need to create and maintain separate accounts. One account contains the assets you want to pass on to your children, and the other can be either a separate or joint account that contains the assets you want to share with your spouse. If you and your spouse commingle your income and assets, then the new spouse will have claim and control of those assets when you die, which can leave your kids with nothing. Moreover, joint accounts can be subject to claims from a former spouse and/or creditors, so unless you want your new spouse to share that risk, keep at least some assets separate.

And, if you’re keeping assets separate, be sure to talk with us about how to do that properly, as it can get tricky, particularly when you start sharing some assets and buying new assets together.

Inheritance timing                                                                                                                      If you have children for whom you want to leave an inheritance, you should think about how and when you want those assets passed on. For example, what if you die prematurely or your spouse is significantly younger than you? Do you want your kids to wait until the new spouse dies to claim their inheritance, or do you want them to receive it immediately following your death? Establishing a trust can protect assets for each spouse’s children and stipulate when the kids receive their inheritance. You may want to provide your children with some of their inheritance, such as proceeds from a life insurance policy, upon your death and then release the rest at some point in the future. Or if your kids are very young, you may decide to leave that decision up to your spouse or a third-party successor trustee.

Trustee considerations                                                                                                             A common scenario for blended families is for one spouse to set up a living trust that names themselves as the trustee during his or her lifetime, with the surviving spouse named as successor trustee once they die. This is done to ensure the surviving spouse will be provided for for life and the children will receive the remaining assets once the new spouse passes.

But the new spouse and your children may have conflicting interests, especially if the spouse is older. For example, the new spouse may choose to invest the assets conservatively, ensuring he or she has enough money to live comfortably for a few more decades. However, the children—particularly if they are younger—might be better off having the assets placed into higher-risk investments, which can offer better returns in the long run, but leave less income for the surviving spouse. In this case, it’s best to name a neutral third-party as successor trustee, so both the children and surviving spouse’s interests can be balanced fairly.

That said, we do recommend leaving at least something to your children from a prior marriage immediately upon your death (in trust if your children are minors). By doing so, you can mitigate potential conflicts between your children and surviving spouse.

Incapacitation                                                                                                                        Beyond finances, the issues of power of attorney and health-care directives must also be discussed. If one spouse becomes incapacitated, you must decide who you would want to make legal and medical decisions for you. If the children are young, it’s probably best to leave those decisions up to your surviving spouse. However, if your children are older, you may want them included in the discussion of how your health-care decisions will be made.

Comprehensive and effective estate planning is especially important for blended families. Indeed, it’s crucial that these families work with a professional who is trained in counseling blended families on how to properly protect their assets in a manner that’s best for both the spouses and any children involved.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’re specifically trained to work with blended families, ensuring that you and your new spouse can effectively clarify and clearly document your wishes to avoid any confusion or conflict over how the assets and legal agency will be passed on in the event of one spouse’s death or disability. If you have a blended family, or are in the process of merging two families into one, contact us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, so we can discuss all of your options.

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, Blented Families, Death, Divorce, Estate Planning, Financial, Financing, Guardianship, Incapacity, Inheritances, Insurance, Parenting, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on Common Estate Planning Issues You Must Navigate When Contemplating a Second (or more) Marriage… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Same-Gender Couples Still Face Legal Challenges Over Parental Rights… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello-

We had hoped to get our lawn mowed before it rained again but that did not happen. So happy that we’ve got some rain coming our way and cool weather which will help the snow stick. I’m hibernating today, hunkering down with an eye toward getting a lot of work done.

I may walk today also to get a feel for walking in the cold and wet. I’m heading to Spain in a few months for a lengthy trek. I’ll tell you more about it as I iron out the details.

We’ve come along way in terms of equal rights for all married couples. However, parental rights do not yet parallel marital guarantees. The article today may be eye-opening for same-sex couples who believe they share equal rights when it comes to parenting. This is where we come in. Rather than enduring the lengthy/expensive adoptive process, we put in place for you our extensive kids protection planning, ensuring the non biological parent is named as guardian in the event of disability or death of the biological parent. If you want to know more, give us a call!

Christine

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Same-Gender Couples Still Face Legal Challenges Over Parental Rights—But Protections Via Estate Planning (Outside of Adoption) Are Available

In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that same-gender couples had the right to marry, the LGBTQ community celebrated a huge victory. With the issue of marriage settled, it looked as if same-gender couples were finally going to have equal standing with heterosexual couples in the eyes of the law.

But while same-gender couples now have nearly all of the same matrimonial rights as heterosexual couples, there is one key right that’s still up in the air—the automatic right to be legal parents. Known as “marital presumption,” this right deems that when a married man and woman have a child, they’re both automatically considered legal parents of the child.

While parental rights are automatically bestowed upon the biological parent of a child in a same-gender couple, the non-biological spouse/parent still faces a host of legal complications and challenges. Because the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the specific issue of the parental rights of non-biological spouses/parents in a same-gender marriage, there is a tangled, often-contradictory, web of state laws governing such rights.

