Category: Breakfast at Epiphany’s

Introducing a new weekly blog that covers legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives… all from the mind of a non-attorney (Project Specialist: Kelton Dopp).

 

Got Sued? Now what?

 

Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

Careful what you wish for…

In 2016, 852,828 new lawsuits were opened in the state of Wisconsin… We only have 5.8 million people living in the state. For those that were never “math” people, that’s roughly 1 lawsuit for every 7 people in the state.

The statistics get even more mind-numbing if you expand the scope to include the entire United States, where over 100 million new cases are opened each year in a country that is home to 323 million (about 1:3).

Facts:

  • On average, a new lawsuit is filed every 30 seconds.
  • 78% of lawsuit defendants never thought it would happen to them.
  • America has 80% of the World’s lawyers.
  • 96% of the WORLD’S lawsuits are filed in the United States.

Yikes.

Unless you’ve had the misfortune of being involved in a lawsuit, the likelihood is that you have no idea how the whole process works.

USLegal.com explains it this way:

“In Wisconsin a civil action commences by filing of a complaint.  (The) Party who commences the action is called the plaintiff, and the opposite party is called the defendant.  A civil action can be classified into various stages that include: pleading stage, discovery stage, trial stage, and judgment stage.

Pleadings acceptable in Wisconsin courts are: complaint, answer to complaint, counter claim, reply to counter claim, cross claim, answer to cross claim, third party complaint and answer to third party complaint.  A complaint should be filed by the real party in interest… Parties may obtain discovery by depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things or permission to enter upon land or other property, for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission.

At the trial stage, a party may demand for trial by jury.  A judgment is passed after trial.”

To be fair, it started off promising. The basic identification of how the process begins. Definition of Plaintiff/Defendant. But then… … … ???

Let’s see if I can do better.

So someone wants to sue you.

How do they do it? When do you know it’s for real? Better yet, when should you contact an attorney?

Chill. One question at a time, please.

First of all, they can’t just text you saying, “I hate your guts, I’m suing you for $500 because you’re the worst!”… I mean they CAN do that, but it doesn’t mean anything. If you’re a fan of The Office, someone doing that to you is basically the equivalent of Michael Scott’s famous, “I. DECLARE. BANKRUPTCYYYYYYY!!!!!!”

You don’t need to get worked up yet. And unless you’re truly having a meltdown, there’s probably no need to contact an attorney.

Everything gets real when the person who hates your guts files a “Summons and Complaint” with the Clerk of Courts. It basically says two (2) things: 1) Hey, guys, this jerk is the worst! They did “X, Y, and Z” to me and those things are against the law. 2) I will give this jerk “X” days to respond to my claim, otherwise they admit guilt.

Once the Clerk of Courts receives this “Summons and Complaint”, the information will be forwarded along to you. When YOU receive it, “You’ve been served.”

At this point, you have a whole bunch of options. The ball is in your court:

  • “Yep, I did it.”
  • “Nope, didn’t do it.”
  • “Yep, I did ‘X’ but I didn’t do ‘Y’ and ‘Z’”
  • “Hey, I don’t like you either! I want to sue you back!”

Unless you know beyond the shadow of a doubt how you should respond, this is a very good time to contact an attorney.

DISCOVERY

Short of you admitting guilt or not responding to the claims, the next step is for your case to go into discovery. It is what you’d expect: both sides ask each other information about the case, trying to discover as much factual information as possible, with the goal of building the strongest possible case. The length of the discovery period can vary dramatically, but usually lasts several months.

MEDIATION

After the discovery phase is over and all the facts are out in the open, the sides may decide to avoid trial by seeking to resolve the case in mediation. Mediation is heard by an unbiased 3rd party, who will offer a nonbinding verdict (meaning if either party disagrees with the verdict, the case will continue on and be heard by a judge/jury). However, if both parties DO agree, the case will be resolved without going to court! Pursuing mediation makes a TON of sense if you feel the individual(s) opposing you have some sense of rationale. Mediation, in general, offers the advantages of being much less time consuming, stressful, and costly than the standard Civil Court process.

One could say that pursuing mediation is the “mature” way of handling a dispute. “Hey, man, I see where you’re coming from. You see where I’m coming from. Let’s just get this over with so we can get on with our lives.”

Rather than waiting months – sometimes years – to have your case heard by the court system, a hearing with a mediator can often be scheduled within a couple of weeks.

SUMMARY JUDGEMENT

If the facts clearly support one side over the other, a motion for summary judgement may be filed. “Hey, Mr. Judge, just take a look at these facts. It’s obvious what happened here. We don’t need to waste our time with a trial. Just make your decision.”

PRETRIAL HEARING(S)

The judge and both sides discuss the facts of the case, charges faced, and what evidence will be allowed at the trial. This phase can amount to one brief hearing or several lengthy hearings, depending on the complexity of the case. This is usually a final opportunity for the sides to come to a “settlement”.

TRIAL

Each side presents evidence. Judge / Jury deliver a binding verdict. Cases that go all the way through trial normally take well over one (1) year from “complaint” to “verdict”.

Appeal

Just when you thought it was over. If you or your counterpart doesn’t like the decision the judge/jury made, that decision can be brought to an “appellate” court. “Hey, I think the judge/jury made a serious mistake in handling my case. I want someone else to look at these facts.” You should know, once the judge delivers a verdict, you are generally facing very long odds to get that decision overturned in an appellate court. But… There is always a chance.

Thanks for reading! To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow Epiphany Law on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates from the Firm. Finally, you can follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

Exit Planning: When to start?

Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

A few weeks ago, we sent out emails to several business owners, inviting them to attend a presentation on Exit Planning. We met our desired room capacity pretty quickly, but we did get a few responses like this:

  • “I’m not exiting my business for 3 or 4 years, I’ll attend the presentation then.”
  • “We aren’t exiting until next year. Will you be doing this again in 6 months?”

Two separate business owners made a conscious decision to delay attending this kind of presentation until their exit is at arm’s length.

