543 N. Main St.
Suite. 222
Rochester, MI 48307
248-613-0007 info@RLClawyers.com

Your collection and your estate plan

Practice Areas

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.

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.

Easy ways to promote employee wellness

11775457 - group of colleagues descending stairsNearly three-quarters of companies in the most recent Society for Human Resource Management’s employee benefits survey said they offer some type of wellness program or plan. It’s easy to see why: Research shows a strong link between wellness initiatives and lower health care costs, greater productivity and employee satisfaction. Employees participating in wellness programs, for example, are less likely to experience health issues caused by work-related stress and more likely to fit healthy food choices and exercise into busy schedules.

Companies don’t have to invest in costly wellness programs to see benefits, however. Here are some low-cost and high-impact investments in wellness for your office:

  1. Plan daily or weekly walks. Get your employees out and moving, especially if you have an office where the majority of people are at their desks all day. Set aside 15-30 minutes every day or every other day and encourage your team members to walk around the block, travel to a nearby park, or maybe even walk to lunch. Ever tried a walking meeting? Provide employees with information about the benefits of walking.
  2. 3 o’clock drop. Fight the 3 o’clock productivity drop by hosting some kind of physical activity. You don’t have to go all out, but an afternoon stretch or yoga session can get the blood flowing and help energize your team for the rest of the day.
  3. Sign up for a company 5K. Find a good cause to support or make it a fun run. You can train as a company and build relationships in the process. Not into running? Biking or walking are great ways to stay healthy, too.
  4. Stock the fridge with water and healthy snacks. Most company fridges are filled with soda and sugary snacks. Encourage your employees to eat healthier by providing them with options like fruit, veggies and water.
  5. Invest in an employee gym. If you have the space in your building, consider installing a company workout room. If you don’t have the space, think about paying for employee gym memberships, or bring someone in to teach a workout class.

Do you have tenants with hoarding tendencies?

70990327_SAre you a landlord who has just discovered one or more of your tenants is a hoarder? This can be a very stressful situation to handle.

While you have your property to protect, your tenants also have rights. Hoarding has been deemed a mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, which means the Fair Housing Act and its protections come into play. Where exactly does this leave you as the landlord?

While hoarding itself is not enough for eviction, there may also be a breach of contract — specifically the rental agreement. Such a breach may allow you to begin eviction proceedings, and may be based on property damage, possession of materials or animals in excess of what is allowed by law or the lease, or materials that block exits or fire alarms.

What should you watch for? Are you suddenly having problems with bugs or rodents? Can your repair technicians not access specific areas? Is your tenant denying you entry into the property?

Once you notice the hoarding issue, you can ask your tenants to clean the areas in question and then reinspect. Just be sure to provide notices and written time frames. You will also want to document the situation through written descriptions, timelines, communications, pictures and videos if possible.

Still stuck? We want to help you legally resolve these hoarding situations at your rental property. Contact us today at 248-613-0007 to see how we can help.

Even if all your employees work in an office, you need a safety plan

36168174 - brainstorming of multiethnic business people at officeThink businesses that have primarily office workers don’t have to worry about workplace safety? Think again! This list of workplace injuries demonstrates that accidents happen in all kinds of U.S. companies. Notice that a number of them apply to workers who spend much of their time behind a desk — not at a construction site or in a manufacturing facility.

As a business grows, so does its risk of costly accidents. Nationwide, occupational injuries cost companies nearly $170 billion each year. Injuries can hurt and even cripple a growing company. That’s why preventing them should be a priority for even the smallest of companies. Plus, providing your employees with a safe working environment is the right thing to do.

Where to start? At the office, slips, trips and falls are the most common hazards. Look around for uneven surfaces, torn carpet or anything else that could cause someone to trip and fall. Clean up any spills immediately and address any surfaces that become slippery, especially during the winter months. Consider having an ergonomics expert make sure your workstations are designed so that they meet basic rules for preventing repetitive injuries.

If your employees drive for business, make sure you have a safe-driving policy and consider banning cell phone use by employees who drive on the job. Another important thing you can do? Create a culture where employees know they can take breaks to stretch and rest their muscles and their eyes.

Divorce, wills and estate planning

10783408 - torn piece of paper with divorce text and paper couple figuresIf you have gone through a divorce, you may think that once it’s final, you are done working with attorneys and legal paperwork. But there is one more set of documents that need your attention after a divorce — your estate plan, including a will, living will and other documents.

You may dread this task if you’re emotionally and possibly financially fatigued, but bear with us! There could be long-lasting effects if you fail to update your estate plan. A divorce typically changes what you want to happen in your future and with your assets, and that needs to be reflected in

This includes updating your will with any changes to guardians if you have minor children, changes to property and asset distribution and even changes to the executor. Additionally, consider any changes to powers of attorneys for medical or financial decisions on your behalf. The divorce also could have tax implications for your estate plan.

You also will want to make sure you update beneficiaries on the following: retirement accounts, life insurance, and even bank accounts that are listed as pay-on-death. Don’t assume that a divorce will automatically change these things or revoke the way they were established before the divorce occurred.

You may think these are not urgent changes, but we disagree. It is important to update these as soon as possible after a divorce, and we invite you to contact our offices at 248-613-0007 to get started.

Contact Us