If you’re a same-gender couple, for example, some states and courts may not consider you a legal parent based solely on your marriage. And even in places where there are some protections under the law, same-gender couples can still experience discrimination and difficulty gaining all the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples. Indeed, it’s a real possibility that you could have total legal rights as a non-biological parent in one state, but drive across the border to a neighboring state and be a complete stranger to your child in the eyes of the law.

Given the murky nature of state laws, most legal experts advise same-gender couples that the best way to ensure you have full rights as a non-biological parent in every state is to obtain a second-parent adoption. The Supreme Court has ruled that the adoptive parental rights granted in one state must be respected in all states.

However, it can be extremely difficult for married same-gender couples even to adopt. In fact, seven states currently permit employees of state-licensed adoption agencies to refuse to grant an adoption if doing so violates their religious beliefs. In other states, however, the state law specifically forbids such discrimination.

What’s more, second-parent adoptions are often costly, averaging about $4,000 nationally. They can also be extremely time-consuming and laborious, requiring the non-biological parent to jump through a range of legal hoops, including physicals, blood work, fingerprinting, along with additional state and FBI background checks.

Some states even mandate home visits from social workers to see if a “suitable environment” exists for the child. All of this can be a major inconvenience at the very least and downright demeaning in other cases.

That said, many people are not aware that same-gender couples can achieve nearly the same parental rights that are granted through a second-parent adoption by using a combination of estate planning and family law protections. Moreover, gaining such rights in this manner will involve far less—if any—background screening and/or additional legal obstacles.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we offer a number of unique legal services to provide a non-biological, same-gender parent with as many parental rights as possible, without a full adoption. Starting with our proprietary Kids Protection Plan®, couples can name the non-biological parent as a legal guardian of the child, both for the short-term and the long-term, while confidentially excluding anyone the biological parent thinks may challenge their wishes.

 

Posted in Beneficiaries, Blented Families, Estate Planning, Guardianship, Parenting, Same Sex, Trusts | Tagged | Comments Off on Same-Gender Couples Still Face Legal Challenges Over Parental Rights… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

5 Tips for Securing and Protecting Your Clients’ Data… The Christine Chronicles

Happy Friday:

I’m busy making ongoing reservations and attending to all the details of my trip to Spain in May. I’ll tell you more about what I’m doing so stay tuned. I continue broadening my spanish language repertoire, which isn’t saying much. Every time I go to Google translate I realize how little I really know. The goal however is to be somewhat conversant but at least understand a fair portion of what I will hear during my visit.

Keeping client data secure is yet another headache and expense in your business. However, you likely understand the breadth of the problem given the Equifax breach. We’ve set out five tips to prevent such a breach while also protecting yourself from the time and expense of cleaning up the mess!!

Until next time,

Christine

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5 Tips for Securing and Protecting Your Clients’ Data

All businesses big and small are responsible for protecting the personal and corporate data of their client base. This data can include everything from names and addresses to Social Security numbers and credit card account information.

It’s not only good business sense to safeguard your customer data—-it’s also a legal requirement. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) imposes stiff fines and other penalties for failing to adequately protect this information. To keep your client data safe and ensure your company is not sued, fined, or tarnished by a data breach, follow these helpful tips.

1. Restrict employee access to client data
Limit employee access to company computers and servers containing sensitive customer data to only those team members who actually need it. This is most often done with password protection and password sharing applications. Password sharing apps, like LastPass, allow you to share passwords with your team without actually displaying those passwords across cyberspace.

Beyond electronic access, also limit physical access to computers, servers, and other devices that store such data. This can mean installing access controls, keeping hardware in secure off-site locations, and/or storing devices in locked rooms and cabinets when the office is not in use. Be sure to also inventory all devices that store client data to ensure they haven’t been stolen or misplaced.

2. Install multiple layers of security
Anti-virus software, firewalls,  intrusion prevention systems, anti-subversion software—these security systems and others like them should be used to protect your company’s server and computers. The key is to add as many layers of security as possible, since hackers are likely to move on to an easier target, if your network and devices are particularly well defended.

And don’t forget to regularly install updates and upgrades to your security software, so you’ll be defended against the latest viruses and malware. Regularly check your software vendors’ websites and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team’s (UC-CERT) site to stay up-to-date on the latest threats, vulnerabilities, and patches.

3. Select the most secure web hosting service
Web hosts are businesses that host your website and data on their own off-site servers. These servers tend to be fairly extensive and may host hundreds—and even thousands—of websites on the same machines. There are numerous web host businesses out there, but they come with varying levels of server-side protection, including things like security cameras, different types of anti-virus and anti-spyware systems, and hard-wired firewalls.

Be sure you select a web host that offers a high level of security, especially against cross-side server attacks, which involve hackers who open a fake account with the company to access other websites on the same host server. For enhanced protection, use a virtual private server (VPS), which partitions your website from other sites that share the same server.

For maximum protection, open a private server account in which your website and data are maintained on your own separate server. This option is pricey, but still a lot cheaper than getting fined and/or sued for a data breach.

4. Hire professional computer security experts
While your normal IT guy or gal may be able to offer you a minimal level of protection, it may be best to hire a seasoned security professional to monitor your company’s server and computer activity. These experts will be specifically trained in the latest trends in hacking and other electronic infiltration methods, offering the most effective safeguard for your customer information.

