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Unequal distributions within estate planning

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Unequal distributions within estate planning

70380030 - unequal hand cut word split conceptAre you thinking of the best way to distribute your income to your heirs? You know you don’t have to distribute it equally, right? It’s OK to have unequal distributions in your estate planning.

Why would you use an unequal distribution?

You know your children or other heirs. Your estate planning should be based on your wishes for your heirs, which can take into consideration many factor, including their choices, their needs, the help you have given them, their future and your concerns.

Let’s look at some factors to consider:

  • What is their current financial situation?
  • How do they manage money?
  • Do they have any personal troubles that could be made worse through direct inheritance?
  • Should the funds be distributed in a way other than direct cash, such as a trust with certain stipulations related to age, employment, or any other specifics?
  • Are there medical needs or chronic health problems to take into consideration?
  • Is there a proven track record of bad decisions that can include failed marriages, finances or habits?
  • Does your estate plan need to stipulate any prenuptial agreements you would require?
  • Have you helped any of your heirs previously?
  • Are there any estrangements affecting your decisions?

Do any answers to these questions lead you to consider changing how you divide your estate? We would be happy to help you sort through the logistics of these decisions, as well as help you best explain to your heirs in person or through letters of your intent and reasoning.

How well are you branding your business?

34577687_SBranding is one of the most important aspects of growing a successful business. It’s what sets you apart from the competition. It’s how people identify and connect with you. It’s what you stand for and what you strive to be.

That being said, there’s more to branding than flashy logos and catchy headlines. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a comprehensive branding plan for your company:

Define your company and its mission. What is your business all about? How do you want customers to perceive your company? Sure, you provide quality products and services and strive for 100% customer satisfaction. Dig a little deeper. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and really think about the things that you want them to see in your business. Spend some time crafting a strong mission statement for your company and refer to it frequently to make sure you’re staying true to your vision.

Find your voice. Choosing an appropriate voice for your business (and sticking to it) will give your brand a strong identity. Do you want your company’s messages to be conversational, or do you want your brand to have a more professional tone? Do you want to sound formal or informal? Your voice should reflect your mission and purpose, and it needs to really resonate with your audience across all of your marketing channels, including social media.

Set brand standards. Does your business have a unified logo and color scheme? Everything from your company’s website to advertising to social channels and printed marketing materials needs to have the same look and feel. Even the photography needs to fit the brand’s identity, so make sure you have standards in place before moving forward with any marketing or advertising.

Consistency is key. The most important part of branding is staying consistent. Straying from your standards is the fastest way to lose your brand’s identity, as well as your audience. You can certainly make small changes every now and then, but you ultimately need to stay true to your brand.

Soliciting reviews is a big no-no on Yelp

85301287_MWith more than 412 million reviews, Yelp is the most popular review site on the Internet. Positive reviews on Yelp can help any business owner or professional. But the company recently began cracking down on those who solicit positive reviews.

As a general rule, you don’t want to ask for reviews, offer to pay for reviews or offer discounts or freebies in exchange for a review. You also want to avoid asking your employees, family members, customers or potential customers to review your company. You’ll also want to avoid hiring a reputation management or review solicitation company to solicit positive Yelp reviews on your behalf.

What can you do? You are permitted to let your customers and clients know you’re listed on Yelp. You can request a ‘Find us on Yelp’ sticker to place visibly inside or outside your business or use a Yelp logo in your marketing efforts. You also can respond to any Yelp reviews about you and your business, both positive and negative, in a constructive way. Additionally, you can share positive reviews on social media. For more information about Yelp, go to this link.

Your collection and your estate plan

74773425 - train retro toned modelHave you thought about the collections you have spent years piecing together? They are valuable to you, but what becomes of them when you are gone?

As you think about your assets when you do your estate planning, don’t neglect these collections. Whether they are valuable or not, they are still an important part of your life and your estate.

Collections often matter most to the person doing the collecting — not to the heirs who must sort through the possessions once the collector is gone. To ensure the collection is properly handled, make sure you identify the pieces with values and photographs as well as notations of any insurance and directions on how they should be handled. Don’t forget to include any appraisals that have been conducted.

