Month: January 2020

Protecting Your Business with an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook serves as a guide for employees and employers. The handbook is a tool that defines ground rules and explains what is and is not considered acceptable behavior. Done properly, an employee handbook is a great first line of defense for a variety of legal issues.

However, if an employee handbook is done improperly, it can lead to confusion, anger and lawsuits. The sections contained in the handbook need to be carefully worded in order to avoid those pitfalls.  Generally, laws regarding employees and employees are drafted in favor of the employee so without the protections offered in an employee handbook, the employer is open to more risk.

Although some federal regulations such as Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not go into effect until you have 15 or more employees, a business of any size can be sued for other employment related issues.

To minimize your risks, it is important to have a relationship with an employment law attorney who will update you of any federal or state required changes.

Other ways to minimize risks include an annual handbook review. As the world changes, you may need to create new policies that reflect the changes in the law and your employee handbook should reflect those changes.  For example, think of the changes to the workplace over the past few years like health care reform, employees working from home more frequently, working parents and the balance between home and work life, the use of personal mobile devices and so many others.

In addition, the handbook should be reviewed to make sure the documented polices that are included in the book are consistently followed and are a reflection of the culture of your work environment.  If the policies in the handbook are not followed and not a reflection of your work environment, you will have a weak defense if a dispute arises.

Remember, it’s not enough just to update the handbook.  Clearly communicating any change or policy update to all employees is also required.

 

Ensure Your Legacy with an Estate Plan

Have you been putting off creating your estate plan? You’re not alone. It can be intimidating or overwhelming to think about the future. But, once you complete your plan, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind it provides. This year, make it your goal to have an estate plan that fits your needs.

Not sure where to start? Check out these five common questions to learn the basics:
  1. What is an estate plan?

Estate planning is the process of planning for the inevitable. It guides what happens when you are unable to act for yourself due to death or disability.

  1. Who needs an estate plan?

The simple answer is everyone. Estate planning is not only for the rich and famous. Whether you are single or married, with children or without, in your twenties or enjoying your golden years, estate planning is a smart move.

Even families of relatively modest means need to decide who should help with health care and financial decisions, who should care for minor children and when children should receive their inheritance. If you don’t make the decisions, the courts will. Almost everyone needs some form of estate planning, especially those who:

  • Want their estate distributed after their death according to their wishes and not statutory guidelines
  • Have assets that will make them susceptible to high estate taxes
  • Want planned distributions for the benefit of descendants
  • Have heirs who may need responsible financial assistance after their passing
  1. What is the difference between a will and a trust?

Wills and trusts have some similarities. They are both estate planning tools and can work together to create the most complete plan for an estate. The main differences between a will and a trust are:

  • Wills become effective after death, whereas some trusts are effective upon creation
  • Wills direct who receives property upon death and appoint a legal representative to oversee this process, whereas a trust can distribute property prior to death
  • Trusts cover only property placed in the trust, whereas wills cover anything owned solely by the person creating the will
  • Wills are public record, whereas generally a trust remains private.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both wills and trusts, so speak with your attorney about your circumstances to determine which of the options, or what combination of the two, is best for you.

  1. Why should everyone have an estate plan?
  • Preserves the value of your assets
  • Reduces unnecessary taxes and expenses
  • Ensures that your heirs receive what you intended them to receive
  • Manages your assets for you and your heirs in the event of disability or incapacitation
  • Protects your privacy
  1. Where can I go for help?

When you are ready to create your estate plan, it’s important you pick an experienced estate planning attorney who will listen to and understand your wishes. An experienced attorney will be able to help ensure your legacy is protected.

If you are interested in learning more about estate planning and the right strategies for your unique situation, please email us  or call 920-996-0000.

Tax Preparedness in a Sale of a Private Company

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a webcast with four amazing experts on the topic of Business and Tax Preparedness in a Sale of a Private Company.  My fellow experts, Louis Vlahos, Cynthia Romano, Vanita Spaulding and Alex Kasdan were specialists in investment banking, business valuation, restructuring and process improvement and tax law – I was asked on as the corporate law expert.

The focus of the program was how to maximize the value of your business in a sale context.  What was amazing to me was the remarkable underlying consistency of all of the experts in one key area – the time to start preparing for a sale is long before an offer comes along.

Each expert, from the tax lawyer to the process improvement expert was convinced that the only real way to maximize your businesses value was to conduct your business with the ultimate end goal – a transition – in mind.  Whether you are planning to sell your business today or not, there’s a good chance that you’ll get an unsolicited offer in the future – and the future might be sooner than you think.  So it’s critical to ensure that your business is ready to transact, even if you don’t have present plans.  For certain issues, like tax elections, the IRS might look back five years or more in time before deciding whether to honor your election.  For other critical items – like succession planning and talent development – you’ll need a long time to train your team to be ready to run your business.  And from a corporate law perspective, you certainly want to avoid contracts that might pay dividends today, but lock you into a bad deal for the future when a potential buyer comes along.

How then, can you make your company completely “transaction ready”?  While tax preparedness certainly plays a part, that’s a much longer question than we have time for here. There are a number of things to consider and explore.  So, watch out for an upcoming article with some ideas on how to get started with that. In the meantime, you can check out the full webcast here.

You can also contact us with any questions you may have. Our office phone number is 920-996-0000 or you can email us here.