However, these IT security professionals are quite expensive, so as your Creative Business Lawyer®, we’ll help you think through the risk and reward of hiring one and advise you on whether your company requires such an investment or not.

5. Notify clients when their data has been compromised
If your computers or servers are hacked and your data is compromised and/or stolen, immediately contact your customers to let them know. Not only will this allow clients to take steps to protect themselves, like closing their vulnerable accounts or alerting their financial institutions to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, but it’s also required by state and federal data breach laws.

As a business owner, you’ll need to stay apprised of the latest legal requirements for protecting your sensitive client data. As your Creative Business Lawyer, we can advise you on what safeguards you should have in place and how to implement them. And if you’re ever hacked, we’ll defend you in court against any lawsuits and/or penalties that might result. 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, Entrepreuner, Financial, Lawsuits | Comments Off on 5 Tips for Securing and Protecting Your Clients’ Data… The Christine Chronicles

What to Expect From An Initial Estate Planning Appointment With Us… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Brr, it finally feels like winter. I walked my dogs about 3.5 miles this morning in the cold, and it was so quiet.  I listened to my Spanish tutorial and practiced during my walk.  I am at the point in the learning curve where it is not quite so easy anymore, as I am now having to distinguish and remember not only verbs but the various personal pronouns and conjugation of these words, masculine vs. feminine. You likely remember that good stuff from high school and how only a slight variation on a word makes the meaning completely different!  Honestly, working through this makes me feel completely inept but I know that just sticking with it is most of the battle.

Our article today explains one of the many ways our firm is so very different than what you will experience at most other estate planning firms.  Our family wealth planning session is our initial deep dive into your family and financial life. This in depth session is designed to uncover not only what you have, but what you truly want for the people you love the most in your life. This pivotal meeting is crucial for you to really get in touch with not only your wealth but what would, could, should happen if you suddenly pass away.

Until next time,

Christine

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What to Expect From (and How to Prepare For) an Initial Estate Planning Meeting With Your Personal Family Lawyer®

Whether you’ve met with an estate planning attorney before or it’s your first time, it’s important to understand how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® is different than meeting with a traditional lawyer.

This article will explain what’s involved with such a consultation, and it may even inspire you to meet with us to get your estate planning started or updated. If you do decide to meet with us, I’ll share instructions on how you can do that, plus include a free offer at the end of this article to give you extra motivation to check us out.

Given our unique approach, an initial consultation with our office is quite different than an initial consultation with a typical estate planning attorney. A typical “initial consultation” would be a meet-and-greet-type of meeting in which the lawyer tells you the documents you need to put in place and quotes you a fee to provide those documents.

In such a meeting, however, it will likely be difficult for you to know exactly what you need for your unique family situation and how to make the right decision, outside of simply considering whether the cost of these documents fits within your budget or not. Unfortunately, deciding what you need based solely on the cost of documents will likely lead you to make choices that won’t actually serve and protect your family and assets.

In contrast, our initial meeting with you is a two-hour working session, called a Family Wealth Planning Session™. Prior to the Family Wealth Planning Session, we’ll send you a personalized package of materials that will guide you in locating and listing each of your assets.

What we consistently see is that surprisingly, many people do not have a clear awareness of what they own or where to find their assets. This is the reason there are more than $58 Billion (yes, Billion with a “B”) of lost and unclaimed assets held by state and federal agencies. Oftentimes people become incapacitated or die, and their family simply overlooks these assets.

We know you haven’t devoted years of your precious time and energy to build your family wealth only for your heirs to lose track of it when something happens to you. That’s one reason the Family Wealth Planning Session is so beneficial. Whether you decide to create a full plan or just redesign the one you have, at the very least your family will know what you have and how to locate it should anything happen to you.

Also during your Family Wealth Planning Session, we’ll guide you through a complete understanding of what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own should something happen to you—whether it’s under your current plan or the plan the state has for you if you don’t have an estate plan yet. From there, you can decide if that plan is how you want things handled or if you’d want a different outcome, in which case we can design a plan to ensure things go exactly the way you want in your absence.

Finally, if you do decide to create a plan or redesign an existing one, you can select the type of plan you want based on the different packages we’ve created, which allow you to literally choose your fee based on what’s most important to you, what’s not important to you, and with a clear understanding of the impact of your choices.

The Family Wealth Planning Session is a true educational opportunity for you to ensure you’re doing the right thing by your loved ones. This investment of your time now will save your family countless hours of heartache and work down the road, while also keeping them out of conflict and out of court.

Unfortunately, death is unavoidable. But you can make it far easier on the people you love by the choices you make now. And facing the reality of this fact today allows you to make choices that will let you enjoy your life even more. Indeed, our clients report a huge level of relief after meeting with us, and they frequently say they wished they’d done it sooner.

We’d love to meet with you for a Family Wealth Planning Session. Normally, we charge $750 for these working sessions, but if you’re one of the first five families to schedule this month, you commit to doing the homework ahead of time, and you secure your Session with a credit card (which won’t be charged as long as you do your part), we’ll waive that Planning Session fee.