As a person who is very educated on what Exit Planning is and how much work it takes, let’s just say those decisions scare the s*** out of me.

Yes, I know, there is a certain contingent of business owners who simply cannot – and will not – mentally or emotionally handle the task of planning for their exit. In fact, we even wrote a blog about it: Exit Planning: Why Do Business Owners Avoid It? Bottom line: It’s just too much for them, so they stick their heads in the sand.

Those responses we got – you know, a few weeks ago after the presentation – those felt different. To my mind, it feels like those business owners actually think it is OK to wait longer than they already have. Like, with the rational part of their brain.

They weren’t being emotional, afraid, or willfully negligent.

It seems like they were just living their reality.

If that is the case, I have failed you all miserably.

Why?

The truth is, executing an Exit Plan takes a hell of a lot longer than 6-12 months. If you wait until then to even start LEARNING about Exit Planning, you are way behind the 8 ball. You are asking for disaster. I’m not saying you are S.O.L, but I AM SAYING that you have effectively put the ball in someone else’s court and left value – i.e. MONEY – on the table.

Really?

Yep.

Okay… So how long DOES it take?

Internal Transition

First of all, did you know there are really only four (4) practical ways that you can transition a business internally?

  1. Intergenerational Transfer: The transfer of a business to direct heirs, usually children. About 50% of business owners want to exercise this option; only 30% do it successfully.
  2. Management Buyout: Owner sells all or part of the business to the company’s management team. Management uses the assets of the business to finance a significant portion of the purchase price.
  3. ESOP: Company uses borrowed funds to acquire shares from the owner and contributes the shares to a trust on behalf of the employees.
  4. Sale to Existing Partners.

Here’s the deal: If I’m going to be your Exit Planner, and you are considering an Internal Transition of any kind, I want our initial meeting to be at least 10 years prior to your exit.

You heard me. 10 years.

Why? 2 Reasons.

  1. In all likelihood, you are not just GIVING this thing away. And you want cash at closing, not a promise to pay.
  2. In all likelihood, the person(s) you are selling it to can’t afford to buy it, and wouldn’t be able to secure financing.

If you come meet with me 10 years in advance, we can create a pot of money for your successor(s). The concept is simple: Money gets bonus-ed into the pot if – and only if – they achieve predetermined objectives that help you grow the value of the business. Pick your scenario:

  • Give successor(s) $0.00, have a company worth $2,000,000. In 10 years, receive a 20 year note and a $150,000 first year payment.
  • Give successor(s) $1,000,000.00, have a company worth $3,000,000. In 10 years, receive $2,000,000 and a 10 year note for the balance.

I know which one I’d pick.

If you come meet with me 5 years in advance, we cannot do that.

If you come meet with me somewhere in between, the numbers might work. They might not. It’s anybody’s guess.

External Sale

If you’re planning to pursue a sale to a third party, I will be thrilled if you give me a 5 year runway to work with.

You see, Exit Planning is a lot like flipping a house:

If you give me 5 years, we can update everything: new hardwoods, appliances, siding, and roofing. We can check the plumbing and electrical. We can remodel the kitchen and master bedroom. Hell, we can even toss on an addition. And the best news: All of that will be done in 2-3 years, giving us the opportunity to truly pick our spot and capitalize on favorable market conditions when they are present.

If you give me 3 years, we can still make a ton of updates. The house will truly be in great shape for buyers. Only problem: you aren’t giving yourself any time to play the market. Once the house is ready, you’re going up for sale, whether it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market.

If you give me 1 year, we can update a handful of things and slap on a fresh coat of paint. That’s it. Smart buyers – yes most of them are smart – are going to try and poke holes to drive the price down.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, remodeling makes everything look great, but it ain’t free either. Is it really worth the investment?”

  • For most of you it’s going to mean the difference between a business that sells and one that sits on the market for 2 years before getting liquidated because nobody wants it.
  • We track ROI for our clients. We’ve never had someone come out in the negative. We generally EXPECT our clients to earn at least 30% on their investments in Exit Planning by the time it’s all said and done.

Getting Started

We generally kick off the process with a complimentary “exploratory” meeting. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and help us understand your true desires.

Assuming all parties agree to move forward, we jump into “Benchmarking” your business.

To stick with the remodeling analogy, it’s the basic equivalent of obtaining a real estate appraisal – on steroids. Yes, we deliver you with an estimate of value based on your financials. We also take it 5 steps further. We give you insight that says, “Hey, someone is going to fall in love with this house and pay 20% more if you gut the basement clean, paint the stairwell olive green and put a giant picture of Aaron Rodgers in the family room.”

At that point, whether you hire us to gut the basement and paint the stairwell, contract it out to someone else, or ignore our advice is entirely your prerogative.

 

Thanks for reading! To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow Epiphany Law on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates from the Firm. Finally, you can follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

An Interview with Patrick Furman

Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

Bachelor of Arts: West Virginia University

Juris Doctorate: University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Married: Yes; Tiffany

Kids: Yes; Mariah, Kyarra, and Alysia

Practice Area: Estate Planning

DiSC Profile: DC Style

 

Summary

“People with the DC style prioritize CHALLENGE, so they want to explore all options and make sure that the best possible methods are used. As a result, they may be very questioning and skeptical of other people’s ideas. They also prioritize RESULTS, so they’re often very direct and straightforward. Finally, they prioritize ACCURACY. Because they want to control the quality of their work, they prefer to work independently, and they may focus on separating emotions from facts.” – Excerpt from Pat’s DiSC Workplace Profile.

Key words and phrases: Explores all options, skeptical, direct, accurate, separates emotions from facts.

Dang. That’s good stuff right there. Definitely the kind of person I want handling my most important affairs. Here is what I will add: I would imagine that many people with this personality type tend to come across very dry, arrogant, or even rude because they have so much knowledge about topics that their clients – well – don’t. Pat manages to overcome that. I don’t know if it’s just a natural gift of his or if it’s something he’s worked on over the years, but he really has this great way of being relatable and knowledgeable, without making you feel dumb for not knowing nearly as much as he does.