If you don’t have a family member or friend who would treasure your collection, you might consider gifting it to a museum or historical society. Or perhaps you can leave instructions for the sale of the collection, with proceeds to be distributed among your heirs.

Do you have a collection you neglected to put in your estate plan? We can certainly help you make an amendment. We are ready to help ensure these aspects of your life are properly included in your estate plan!

Does your company have a mission?

43263046 - hand writing mission on virtual screenHere’s a surprising statistic from a recent Gallup poll. Only 41 percent of U.S. employees say they definitely know what their company stands for — its mission, or why it’s in business, and how it’s different from competing companies.

While most business leaders can clearly describe their company or organization’s mission, most employees can’t, Gallup research shows. Another surprising fact: Only four in 10 U.S. employees strongly believe that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important.

Gallup’s findings are especially troubling, given the fact that a wide range of research shows a clear link between how well employees understand their company’s mission and purpose and how well a company performs. According to Gallup, just a 10 percent improvement in a workforce’s connection with their company’s mission or purpose would likely result in an 8.1 percent decrease in employee turnover and a 4.4 percent increase in profitability.

What does this mean to you and your company? First, if your company or organization doesn’t have a formal mission, it needs one. If it has one, everyone should understand what it is and how their work ties into and is important to this purpose. It’s a two-step task that isn’t always easy to accomplish, but an important step in the success of any company or organization.

An employee manual for your small business

16562990 - employee manual book illustration design over whiteDoes your small business have an employee manual?

Whether you have one tucked on a shelf or printed and in each employee’s desk drawer, you’re probably aware of how important this document is when it comes to protecting your small business. It can also outline benefits for your employees, and clearly state your expectations and the processes you’ve identified as important for success.

If you don’t have a comprehensive manual yet, don’t worry. We can help put one together for you! Let’s go over some of the basics:

The length of an employee manual will vary based on your small business’ needs. Some pieces will be industry specific. The manual basically provides the important information you want to relay to your employees. It’s great for training and refreshing employees on policies concerning their employment.

It’s also great for ensuring your employees understand the expectations and protocols for your employer-employee relationship. Some of the more common employee manual items include vacation time, sick time, acceptable work hours, dress code or uniform, appearance standards, safety and hygiene standards, service or product expectations, discrimination and harassment, handling disgruntled clients, discipline protocol, bereavement time, jury duty, and telecommuting options.

Are your policies properly documented and easily accessible to employees? Whether the manual is printed and put in a binder or available online as a document in a shared file, make sure it is quickly and easily accessible to employees. Be sure to update your employee manual as situations or circumstances change.

Not sure where to start? We recommend you call us at 248-613-0007 to start a conversation. Our small business attorneys know legal requirements, and can raise issues you may not have considered.

Our international estate planning services

40492261 - global business strategy and development as conceptWe often share about our estate planning services. But did you know one of our practice areas involves international estate planning?

This service is available to those who reside in Michigan and have international interests or who may have family members who live internationally. The planning is also available for those who are non-citizens but own a home, a small business in Michigan, or who have other U.S. assets.

We also will take into consideration tax implications, including protection against double taxation. Our lawyers will help create legal and sound international estate planning, including any business succession planning needs.

Make sure your international estate planning is handled by a legal office with knowledge and experience. Our lawyers have expertise related to taxes and legal issues for countries in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

If you are in need of international estate planning, our international estate planning lawyers are ready to work with you to create a plan customized to your needs and wishes. Simply call us at 248-613-0007 to start the conversation.

Using e-mail to market your business, the right way

45441568 - email concept with laptop and handsE-mail is one of the most popular marketing tools for small businesses today. But federal law requires that anyone sending out e-mail for commercial purposes follow some specific rules or risk costly penalties. Unfortunately, each year small businesses unknowingly run afoul of these e-mail marketing regulations.