Simply give us a call to get scheduled. Or if you have a relative or friend who’d benefit by getting their affairs in order, pass along this article and tell them to call us. It’s our mission to keep the families in our community out of court and out of conflict, and it all starts with a Family Wealth Planning Session. Because, really, your family IS worth it.

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, Financial, Guardianship, Inheritances, Legacy, Quality of Life, Trusts, Wills | Comments Off on What to Expect From An Initial Estate Planning Appointment With Us… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

The Top Stressors of Business Ownership and How to Manage Them (Without Freaking Out)… The Christine Chronicles

Hello:

Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. We didn’t overdo the chocolate, but enjoyed a nice glass of Valentine’s Day champagne and dinner. I’ve had a busy month so far and I’m planning a trip to San Luis Obispo, not this weekend but next, to see Daniel play lacrosse against Cal Poly. I’m excited to reconnect with my son again, and hopefully watch what will likely be the only lacrosse game I’ll see this season. Good times!

You went into business because you’re really good at what you do and you don’t want to work for someone else who makes all of the profit. The price you pay, however, for freedom and flexibility, is high indeed!! The emotional highs and lows and the inevitable cash flow crunch may take all of the fun out of it for you. The good news is that with some planning and discipline, you can be happy and self employed!

Until next time,

Christine

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The Top Stressors of Business Ownership and How to Manage Them (Without Freaking Out)

There are many reasons people decide to start their own business: to be your own boss, set your own hours, control the people and projects you work with. Yet the reality of business ownership isn’t quite as rosy—it’s one of the most stressful endeavors you’ll ever undertake.

While running your own company will inevitably have its maddening moments, some of the biggest stressors can be successfully managed if you know how to approach them. Here are three of the most unnerving parts of owning any business and how to handle them like a champ.

Lack of Predictability
You’d think that running your own business would mean you’re in control of everything, with no one else telling you what to do, how to do it, or when to do it. And you’d be right—mostly. Paradoxically, by going it alone, you’re in control of everything and nothing at the same time.

With a steady 9-5 gig, you can pretty much count on consistent paychecks, predictable hours, a stable office location, and even regular vacations. But when you’re your own boss, consistency and predictability go out the window.

Dealing with inconsistent income can be a huge stressor, as you never know if you’re going to be able to pay your bills. What’s more, it’s often the case that if you’re not working, the business is not functioning, making things like days off and vacations seem like a fantasy.

The Fix: Before launching a business, it’s crucial to have enough clients to ensure a fairly stable income. So it’s a good idea to keep your day job to pay the bills, while building a stable of regular projects on the side. Of course, there’s no guarantee that any clients will stick around forever, so it’s also prudent to set aside several month’s worth of savings to get you through the lean times.

And though it may be impossible to do in the beginning, make hiring a robust support staff a top priority, so you can eventually take time off when planned—or unplanned—events require you to step away from the driver’s seat.

Not Having Enough Time
Unpredictability and time management go hand in hand. Without a structured and enforced schedule to adhere to, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the day-to-day minutiae that comes with running a business.

Time management is arguably the most important skill for business owners to master, as not having enough time to handle key tasks will freak you out and wreck your business at the same time. It’s vital to establish an effective way to budget your time and then stick to a schedule as if your life depended on it (since it kind of does).

The Fix: The first step to budgeting your time is to establish your top priorities and then set aside blocks of time each day/week/month strictly dedicated to those tasks. Focus on these items first and fit everything else in around them.

It’s also crucial to figure out the times of day you’re most productive and schedule your top tasks during these periods. Some people like to handle the most challenging items first, but others find their groove later in the day, so pay attention to your own energy and build your schedule around it.

No Work/Life Balance
Even if you’re one of those people who “live for their work,” if you don’t devote enough time to rest and relaxation both your work and life will suffer. Ironically, many people launch their own business specifically to have more time for themselves, but once you see what’s actually involved, you’ll often find the business is the one who owns you—not the other way around.

Having an effective work/life balance is the key not only to being effective at your job, but also being healthy and happy. Running a business can take a toll on your mental and physical health, and if you don’t find a proper balance, it can lead to literally fatal outcomes.

The Fix: One of the first steps to work/life balance is to set realistic work hours and adhere to them just like any other job. When you work from home or don’t have a regular office, it’s easy to let “work time” eat into your “me time,” until all you have is “work time.”

Consider personal time just like your top business priorities—set aside blocks of time for it, and stick to that schedule religiously. In addition to scheduling time to spend with your family and friends, also make time for rejuvenating activities like exercise, meditation, hobbies, and other things (don’t forget sleep) that allow you to relax and recharge your batteries.

Rather than seeing these things as distractions from work, you’ll ultimately find they’re essential for maximizing performance and productivity.

One great way to reduce stress is to implement systems that allow you to streamline your day-to-day operations. As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we offer a wealth of turnkey solutions that will give you maximum control over your business—and your mental health. What’s more, we’ll guide you through those tough decisions, so you can rest easy knowing you’ve done everything to ensure your company is as secure and successful as possible.