 

Interview

KOD: “Thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it.”

PDF: “Are you kidding? It’s my pleasure!”

KOD: “So how long you been doing this for?”

PDF: “Being an attorney?”

KOD: “Yeah.”

PDF: “Since 1997. No wait… ’98. 1998.”

KOD: “So almost 20 years. Take me back through your journey, because if I remember correctly you started out in undergrad at West Virginia and then went on to Law School at Pitt?”

PDF: “Uh-huh“

KOD: “How did you end up here?”

PDF: “Took a wrong turn in Indiana.”

KOD: Laughs.

PDF: “What had happened was… My parents moved to WI at some point while I was going to school to work for Badger Mining. After I finished school, my fiancé decided we should follow them out there. So we did. And – funny story – the night I took the bar exam she told me she didn’t want to get married.”

KOD: In shock.

PDF: “But luckily I passed the exam on my first try, fell in love with the area, and met Tiffany somewhere along the way. It all worked out in the end.”

KOD: “Wow. Amazing how life goes.”

KOD: “Who’s your favorite NFL team and why?”

PDF: “It’s the Steelers. I grew up in Pittsburgh, around the greatest team that’s ever existed – the Steelers of the ‘70s. I met pretty much all of them in one shape or another – “

KOD: “– How did you meet all of them?”

PDF: “I went to training camp every year with my dad and we would wait around between their dorm and the field. A lot of the guys would stop and talk or say hi or whatever. It was really awesome. I always remember during one of the camps, Theo Bell, who was a wide receiver, took my hat and wore it around.”

KOD: “That is incredibly cool. What a great memory!”

KOD: “If you could go back in time and relive one Steelers moment, what would that be?”

PDF: “Super Bowl 40 when we beat the Seahawks. I was actually at that game, and it was a close game until the end. Really fun to be at. The stadium was mostly Steelers fans because it was played at Ford Field in Detroit, which obviously is pretty close to Pittsburgh. Just a great time. That would be a fun one to relive.”

KOD: “So as a die-hard Steelers guy, do you hate the Eagles?”

PDF: “Yes… I hate the Patriots too… … …”

KOD: “You gonna watch the Super Bowl this weekend?”

PDF: “Yeah. As a football fan I have to.”

KOD: “Who are you cheering for?”

PDF: “The Eagles. I want to see the upset. Also, this Eagles team is a lot more likeable than some Eagles teams of the past. They are the underdogs. If they win, it would be a miracle. So I’m good with that outcome.”

KOD: “Date 1 – Marry 1 – Punch 1: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski.”

PDF: “Ummm… Probably marry Tom Brady cuz he has all that money. Punch Belichick because we can’t beat him. And date Gronk because he would be a lot of fun.” Laughs.

KOD: “Truer words never spoken. Gronk would be fun to hang out with!”

KOD: “Did you watch cartoons growing up?”

PDF: “I was a big Scooby-Doo fan growing up, but I hate it now.”

KOD: Confused. “What? Why do you hate it now?”

PDF: “I don’t know. I think it’s the special appearances that they throw into the show. The cameos. Like all of a sudden KISS would show up on the show. It’s just annoying to me now.” Laughs.

KOD: “What’s your favorite ‘90s jam?”

PDF: “Can I pick an album?”

KOD: “Sure.”

PDF: “Radiohead: Ok Computer. Best album of the decade.”

 

Here you go >>> Radiohead – Airbag.

 

KOD: “How many pennies do you think would fit into this room?”

PDF: “None because there shouldn’t be any pennies. They should be discontinued.” Laughs.

KOD: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”

PDF: “He says, ‘I’m Sidney Crosby and I’m going to give you season tickets to the Pittsburgh Penguins games.”

KOD: “Wow. Greatest response ever. I love it.”

KOD: “Tell me about 1 person outside of your immediate family that you love.”

PDF: “Hmmm… Kevin Eismann – Epiphany Law.” Laughs.

KOD: “Oh brother. Barf.” Laughs.

KOD: “Why are you an attorney?”

PDF: “I like helping people. Usually they will come in with some sort of problem that they don’t think can be fixed, and when you can fix it for them it’s the best feeling.”

KOD: “What is one thing that you are proud of yourself for?”

PDF: “My kids. It sounds sappy maybe, but I’m really proud of the way they act. They are really well behaved and I’m proud of them for that.”

KOD: “Pretend I’m thinking about hiring you as my attorney to do some legal work for me. What do you bring to the table? What can I take to the bank? Something you know you will deliver on every time.”

PDF: “A great amount of knowledge. I’m going to genuinely care about your problem. And we are going to find a solution.”

KOD: “Pretend I’m a young attorney, fresh out of Law School. Tell me why I should apply at Epiphany Law.”

PDF: “The environment allows you to be yourself. It allows you to feel comfortable. And you get genuine support from others.”

KOD: “How is that different from other places?”

PDF: “It’s usually not a ‘real’ team at other places. People might work in the same building, but nobody is going to go out of their way to help you. It can be pretty cutthroat. Like, you’re on your own, figure it out. That sort of thing. It’s a lot easier to be successful at Epiphany, just because the culture is different.”

KOD: “Give me one thing that people miss or do incorrectly a decent amount of the time when they try to do Estate Planning on their own?”

PDF: “They gift things to their kids without understanding what the consequences really are. So… they don’t understand capital gains, or they don’t think potential liability they are creating by gifting.”

PDF: “The other thing is that when people create a trust or will on their own, they often do it with just one possible outcome in mind. For example, they create the trust assuming that the husband will die first, and the wife second, and that’s it. They don’t take the time to think through all the possibilities. So they plan it all for one scenario, and if things work out that way it will be fine. But if, for some reason the wife dies first, the plan doesn’t work.”

KOD: “That’s really smart advice.”

KOD: “Alright lets finish this off with a little rapid fire.”

KOD: “Cookies or Cake?”