The CAN-SPAM Act covers business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-mails that advertise or promote a commercial product or service. (CAN-SPAM stands for ‘Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing, by the way!) The penalties for violations of CAN-SPAM can add up: The Federal Trade Commission can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per non-compliant e-mail sent.

Luckily, the rules for sending out business e-mails are simple to understand and easy to follow. For starters, the subject line of your e-mail must accurately reflect the content of your message. Your “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To,” information must accurately identify you or your agency as the person or business who initiated the message. You’ll also want to make sure that you disclose clearly that your e-mail is an advertisement.

In the e-mail text, you need to disclose where you’re located. Your e-mail must contain the street address, post office box or private mailbox used by your business. You’ll also need to include in your e-mail information that can be used by an e-mail recipient to easily opt out of getting future e-mails from you. There must be no charge for someone to opt out of your e-mails. Opt-out requests also must be processed within 10 business days. And you may ask only for the recipient’s e-mail address to honor an opt-out request.

The CAN-SPAM Act also addresses how you create and maintain your e-mail list. Don’t ever add people to your e-mail list without their permission. For example, you wouldn’t want to add e-mail addresses from business cards you collect at a business conference unless you have permission from each individual whose card you collected. In addition, you don’t want to share, sell or transfer any e-mail addresses you have collected to another e-mail list.

Lastly, make sure that if you hire an outside company to handle your e-mail marketing that you hire a reputable one. You, along with your e-mail marketing company, may be held legally responsible for any violations of federal law. Want to learn more about CAN-SPAM? Go to this link.

Prenuptial agreements in estate planning

29100123 - prenup marriage agreement and penThe concept of a prenuptial agreement probably isn’t foreign to you, and you even may have a strong opinion of whether they are truly necessary. We want to share with you why a prenup is an important part of estate planning at any financial level.

Most of the time, people think of a prenup as asset protection in the case of divorce, but that isn’t always the case.

Instead, a prenuptial agreement can be an important tool in defining which assets are jointly owned and which are separately owned. It also can spell out which living spouse has the authority to give away something that is truly their’s, and what goes to whom in the event of a death of a spouse. This is especially important if a second marriage results after a divorce or death from a first spouse.

This legal document basically is a way to protect significant assets, heirlooms and estate plans that one or both parties could bring into a new marriage. This isn’t just about protecting one specific person, but the legacy and estate for children, grandchildren or other family members.

Do you now realize a prenup may be in the best interest of your estate planning? Or maybe you are worried it is now too late for this important legal document within your estate planning. Either way, we are here to help you and look forward to discussing this legal document and your current and future estate planning needs.

The art of successful telecommuting

45720671 - woman working in home office hand on keyboard close upNationwide, it’s estimated that 43 percent of all employees work remotely at least part of the time. Research shows that telecommuting has numerous benefits to employers (such as more productive and engaged workers) and employees (less time and cost involved in commuting and greater work-life balance).

Yet Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report reveals that telecommuting yields the most benefits to employees and employers when workers do not spend 100 percent of their time at home. They’re more engaged when they spend some of the workweek working remotely and the other part working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal engagement boost, according to Gallup, occurs when employees spend 60 percent to less than 80 percent of their workweek — three to four days — working off-site.

Why is this the case? There are numerous factors that come into play. One important one is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue. Numerous studies show that telecommuting workers on average are as productive or even more productive than employees who work in the office and who have greater distractions to deal with. But when an employee is in the same office as their manager, it’s easier for the manager to see and recognize achievements, according to Gallup. When the manager and employees are in different locations, there are fewer opportunities for this to occur. That can leave telecommuting workers feeling undervalued and less engaged. Managers need to make sure they are celebrating the successes of — and offering advancement opportunities to — both in-office workers and telecommuters.

Another reason why a 100 percent telecommuting plan is not always ideal is that fully remote workers do not get that opportunity to connect with their co-workers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Human beings crave connection with others. Employees form bonds with other employees in office break rooms, lunch rooms and at the water cooler and coffee pot. Even small amounts of face time with co-workers and managers can help increase the odds that an employee’s telecommuting efforts are successful for everyone involved.

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