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, Entrepreuner, Startup, Success | Comments Off on The Top Stressors of Business Ownership and How to Manage Them (Without Freaking Out)… The Christine Chronicles

From Billions to Bust: How the Stroh Family Fortune Was Lost… The Christine Chronicles

Hola:

I am planning a bucket list trip which I will tell you more about as I iron out the details. Part of that trip is learning Spanish. I work on this daily and in two weeks, have mastered such useful phrases as, “ I am from North America”, “You understand English:, and “where is the bathroom”–donde esta el bano?!!!!. More importantly, I now can say,” I want to eat”, or “I want to drink”……. una cerveza!!  While this seems basic, and it is, I know 1000% more Espanol than I did 2 weeks ago. By  Cinco de Mayo, I should be fluent in basic conversational Spanish.  Well, that is at least the goal.

On the subject of cerveza, today we bring you a story about beer, family and business. You might think this is a good combination, and many times it is, but mixing business and family sometimes fails to yield a good result. You may not be from the generation in which Stroh’s means anything to you. However, the story of the family beer business, from its simple beginnings, to the tragic ending is worth pondering, along with the question of whether the founders could ever anticipate such a result.

Small mistakes over a period of time can have disastrous impact on your business. Carefully vetting your successors in terms of talent, education, and experience and temperament is smart business planning for reasons you will understand after learning about the Stroh beer empire.  Your business, although smaller in scale, could experience the same fate without thoughtful succession planning.

Until next week!

Christine

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From Billions to Bust: How the Stroh Family Fortune Was Lost

In 1988, Stroh’s Beer was one of America’s most impressive family fortunes, estimated by Forbes to be worth $9 billion in today’s dollars. Just two decades later, however, the massive beer empire, along with all of the family’s wealth, would disappear.

Poor business decisions and bad investments were the primary cause of the company’s downfall. But dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that the business wasn’t properly prepared to be passed from one generation to the next, especially over the course of 150 years.

Developing a solid business succession plan is at the heart of estate planning when a family business is involved. And even if your company and wealth are nowhere near the size of the Stroh’s clan, it’s crucial to heed the lessons that can be learned from the demise of this once-mighty American brewery.

An Empire is Born
Bernhard Stroh immigrated from Germany to Detroit in 1849. He arrived with $150 and a secret family beer recipe, and began selling his lager door to door from a wheelbarrow a year later.

In 1890, the business was passed to his sons, Bernhard Jr. and Julius. They made the brew into a regional favorite among working-class Midwesterners, and navigated the company through Prohibition by manufacturing ice cream when the country was dry.

Julius’s son, Gari, took control in 1939, and he was succeeded by his brother, John, in 1950. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, John was famous for treating his employees like family, and sales soared under his watch from 500,000 barrels in 1950 to 2.7 million in 1956.

Gari’s son, Peter, became president in 1968 and CEO in 1980, and during his tenure, the privately owned Stroh’s became America’s third-largest brewing company, behind publicly traded corporations Anheuser-Busch and Miller.

However, in 1999, following a series of poorly planned acquisitions and business deals, Peter was forced to sell off the family beer business in parts to Miller and Pabst. Most of the money from the $350 million sale went to pay off business debts, while the remainder was put into a fund for the surviving family members, which was completely tapped out by 2008.

Though building a family business of this magnitude took more than a century’s worth of hard work and dedication, it was surprisingly easy for one successor to wipe it out. That said, many of the business mistakes might’ve been prevented, or at least mitigated, with proper planning and guidance.

The Empire Crumbles
The most devastating events to befall the company occurred while Peter was at the helm. Unlike his forefathers, who grew the business slowly, Peter sought to rapidly expand by buying out competitors like Schaefer, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, and others.

The problem was, Peter acquired his rivals even when the company couldn’t afford it. Peter’s acquisition of Schlitz in 1982 was particularly damning, as he borrowed $500 million to buy the brand, when Stroh’s Beer itself was worth only $100 million.

Saddled with massive debt, Stroh’s was unable to keep up with its big-name competitors and even missed the light beer trend of the 1980s. From there, Peter made a series of other mistakes related to packaging, marketing, and pricing that would hasten the company’s collapse.

Lessons Learned
In hindsight, it’s obvious Peter wasn’t the best choice to run the family business, but this might’ve been prevented if the company had a comprehensive business succession plan. Such a plan can include strict requirements for choosing a successor, rather than simply passing control through patriarchal bloodlines.

Indeed, a well-drafted succession plan can stipulate that the successor must demonstrate a specific level of education and/or business competence before taking over. Moreover, the plan can also require the succession take place in a phased transition, so the new boss has time to learn the ropes before being handed the keys to the kingdom.

Finally, if slow growth had been a recipe for the Stroh’s success in the past, the succession plan could have included terms to prevent such foolhardy acquisitions. Indeed, the plan can obligate new leadership to honor the family legacy by requiring him or her to strictly follow the time-proven business strategies that led to the company’s initial success.

With us as your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can help you avoid making similar mistakes as the Strohs by protecting your family business with solid estate planning. A foundational part of this process is to develop a comprehensive business succession plan. This plan will help ensure the business assets and wealth you worked so hard to build will survive—and thrive—for generations to come.