PDF: “Cookies.”

KOD: “Cats or Dogs?”

PDF: “Dogs.”

KOD: “Coke or Pepsi?”

PDF: “Coke.”

KOD: “Superman or Batman?”

PDF: “Batman.”

KOD: “Blonde or Brunette?”

PDF: “Blonde.”

KOD: “Horror or Comedy?

PDF: “Comedy.”

KOD: “Bud Light or Miller Lite?”

PDF: “Absolutely neither.”

A huge thank you to Pat for taking some time to chat with me! A super smart guy, and clearly has an awesome personality! I am a bit skeptical of his Coke/Pepsi response, however. If you look closely you will see that he was drinking a Diet Pepsi during our interview…

Thank you once again to all the readers of this blog. [email protected] continues to march on! To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

What is a B Corporation?

Legal matters, business strategy,

and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

 

Shown below are several different types of business entities:

C Corporation

Limited Liability Company

Municipality

Charitable Organization

Joint Venture

Nonprofit Corporation

Cooperative

Limited Partnership

Sole Proprietorship

General Partnership

Limited Liability Partnership

S Corporation

Holding Company

Massachusetts Business Trust

Series LLC

On November 27th, 2017, Wisconsin became the 34th state to pass Legislation allowing the existence of Benefit Corporations (B Corps). Wisconsin companies can begin filing the B Corp election on February 26th, 2018.

WHO CARES! Toss it on the pile, right??

WRONG.

B CORPORATIONS ARE CHANGING THE GAME.

How do B Corps change the game?

In the United States, for-profit Corporations are required to act “solely for the ultimate purpose of maximizing financial returns for shareholders.” In other words, the people pulling the strings are legally obligated to make as much money as possible for the people who have invested in the company. Profit. That is the only consideration that matters. If there is an opportunity to make money, the powers that be must take it, or face the wrath of disgruntled investors and cunning corporate attorneys.

B Corps, in the 34 states that allow them, are also for-profit Corporations. Their directors are also legally obligated to make as much money as possible for shareholders. However, directors are also legally obligated to consider the social impact that their decisions have on society.

Let me kick you two scenarios to help explain the point:

  • C Corp. Directors are faced with the opportunity to experience significant cost-savings by relocating a large manufacturing plant overseas. Their research into the opportunity shows extremely low risk and potential for significant returns for shareholders. 10,000 jobs would be lost, severely damaging the community where the plant resides. If the Directors choose not to move forward with the relocation, they would likely face significant public scrutiny, termination, lawsuit, and career damage. Why? Because their only legal obligation is to maximize returns for shareholders.
  • B Corp. Directors are faced with the same opportunity. This time, Directors are legally obligated to consider and balance the financial incentive of relocating with the social impact it would create for the community. They can choose to act on either side and can balance the negative social impact with the positive financial opportunity however they see fit.

Unless a basis is created by the company itself, there is no hard-and-fast rule that says how much consideration directors should give to financial return versus social impact. The B Corp structure simply gives Directors the latitude to make decisions that truly are in the best interests of shareholders AND society as a whole.

Do B Corporations get a tax break?

No. B Corps are taxed like other Corporations. They may elect the S or C treatment.

Is anyone actually going to use this election?

Yes. As of today, there are over 2,300 B Corps across 130 industries. Here are a few of the most popular B Corps:

Mission: Preserving and expanding Ben & Jerry’s social mission, brand integrity and product quality, by providing social mission-mindful insight and guidance to ensure we’re making the best ice cream possible in the best way possible.

 

 

Mission: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

 

 

Mission: Since 1969, Natura’s mission has been to help build a better world through our commitment to transparency, sustainability and well-being.

 

What are some potential business benefits beyond the ability to “do the right thing”?

Access to talented workers. Young, talented individuals want to work for companies that are changing the world. Organizing as a B Corporation legitimizes a company’s cause as more than just lip-service. In today’s competitive environment, B Corps are an outstanding recruiting tool.

Increased employee retention and motivation. Similarly, a workforce is inspired by more than just a paycheck. Employees work with blood, sweat, and tears when they identify with their company’s cause.

Increased customer loyalty. Some customers are willing to pay more – and come back time and again – for brands that have a strong purpose. Socially responsible consumers are a real thing, and there are more and more of them every day.

What additional requirements do B Corps have?

Requirements change slightly depending on what state the company is organized in, but basically, B Corps have to create an annual benefit report that assesses their overall social and environmental performance. Most B Corps make this report available to the public – it’s generally a good marketing strategy to do so – and it’s a best practice to benchmark the company’s performance against a 3rd party standard. Reports can be generated for free from http://bimpactassessment.net/

Here is a sample report.

Want to get set up as a B Corp? I know a few good attorneys who can help with that…

Sarah M. Coenen

Kevin L. Eismann

Kathryn M. Blom

I appreciate those of you who continue to follow Breakfast at Epiphany’s. To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow Epiphany Law on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates from the Firm. Finally, you can follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

Bitcoin: Explain it to me like I’m 6

Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

Bitcoin. It’s all the craze.

Pretty easy to understand why… People are making MONEY. Not stacks – no, no – heaps and piles and truckloads of money. We’re talking life-changing, legacy-altering, never-have-to-work-again-if-you-don’t-screw-it-up kind of money.

But how? I mean… What is it? And… Are we all stupid for not jumping in?

These were all questions that my family was asking as we hovered over our meals on The Night Before Christmas.

I sort of knew what it was: This Virtual Currency thing that people somehow “mine” to acquire. I knew that “mining” it took a lot of CPU horsepower. I knew that some merchants accepted Bitcoin as a “legitimate” means of purchasing stuff. And finally, I understood that it was traded on Exchanges, just like any other stock/bond/currency.

Basically, I didn’t have much to offer that the #fam didn’t already know, so instead of jumping into the conversation… I kept quiet and let somebody else struggle through the difficult web of questions that inevitably accompany a Bitcoin conversation.

Damnit.

