Month: October 2012

Hiring in the World of Social Networks

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, have given employers access to more information about job candidates than ever before. This can be extremely useful, especially for small businesses without a fully-staffed HR department to screen candidates. It’s not always clear, however, what you can legally do with that information once you find it.

Let’s start with the easy part: if you Google a job candidate or find them on a social network site, you can look at the information posted there. Public profiles are fair game and, if used correctly, can provide valuable insight into the candidate. For example, a candidate may have many LinkedIn contacts in your industry or link to relevant articles on Facebook.

The potential danger for employers is that social network sites also contain information that, legally, you can’t use to make a hiring decision. Wisconsin prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants for a variety of reasons, including race, sex, age, religion, family status, arrest record, and disability (just to name a few). That means you can’t directly ask a candidate about these and, if you find them in an online search, you can’t take them into account.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple way to protect yourself as an employer. If possible, separate your social network search from the hiring decision. Have your assistant or another employee search for the candidate, then have that employee give you only the information you can legally use. Not only do you remove the temptation to use protected information, but you give yourself a defense in case a candidate does sue.

Social networks give you a lot of information on a candidate, including some that’s protected by law. Being careful with the information you find can help you make the right hiring decision while protecting your business.

Executing Your Estate Game Plan Part 2

Setting up an estate plan is a great start to accomplishing your estate planning goals. But too many times we take the plan we’ve drawn up and lock it away until it’s needed. In this series, we’ll take a look at what you can do now to make sure that your estate plan will actually meet your goals when it’s time to be carried out.

Part 2: Discussing Your Estate Plan

Discussing your estate plan with your loved ones can be difficult, but it’s one way to ensure that your wishes will be carried out.

The most important discussions should happen before you draw up your estate plan. These are the discussions you need to have with anybody you want to assign responsibility to. Those people include guardians for your minor children, trustees, powers of attorney and healthcare powers of attorney. Make sure that person understands what you’re asking of them and is willing to take on the tasks that come with the position.

After you draw up your estate plan, it’s a good idea to go over what you’ve decided, in general terms, with the people who will be executing it. For example, trustees will probably want to have at least a basic idea of how you set up the trust so they know what to expect.

Finally, many family members have emotional attachments to some of your personal effects, like family heirlooms. Being up front about why you made certain gifts can soothe any hurt feelings, not to mention avoiding a court battle.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how much of your estate plan you want to share with others. But a few honest discussions now can avoid some of the headaches and stress down the road.

Next: When to Update Your Estate Plan

Executing Your Estate Game Plan Part 1

Setting up an estate plan is a great start to accomplishing your estate planning goals. But too many times we take the plan we’ve drawn up and lock it away until it’s needed. In this series, we’ll take a look at what you can do now to make sure that your estate plan will actually meet your goals when it’s time to be carried out.

Part 1: Funding Your Trust

Trusts are an important part of estate plans today. They allow a trustee to manage your property for you and distribute it based on the terms you set out when you created the trust. But in order for the trust to work the way you want it to, you have to fund it. Funding a trust means actually transferring your property to it.

Why is it so important to fund your trust? Because any property that you don’t transfer is subject to probate, along with all of the probate delays and costs. In other words, you can lose one of the most important reasons you set up the trust in the first place.

Some transfers are fairly easy to make. For example, your personal effects were probably transferred to the trust by simply stating that fact in the trust document. Other transfers, like business interests or retirement plans, can be much more complicated and have trade-offs you should discuss with your attorney and/or financial advisor.

You’ve taken the time to create a trust that makes sure your loved ones are taken care of. Properly funding your trust makes sure that those loved ones are supported the way you intended.

Next: Discussing Your Estate Plan

Surviving an Employee Lawsuit: What Every Employer Should Know

As a business owner, you hope to have good relationships with your employees. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that at some point in time most employers will face a lawsuit from an employee or former employee. While you can’t prevent employees from suing, here are the Dos and Don’ts to help you get through the lawsuit and protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

Do call your attorney as soon as possible: employment laws are complicated and often favor the employee. Your attorney will help you determine how serious the lawsuit is and whether you should fight it or settle.

Do call your insurance company: your policy might not cover employee disputes, but if it does, you need to notify your insurer immediately. Not filing a claim guarantees you won’t be covered.

Do collect and save important information: important information can come from other employees, such as supervisors, or from performance reviews and company policies, just to name a few.

Don’t panic: knee-jerk reactions can cause more problems than the original lawsuit. Instead, talk to your attorney and let them help you figure out what to do next.

Don’t apologize: it might be tempting to plead your case or smooth things over with an employee who sues, but you can bet that anything you say will be used by the employee’s attorney. On the other hand…

Don’t retaliate: retaliating (like firing an employee who sues or making it difficult for them to work for you) gives the employee another claim to add to their lawsuit and makes it look like you have something to hide.

Even if you treat employees fairly, you can’t prevent them from suing. Instead, knowing how to handle the situation if an employee does sue will protect you and your business.

Getting Personal: The Real Reasons You Need an Estate Plan

Many of us think of estate planning as the way wealthy people distribute their estate with minimal taxes. But estate planning shouldn’t be all about the money: it’s about taking care of people you love. Everyone needs estate planning.

Non-money reasons to have an estate plan include:

  • Number one, especially for young adults, is to appoint a guardian for your minor children. Make sure someone you know and trust will care for your children if you can’t.
  • Setting up a trust can give your children a safety-net to protect their inheritance and take care of them as they grow.
  • A life insurance policy can pay your mortgage, medical bills, or final expenses and cost as little as $300 a year. It’s a small expense to ensure your spouse and children have support if something happens.
  • A power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney choose someone you trust to make financial and medical decisions for you in case you can’t. This, along with a living will, can make sure your wishes are known and limit stress on loved ones having to make those difficult decisions.

Your estate plan is about more than your financial worth. You want your loved ones to be taken care of even if you can’t be there to do it. The attorneys at Epiphany Law will work with you to create a plan that meets your personal needs and protects those you love regardless of the size of your estate.