This article is a service of Christine Faulknr, 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, Entrepreuner, Estate Planning, Inheritances, Legacy, Success, Succession Planning | Comments Off on From Billions to Bust: How the Stroh Family Fortune Was Lost… The Christine Chronicles

4 Warning Signs Your Elderly Relative May Be the Victim of Financial Abuse… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hi:

It’s that time of year already! Spending time with your Valentine and those you love takes center stage.  We will likely avoid the crowds and get out a few days before, also celebrating  Dave’s birthday too. We’ve been mulling around the idea of wine tasting as there are many wine/chocolate events happening this month.  We don’t need the extra calories from either the wine or chocolate but it’s tempting to go anyway!

Sometimes financial/elder abuse is difficult to detect. As an adult child, you want to ensure your parents’ safety  and financial security. There are many, many unscrupulous scammers just looking to an easy target. We’ve set out a few red flags to look for which may help you detect financial or elder abuse.  Take an interest in your parent’s lives, although expect resistance, when it comes to financial decision making. Loving persistence can make a huge difference in your parents’ security and well-being.

Until next week,

Christine

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4 Warning Signs Your Elderly Relative May Be the Victim of Financial Abuse

Some of the most disturbing crimes against the elderly involve financial exploitation. While physical abuse is often easy to spot, financial abuse can be more difficult to detect, as victims often have no idea they’re being swindled until their money suddenly vanishes.

Most victims are more than 70 or 80 years old, and involve crimes like fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, along with welfare and insurance scams. If you’re caring for an elderly loved one, be on the lookout for the following red flags of financial abuse:

1. Unusual financial transactions or spending
The most obvious sign an elderly family member is being exploited is if there are sudden changes to their spending, banking, and/or financial practices. At the same time, the person may start behaving secretively, confused, or otherwise atypical about money matters. A few of the most frequent actions include:

● Someone who is normally meticulous about their finances suddenly starts seeing unpaid bills, non-sufficient funds warnings, and/or unexplained credit card charges.
● The elderly person starts opening, closing, or changing banking and investment accounts, especially without regard to penalties or fees.
● Someone with consistent spending patterns starts showing a sharp increase in spending and/or investing.
● The person’s account sees a suspicious increase in ATM use, withdrawals, and/or checks made out to unfamiliar recipients.

2. The appearance of a “new” person in their life
Because they’re often alone and isolated, seniors are particularly susceptible to being “befriended” by strangers who take advantage of their loneliness to exploit them. And it may not be a stranger—relatives who haven’t been around for years can suddenly start spending lots of time with the person.

This situation is particularly dangerous when the new acquaintance, caregiver, or relative spends time in the person’s home, where they have easy access to the person’s accounts, financial statements, and personal documents.

One sign that something is amiss is if the senior acts unusual when it comes to the new caregiver or friend. They may seem nervous when that person is around, stop participating in their usual social events, or be reluctant to speak about the person with you. This is a red flag the new person may be trying to isolate or control them.

3. Unneeded goods, services, or subscriptions
Outside of loneliness, the elderly are often physically unable to handle household chores and maintenance like they used to. Given this, they’ll likely need service providers to take care of the work for them. But every new person they surround themselves with is a potential swindler.

Watch for unscrupulous door-to-door salesmen and home repair contractors, who stop by offering unsolicited products or services, especially related to home remediation issues. And they don’t have to be physically present to perpetrate fraud, there are countless telemarketing and email scams that target unsuspecting seniors in order to make a quick buck or steal their identity.

One fairly common scam involves inviting the older person to a free lunch or dinner in exchange for listening to a “seminar” about a financial product or service. The elderly often feel obligated to “buy something” after getting what they thought was a free meal.

Make sure that another adult relative is present before signing any contracts, and always consult with us if you’re unfamiliar with a new investment or financial opportunity.

4. Changes to wills, trusts, titles, power of attorney, etc.
The worst cases of financial abuse of the elderly can even involve the person making changes to wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. Other potentially harmful changes can involve deeds, refinanced mortgages, property titles, and/or adding someone to a joint account.

Pay especially close attention if the older person seeks to grant power of attorney to someone out of the ordinary, as this can open the door for massive theft of assets and potentially fatal changes in a senior’s caregiving services.

One major advantage to establishing a relationship with a lawyer during your early years is so we can get to know you while you’re young, healthy, and clear, and then monitor if anything goes awry in your later years.

One reason financial scams are so hard to detect is that the elderly, like all of us, are embarrassed to admit they’ve been swindled, or they may not want to get a new “friend” or relative in trouble by telling others about their suspicions.

However, anyone can fall prey to financial fraud, so it’s important the elderly know that you’ve hired us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to provide trusted advice and guidance for all financial and legal matters. We can help secure your family’s most valuable assets with robust legal protections to prevent fraud and scams of all kinds. Call us today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to make the most empowered and informed decisions for yourself and the family members you love.