The one guy that had a legitimate background in finance and currently spends his days working with – arguably – very smart business minds came up with: nothing – zip – zilch – nada.

I blew my shot to look smart in front of the crew.

SMH.

Albert, you wise son-of-a-b****.

I don’t have any stats to support this, but my feeling is that maybe .1% of our population (300,000 Americans, for example) have an extremely intimate knowledge of everything Bitcoin. Certainly, many others “get it”. Maybe they can’t explain it to a child, but they know what’s going on. Well enough, at least, to have an opinion on whether or not they would ever invest in it. Then, there’s the rest of us. We’ve heard of it and we have no freaking clue what is going on.

If you read my first blog, you know THAT is why I write. To explain complex legal and business matters in a way that people can actually understand.

So, here is my shot at redemption.

What is Bitcoin?

It’s money. But you can’t put it in your wallet. You can’t hold it.

When did Bitcoin start?

January 2009.

Who started Bitcoin?

An alias named: Satoshi Nakamoto. This alias could represent a single person, or – more likely – a small group of people. Regardless, the true creator of Bitcoin has never come forward.

How did Bitcoin start?

In the beginning, the person – or small group of people – who created Bitcoin had to convince other people that this “thing” was worth something. A trade had to happen.

Allow me to repeat: they had to convince someone that a Bitcoin – this thing that you cannot see or feel or smell or taste or hear – was worth money.

How much money? In the beginning, one Bitcoin was worth about $0.00076 USD

In other words, 1,309.03 Bitcoin = $1.00 USD

Basically worthless, but still, it had to start somewhere.

Why did the first – and subsequent – trades happen?

Ideas are worth something. Ideas have potential. This “Bitcoin” idea promised – and still promises – the following:

  • Globalization. You don’t have to worry about crossing borders. Bitcoin is accepted anywhere.
  • Decentralization. It’s a fancy way of saying that there is no government authority – or any authority, really – that regulates Bitcoin. Nobody will “print” or “create” more of it on a whim, and nobody has the authority to declare it invalid.
  • Accessibility. Payments can be made at any time, to anyone, including on “holidays” when banks are traditionally closed.
  • Transparency. Bitcoin users will know if extra fees – no matter how miniscule – are being charged by merchants when they pay with Bitcoin.
  • Privacy. Payments can be made without personal information being shared.
  • Low Fees. The cost to process a Bitcoin transaction is currently much lower than the cost to process a credit card transaction.

The first users of Bitcoin were believers in that idea. They were willing to trade actual money – something that is universally accepted – for Bitcoin – something that would only be accepted among their own tiny network of users. They believed that as the idea spread, more people would be interested in using it. Eventually, real demand would be created and the cost of Bitcoin would rise.

What is Bitcoin “mining”?

It is HIGHLY complex and, to be honest, way beyond my capacity for understanding. It involves computers, algorithms, and really really smart people.

I will not attempt to describe the detail that goes into Bitcoin “mining”. Why? 1) I will fail miserably 2) It isn’t important. Here is what you need to know:

Bitcoin “mining” is the process that verifies a Bitcoin transaction is valid.

To best explain it, allow me to go back to the beginning again. We don’t know for certain, but let’s imagine it went something like this:

In the beginning, Satoshi Nakamoto had some Bitcoin. Let’s say it was 1,000 Bitcoin.

Satoshi sold some Bitcoin to another person. Let’s say it was 100 Bitcoin for roughly $0.08 USD.

Now, this is when “mining” happens. After a transaction is accepted, it must be verified. Computers talk to each other… Smart people do smart things… 10 minutes later… Approved!

What is the incentive for Bitcoin “mining”?

People that verify Bitcoin transactions are called “Miners”, and Bitcoin transactions are grouped together into a “block”. “Miners” are awarded Bitcoin for making sure the transaction data inside a “block” is legit.

In the beginning, “mining” a “block” of transaction data came with a reward of 50 Bitcoin.

It’s safe to assume that Satoshi was also the first “miner”. So, following the first transaction, the breakdown of Bitcoin looked something like this:

1st Investor: 10 Bitcoin

Satoshi Nakamoto: 990 owned + 50 mined = 1,040 Bitcoin

Total in Circulation: 1,050 Bitcoin

The reward for verifying transactions decreases over time. Every 4 years, the reward is cut in half.

The reward has gone from 50 -> 25 -> the current reward of 12.5 Bitcoin per “block”. Rewards will be cut to 6.25 Bitcoin per “block” in June of 2020.

As more and more users join the Bitcoin network, the transactions become increasingly difficult to verify. More difficult algorithms = more powerful computers = more energy consumption = higher costs for miners.

To tie that point together: As time passes, the benefit is going down and costs are going up for Bitcoin “miners”.

How many Bitcoin are there now?

As of the time of this writing, there are roughly 17 million Bitcoin in circulation. The maximum capacity of Bitcoin is 21 million. Once 21 million are in circulation, “miners” will no longer be awarded new Bitcoin in exchange for verifying transactions.

Most estimates indicate that all 21 million Bitcoin will be in circulation by the year 2140. At that point, the reward will be .00000042 Bitcoin / Block “mined”. Again, the current reward is 12.5 Bitcoin / Block “mined”.

Err… will “miners” still do the work to verify transactions if there is no incentive?

Nope. They will not.

At some point, the cost (primarily energy consumption by high-powered computers) of “mining” Bitcoins will outweigh the actual reward, and it will no longer be profitable to “mine”.

At this time – or much sooner – “miners” will start charging transaction fees to Bitcoin users who want to buy something with their Bitcoins.

The business that is Bitcoin “mining” – while HIGHLY profitable now – will likely become one of razor-thin profit margins at some point in the future. Small margins may be palatable, however, if millions of transactions are occurring daily.

What is one Bitcoin worth?

In January of 2011; about 7 years ago, one Bitcoin cost $0.35 USD.

In January of 2014; about 4 years ago, one Bitcoin cost $881.66 USD.

In January of 2017; about 1 year ago, one Bitcoin cost $985.56 USD.

As of January 5th, 2018 at 9:00 am, one Bitcoin costs $15,188.70 USD.

That’s over 4,000,000% growth in 7 years.

Conclusion

Straight facts homie. I’ll leave all the hot takes to the so-called “experts”. Show us some love if my shot at redemption was a success.

I appreciate those of you who continue to follow Breakfast at Epiphany’s. To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow Epiphany Law on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates from the Firm. Finally, you can follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

 

Credit:

https://www.buybitcoinworldwide.com/price/

https://coinreport.net/coin-101/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-bitcoin/

https://www.coindesk.com/information/how-do-bitcoin-transactions-work/

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GMOzih6l1zs

https://www.focus-economics.com/blog/tulip-mania-dutch-market-bubble

https://themarketmogul.com/bitcoin-tulip-mania/

http://www.bitcoinblockhalf.com/

An Interview with Sarah Coenen

Bachelor of Arts: UW – Stevens Point

Juris Doctorate: Valparaiso University School of Law

Married: Yes; Corey

Kids: No

Practice Areas: Business Law and Estate Planning

DiSC Profile: C Style

Summary

“People with the C style place a high priority on Accuracy. Because they want to ensure superior results, they tend to analyze options rationally and separate emotions from facts… they’re uncomfortable with quick or risky decisions and prefer to take time to make an informed choice.” – Excerpt from Sarah’s DiSC Workplace Profile.

Undoubtedly, you have to take Personality Profiles with a grain of salt, but COME ON… What else are you really looking for in the individual who is responsible for drafting your legal documents?? Sarah is an absolute tactician. Laser-focused. And for her age, she is a fountain of knowledge. Without question, she is one of the people I most admire in the office. Sharp and humble. It’s a dangerous combination. The kind of person that people will sleep on because she doesn’t sing her own praises, but trust me, her star is rising.

Interview

KOD: “Thanks for making some time to do this, what’s your billable rate? I’m trying to figure out what this is going to cost me…”

SMC: “We’ll put this on Epiphany Time, don’t worry about it.”

KOD: Laughs. “Well I appreciate that. I’ll do my best to get you some good PR out of this.”

KOD: “First question: What were you like in High School?”

SMC: “Very quiet and reserved.”

KOD: “Did you do pretty well in High School?”

SMC: “Yeah, I always did pretty well… Except for Calculus. I hated it.”

KOD: “In High School, did you know you wanted to be in law?”

SMC: “Yeah.”

KOD: “At what point did it become a desire for you?”

SMC: “When I was 12 years old I wrote a book report on Sandra Day O’Connor—“

KOD: “—Who is that?”

SMC: “She was the first female Justice on the US Supreme Court. She inspired me.”

KOD: “What was your favorite cartoon to watch growing up?”

SMC: “Rugrats.”

KOD: “Favorite character on the show?”

SMC: “Tommy Pickles.”

KOD: “You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color are you and why?”

SMC: “I’ve been told before that I’m a yellow crayon –“

KOD: “—What shade of yellow? Like a gold or a soft yellow?”

SMC: “Are you telling me that this is the 64 crayon box instead of the 8 crayon box?? Jeez. I guess I would say more like a standard bright yellow. Like a sunny yellow.”

KOD: “Why?

SMC: “I try to always have a positive disposition and attitude toward my work and my life.”

KOD: “What’s your favorite ‘90s jam?”

SMC: “Everybody by the Backstreet Boys.”

 

Pause. Here you go.
Resume.

 

KOD: “How many pennies do you think would fit into this room?”

SMC: “1 Trillion… No 2 Trillion.”

KOD: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”

SMC: Laughs. “He says, ‘Where am I?’ and he is here because he is lost and is having an identity crisis.”

KOD: “OK, enough with the crazy questions, let’s get a little more serious.”

KOD: “Tell me about 1 person outside of your immediate family that you love.”

SMC: “I would say my cousin Miranda because she is like a sister to me. I can always go to her with anything. She is two years younger than me, but she has a lot of wisdom. And she brings a sarcastic tone to conversations that I really appreciate.”

KOD: “Why are you an attorney? Other than your inspiration from Sandra Day O’Connor.”

SMC: Laughs. “I enjoy the logical process. I enjoy helping people. And attorneys get a bad rap sometimes, so I accept and enjoy the challenge of changing that narrative.”

KOD: “What is 1 other career that interested you in the past?”

SMC: “When I was really little I wanted to be a firefighter… But I thought about teaching for a while in college.”

KOD: “What is one thing that you are proud of yourself for?”

SMC: “Wow, that’s a hard question Kelton.” … “I guess I’m proud of myself for not giving up all the different times I could have on my way to becoming an attorney. Being rejected. Undergrad. Law School. I just kept going.”

KOD: “You got rejected for Undergrad and Law School?”

SMC: “Yeah. So for undergrad, I really wanted to go to UW-La Crosse but I got wait-listed. That ended up being a blessing in disguise though because UW-Stevens Point was amazing. And then for law school, taking the LSAT was really hard. I had to take it twice to improve my score before I got into Valparaiso. And it’s really hard for me to talk about it, but let’s just say I didn’t pass the Bar on my first try. There were a lot of times I thought about giving up but I didn’t.”

KOD: “That’s amazing. I’m glad you didn’t quit.”

KOD: “Pretend I’m thinking about hiring you as my attorney to do some legal work for me. What do you bring to the table?”

SMC: “I am always upfront and honest with my clients. I like to think that I’m a pretty nice person to work with. And you’ll get a good product.”

KOD: “Pretend I’m a young attorney, fresh out of Law School. Tell me why I should apply at Epiphany Law.”

SMC: “Epiphany is a very unique environment in that – even though we have a ‘boss’ and managing partners and things like that – there isn’t the hierarchy that you find at most other firms. We are all willing to help each other and there is no “elitist” attitude that says ‘I don’t need you’ or ‘I’m better than you’ –“

KOD: “—Why is that a good thing for a young attorney?”