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, Elderly, Estate Planning, Ezine, Financial, Quality of Life | Comments Off on 4 Warning Signs Your Elderly Relative May Be the Victim of Financial Abuse… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

4 Key Elements Of a Small Business Owner’s Estate Plan… The Christine Chronicles

Hello:

It is a beautiful day. I plan to get out at lunch and break in my new walking shoes. I have some big fitness plans this year, which I will tell you about later.  I keep thinking every day that I will leave work in time to walk my dogs at home before dark. That has not happened yet. Now, Im taking the “bull by the horns” and will commit to making it happen today.

Having a plan is great but it’s the follow through where the magic happens, right? In business, planning is essential to controlling the outcome. Owning a business involves more than estate planning when you design the future of your business. Are you so busy working “in” your business, that you have not made time to even think about transitioning the wealth, assets and income?  Business succession planning can involve multiple layers and have lots of moving parts to accomplish your goals.  If your not ready to put the plan in place, then take some time to begin considering what you want, and your options to get you there.

Enjoy the weekend.

Christine

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4 Key Elements Of a Small Business Owner’s Estate Plan

If you’ve dreamed of leaving your company to your family but haven’t sufficiently included your business in your estate plan, that dream could become a nightmare for your heirs—and for your business’ team members and clients, too.

To ensure your company is passed to your family in exactly the way you desire, you want to create a comprehensive estate plan. The plan will likely include some of these key elements:

1. Living Trusts
Although you might think a will would sufficiently protect your business assets, a living trust will keep your business out of court, whereas a will won’t. While a will coordinates the division of your assets following your death, a living trust is a separate legal entity that effectively owns your share of the business, though without any tax consequences or change of control until after your incapacity or death.

Unlike a will, assets put into a living trust are not subject to probate. Beyond avoiding the hassles of probate, this also means your business affairs will remain private. A living trust has several other advantages over wills: It transfers your assets immediately upon your death in the privacy of your attorney’s office; it lets you designate a successor to take control of the business; and it saves on estate taxes, court costs, and legal fees.

2. Life Insurance
Unless your business generates significant cash flow—and will continue to do so upon your death—that income might not be enough to financially provide for your family. To offer a safety net for your heirs, team, and customers, invest in life insurance to provide liquidity while your family handles your affairs.

3. Buy-Sell Agreements
If your business has multiple owners, you’ll likely need a buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement ensures that upon certain conditions—like the death or disability of a partner—the remaining owners are able to purchase your shares of the business, or your shares will pass directly to your heirs.

This will prevent your beneficiaries from getting stuck owning a business they don’t want and can’t sell, and it also protects your remaining partners from being forced to deal with new owners they didn’t count on.

4. Succession Plan
If you hope to pass control of your company to your family, you’ll need a succession plan to make sure your heirs know how to successfully run the business you’ve created or sell the company without you.

If you want a specific family member (or team member) to run the business, you should designate that person in the plan, and then explain exactly how and when the business will be transferred to him or her. If you want the business sold, you’ll want to start planning for that now.

To protect your business with an estate plan, start by meeting with your Creative Business Lawyer®. We’ll guide you through the process, allowing you to rest easy, knowing your family, team, and customers will be properly taken care of.

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, Succession Planning | Comments Off on 4 Key Elements Of a Small Business Owner’s Estate Plan… The Christine Chronicles

Suze Orman Says This Is the Age You Should Retire—Not a Month or Year Before (and Here’s What She Misses)… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Hello and happy Monday:

Finding time to do the things we must and do the things we want can be difficult sometimes. Does thinking about retirement bring on fear in the pit of your stomach that you don’t have enough retirement, or that you’ll have to work forever? If so, join the crowd.

Have no fear however! Today we bring some thoughtful ideas on various approaches to working less, or changing career paths so you can perhaps perform more meaningful work while continuing to support your lifestyle!

Until next week,

Christine

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Suze Orman Says This Is the Age You Should Retire—Not a Month or Year Before (and Here’s What She Misses)

If you’re middle aged or older, it’s likely that one of your most pressing concerns is not having enough money for retirement. And there’s good reason. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, a full third of Americans between 55 and 65 have nothing saved for retirement.

And even if you’ve diligently saved, it’s difficult to predict if your savings will be enough. Today, many people are living into their late-80s, 90s, and even 100s. Because most Baby Boomers have lived comparatively healthier lives and had access to better healthcare than their parents, you may live even longer.

In light of these facts, a recent article in Money by renowned financial guru Suze Orman declares that the new retirement age for the majority of us is now 70.

While most plan to retire in their 60s, Orman believes this simply isn’t realistic anymore, not only because of increased lifespan, but also due to rising healthcare costs and the increased need to care for aging parents for longer periods.

Today’s eligibility age for full Social Security benefits is between 65 and 67. Of course, you can retire as early as 62 and receive partial benefits, but Orman says that claiming such partial benefits is “one of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make.”

By waiting until 70, your annual benefit will be 76% higher, which will be hugely beneficial in the long run. Orman notes that for married couples it might be okay for the spouse earning less to retire at age 67, but the higher earner must wait until 70. The only exception is if one of you has a medical condition that prevents you from working or makes it unlikely you’ll live into your late-80s or 90s.

But delaying retirement doesn’t necessarily mean working full-time until 70. You might be able to work part-time or receive a reduction in your current job responsibilities. Orman says to start talking with employers about the possibility of part-time work or reduced duties at least two years before your planned downshift.