SMC: “Because you don’t know as much. Law School tries to prepare you, but there is no substitute for real world experience. Being here, I was able to learn a lot, very rapidly, because people were willing to share their real-world experience with me. The culture here helped me to have confidence even when I didn’t know all the right answers. I knew I had amazing people in my corner to help at any time.”

KOD: “Do you have any advice for someone that is in Law School right now?”

SMC: “Wherever you intend to practice law after you are done with school, go to that area during your breaks and make connections in that area the best that you can. Meet with attorneys, judges, business owners. Networking is absolutely essential and that is one thing they don’t teach you in law school.”

SMC: “Also, learn how to talk to clients. Clients ARE NOT stupid. They just don’t know the law like you do. It’s on you to learn how to explain things without coming across like you are arrogant. You have to learn how to explain things in a way clients can understand and relate in order to be successful.”

KOD: “I’m a new business owner. I don’t think I have any legal work for you… But I would like to establish a relationship with a good attorney because that seems like a smart thing to do. What should I do?”

SMC: “Call. You should absolutely call. I’m not going to try and give you any advice over the phone, but there are a few basic questions that I can ask to help me figure out if we should meet or not. You’re not going to get a bill for the conversation. I won’t push you into anything. We’ll figure out if we need to meet, and either way you will feel better knowing that you now have someone in your corner when you need them.”

KOD: “Give me one thing that people miss or do incorrectly a decent amount of the time when they try to do Estate Planning on their own?”

SMC: “Language. A good example of that is with a Power of Attorney. Power of Attorney’s can be ‘springing’ or ‘immediate’, and depending on how you word the language, you may be unintentionally giving someone else control over your decisions right now.”

KOD: “What is one thing that a new business owner might forget to do?”

SMC: “If someone sets up their business entity on their own, the State does not require them to provide a draft of their bylaws / operating agreement. So, if it’s not required, there are a lot of times when people just don’t have them altogether. Those documents are essential in laying out the fundamental aspects of how the business is to be run. It helps to protect the business owner when they have those documents.”

KOD: “How does it protect them?”

SMC: “If someone sues the business, and that business owner isn’t abiding by the fundamental rules of their organization, an attorney may be able to Pierce the Veil. It’s extremely easy to Pierce the Veil if that business owner never made fundamental rules to begin with.”

KOD: “Last question: Date 1 – Marry 1 – Punch 1: Lord Voldemort, Napoleon Dynamite, Austin Powers”

SMC: “Ugh…” … “Punch Lord Voldemort, Date Napoleon Dynamite, Marry Austin Powers.” … “Can’t I just punch all three?”

Thank You

A huge thank you to Sarah for taking some time to chat with me! She is truly a treasure to work with! Thank you once again to all the readers of this blog. Because of your great support I have been approved to continue to producing palatable legal and business content into and beyond the New Year!

From all of us at Epiphany, we hope you had a very Merry Christmas and we wish – but do not guarantee – you a Happy New Year!

 

Piercing the Veil

Calling all business owners!

No personal stories this week. Let’s get right to work.

As a business owner, you have business assets and you also have personal assets. Duh! Duh! Duh!

I make that obvious statement for a reason, though. As I get into the “meat and potatoes” of this blog, I don’t want the IDEAS to distract from the BOTTOM LINE: This blog is only relevant because business owners want to maintain that distinction – that line – between business assets and personal assets.

How does someone obtain that line of distinction?

Here’s what you do: Grab a blank piece of paper out of your printer and begin thinking of all the things that your business owns – or will own once you start it. Now, organize those things into a list (on the left side of the page) from most expensive to least expensive. Then, on the right side of the page do the same for your personal assets. Now – this part is critical – find a Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker; and, with a ruler, draw a perfectly straight line in between your two lists.

Viola! One distinct line between your business assets and your personal assets.

If you really want to maintain distinction between your business assets and personal assets, of course you’ll have to set up a LEGAL entity (probably an LLC or Corporation).

Ok Kelton, you’re soooo funny. But why is it important to have that distinction between business assets and personal assets?

Boring answer: To protect your personal assets if your business should ever get sued.

Fun answer: Suppose Joe Schmoe is a really wealthy guy. He made his millions the old fashioned way: Struck it big on the lotto. Now he’s bored, so he decides to buy a very small mom ‘n pop bakery (Schmoe Sweets, LLC.), because he loves to bake desserts. He has no employees, it’s just him. One day, he mops the floor in front of the display case, and as he’s going to grab the “Caution Wet Floor” sign, a young boy slips and severely injures himself. The young boy’s parents sue Joe Schmoe. What happens next?

  1. The attorney representing the little boy is only able to come after the small amount of assets that the business owns.
  2. The attorney representing the little boy comes after the assets of the business AND a huge chunk of Joe’s lottery winnings.

*The answer is “a” if Schmoe Sweets, LLC. is set up as a perfectly legitimate legal entity, and Joe follows all the rules.

*The answer is “b” if Joe Schmoe did something wrong when he set up the entity, or if he is doing something wrong now!

Guess what? It is literally in the attorney’s job description to figure out if Joe did anything wrong. 

If the attorney finds something, they can PIERCE THE VEIL, and grab at Joe Schmoe’s personal assets (lottery winnings) – in addition to the “business” assets.

So… Now you know why business owners set up LLC’s and Corporations. You also know what Piercing the Veil means! If that’s all you came here for, class is dismissed.

If you want to know what those “things” are that attorneys use to Pierce the Veil, let’s KEEP ‘ER MOVIN.