You also might consider switching jobs to something that requires less time and energy. Start looking now for educational and training opportunities to prepare for such a new position.

Another option (and one Orman misses) is to launch a freelance gig, or “side hustle,” which is probably your best bet for a secure retirement anyway.

Instead of thinking about retirement as a time to retire from life and work, start thinking about it as the time you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do. Create a service offering around the passion project you didn’t think you could indulge during your working years.

Dreaming into—and even taking steps toward this side hustle—now is the place to start, no matter how close or far you are from retirement.

Your life experiences were given to you so you can give them back. Begin to consider who needs to hear what you’ve learned throughout your life, especially during the hard times, as that’s likely to be the source of your side hustle.

While this all may initially add to your retirement anxiety, rather than reducing it, you don’t have to go it alone. With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll be in your corner the whole way, offering guidance and support, while helping with any legal, insurance, financial, and tax issues that might arise. Schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session® today to see where your retirement planning currently stands.

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, Retirement | Comments Off on Suze Orman Says This Is the Age You Should Retire—Not a Month or Year Before (and Here’s What She Misses)… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

For Maximum Success, Make Hardship and Change Your Business Partner… The Christine Chronicles

Hello:

We have a great article today and I encourage you to read all the way to the end. This article certainly reflects where I am in my life at the moment, learning to accept life as it come, rather than focusing so much energy on resisting painful life experiences. I’ve also started yoga once again which helps discipline my mind to accept discomfort and lean into it.

Just for fun, check out this yoga video.

Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend,

Christine

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For Maximum Success, Make Hardship and Change Your Business Partner

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Even if you firmly believe in this quote, it can still be annoying when people say this in the aftermath of a particularly distressing hardship. When the business you worked so hard to build goes into bankruptcy or you find yourself caught in the trap of a huge conflict you didn’t foresee, the last thing you want to hear is someone smugly tell you that your failure is part of some grand cosmic plan. Surely, some traumatic events happen simply to make us miserable.

Given enough hindsight, though, even the most horrific occurrences can have a silver lining—even if it’s just to teach you not to make the same mistake again. And with maturity, most of us discover that it’s not our successes that define our character and lead to growth; it’s our failures.

That said, it’s critical to point out that surviving failure doesn’t necessarily ensure you’ll become better for having had the experience. Our personal evolution is intimately tied with our reaction to such events. Indeed, the most important thing to keep in mind isn’t that mistakes occur from some larger reason—it’s that there’s absolutely no value in letting anger, fear, and depression keep you from moving on.

“Relax, nothing is under control.” -Anonymous

Whether it’s a car accident that leaves you wheelchair-bound or a recession that causes your business to suffer, you often have little control over what happens in life.  However, you do have control over your reaction. Of course,  you’ll initially experience some level of grief, anger, and frustration, but once enough time goes by, you face a choice: Am I going to let this make me weaker, or am I going to use it to become stronger?
 
In such situations, it helps to remember the phrase amor fati (a love of fate). The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche often used this saying to remind us that the best reaction—indeed, the only reaction—when things get ugly is to embrace the experience with a feeling of appreciation. And it’s not about masochism: pain is just part of life and a potential catalyst for learning.

“When you stop expecting and start accepting, life becomes much easier.” -Buddha

When tragedies occur, much of our suffering comes from our dashed expectations. But no matter how carefully we plan, life has a way of doing its own thing. Perhaps our most insidious expectation is that things will always stay the same. However, the very nature of the universe is change, so paradoxically, change is about the only thing we can count on to remain constant.

It’s perfectly fine to have reasonable expectations about your success, especially in business. The trick is to not become so married to a result that you’re devastated when it doesn’t occur. It’s much better to expect the unexpected and fully accept whatever the outcome may be.

Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to enjoy an outcome or not work to improve it—acceptance simply means that you don’t forcibly resist reality. It’s about embracing every event with amor fati, knowing that life is going to do what life is going to do no matter how you feel about.

“When one door closes, another opens.” -Alexander Graham Bell

Beyond mere acceptance, hardships offer major opportunities for gaining wisdom. By learning to embrace strife and change, you’ll discover a peace of mind in knowing that you’re strong enough to weather whatever storms may come.

In the end, you’ll discover that every event, no matter how difficult, can teach us invaluable lessons—but this will only happen if give yourself permission to learn from what life is trying to teach you.

Sometimes, it can be hard to see what life is trying to teach us, because we are simply too close to it and caught up in the emotion of it all. This is one of the ways a trusted advisor can support you. We can help you see what you may not be seeing.

We go far beyond simply advising you on the legal, insurance, financial and tax structures of your business, though we surely do that as well. A Creative Business Lawyer® can help prepare your company for the inevitable bumps in the road and help you learn and grow from each and every one.

Moreover, we will be in your corner to guide you if and when something truly unexpected does happen. And knowing this should go a long way toward offering you the confidence to fully embrace whatever life and business has in store for you.

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, Entrepreuner, Success | Comments Off on For Maximum Success, Make Hardship and Change Your Business Partner… The Christine Chronicles