Young boy slips in Joe’s bakery and severely injures himself. The boy’s attorney will ask the following questions to try and Pierce the Veil:

  1. Is the entity operating as a legitimate business?
  • FAIL: Joe bought the business and realized that he didn’t really know how to run a business – he just likes baking – so he only opens up the bakery on Sundays for members of his church to enjoy free treats and socialize before/after church.
  1. Is there commingling of assets?
  • FAIL: Joe took out a company credit card when he started Schmoe Sweets, LLC. The card earns him 4% cashback on all purchases, so he uses it for EVERYTHING, including personal expenses like dining out, groceries, and home repairs.
  1. Is there adequate record-keeping?
  • FAIL: Joe was having a lot of trouble finding a good assistant to help him run the business, and in the span of one year he ran through 6 different assistants before finding one that stuck with him. Joe didn’t keep ANY records of the individuals he hired/fired.
  1. Is the company undercapitalized, or was it undercapitalized at formation?
  • FAIL: Joe set up a bank account in the company’s name, but normally maintains the minimum balance of $100. Bank records show very little activity in the account since it was opened. Accounting records indicate that the business costs $2,000 per month to operate.
  1. Is the company a “shell” of the business owners?
  • FAIL: Joe’s business cards, email signature, stationary, menus, and website all say: “Treats by Joe Schmoe”. There is minimal effort to identify his entity: Schmoe Sweets, LLC.
  1. Does the company disregard Bylaws / Operating Agreement?
  • FAIL: Joe’s Operating Agreement states that all corporate records are to be held at his principal place of business. Joe, instead, keeps his corporate records at his cabin up north, for safe-keeping.
  1. Are assets used for non-company purposes?
  • FAIL: Schmoe Sweets, LLC. bought a “company jet”, but Joe uses the jet only for personal vacation.
  1. Is the business being used to defraud creditors or avoid legitimate claims of creditors?
  • FAIL: Joe knows he is about to be sued. He shuts down Schmoe Sweets, LLC and transfers all its assets to a new LLC: Joe Mama’s Bakery, LLC.

Understand that these are mere examples of situations that could lend a creditor to Pierce the Veil. In all judgements, it will be the task of the judge/jury to weigh the balance of the facts in question. This means that in most cases, business owners will need to fail more than one test to be exposed.

Finally, it is important to remember that fraudulent acts on the part of a business owner will automatically bypass the corporate structure.

Special thanks to Attorney Chris Klingman for his help in authoring this blog.

Chris specializes in litigation for the Epiphany team, and has represented both sides of “Joe Schmoe’s” scenario on numerous occasions.

It’s worth mentioning that when I asked Chris if he would help me to understand something for a blog I was writing, his immediate response was, “Yes. Absolutely. In fact, I have some time right now. Let’s do it.” It was the perfect representation of the culture that has been built here at Epiphany: A passion for going above and beyond to help others.

Allow me to reiterate some context, so that you can appreciate Chris’ attitude as much as I do:

  1. Attorneys don’t “have time”. Period. Chris had time for me.
  2. I AM NOT Chris’ equal in any way with respect to career experience, business acumen, or legal knowledge. In many-if-not-most firms, non-attorneys are treated like inferiors. Chris respected me.
  3. My most popular blog took a direct aim on the business model that Chris operates in. Chris didn’t hold it against me.

I’ve gotten used to having my opinions, thoughts, and ideas respected around here. But I don’t ever take it for granted. I know it’s not like this everywhere.

There is no doubt in my mind that Epiphany Law is the firm that you want to trust with your business’ legal needs. Whether you’re working with Chris or any of our other attorneys/staff, I am confident that your experience will be as positive as the one I have here every day. It’s just in our DNA.

Thanks to all for the continued support! If you have questions, comments, or topic suggestions for us, please direct those to:[email protected]

Exit Planning: Not for the Faint of Heart

I’m a true believer in this: Of the things in life that truly matter, that truly make a difference, that truly help us “level up” as people – those things are almost never easy.

It’s a mindset and lifestyle I first adopted at a team building event in 2009. It was actually more than an event, it was a week-long camp that 90% of our High School basketball team attended. “Do Hard Things” was the challenge our speaker continued to make to us over the course of the week. It just clicked with me, and I latched on right away.

“Hard things” are the things that have been placed in front of us that we DO NOT want to do. We know they are there, but we want to avoid them at all costs (Examples may include: difficult conversations, moving on from something/someone, breaking a bad habit, etc.). For purposes of this post, I’m going to refer to them as “challenges” rather than “hard things”; cuz, ya know, I don’t want it to get weird.

For a little extra context, let me give you a couple examples of “challenges” I’ve taken on in my own life:

  1. Quitting high school football. You should know that I come from a really small hometown. My graduating class had less than 50 students. When you’re in a small school, and you have some athletic ability, it’s basically a sin to NOT participate. “We need all the athletes we can get” is a very public sentiment. So it was a HUGE deal when, during the summer before my sophomore year, I started to get that feeling: “I really don’t want to play anymore.” I tried like hell to brush it away, to ignore it, to avoid it. As the summer grew to an end, the feeling was still there and in the pit of dread in my stomach was unbearable. I didn’t want to let anyone down, and I didn’t want to face the backlash that I knew was coming if I decided not to play. But I knew I had to be true to myself and accept this “challenge”. I definitely lost sleep over it. I’ll never forget the first day of school, when I had to walk into the head football coach’s office and tell him I wasn’t playing. To this day, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The backlash was actually worse than I’d expected it would be: There were a lot of adults who looked down on my decision and former friends who turned their backs on me. To this day, there are “upstanding” adults in the community who won’t talk to me because I didn’t play football in high school. It’s crazy. But it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made, hands down. It was the first time that I can remember choosing to stay true to myself in the face of public scrutiny.

*And by the way, my decision had nothing to do with wanting to “specialize” in a single sport. There is enormous value in participating in multiple sports. There is also enormous value in respecting people’s personal decisions.*

  1. Becoming a financial advisor. I’m naturally introverted. So you can understand my hesitation towards starting a career where prerequisite #1 = ability to talk someone’s ear off. But I did it. In part, because I gravitated toward the analytical side of the job. The other reason that I did it is because it scared the s*** out of me. By the time I was a senior on college, I had begun forcing myself to take the challenging path, when there was one available. I learned a few things:
    • The 10% of the career that is the actual PLANNING, I was really good at. No surprise.
    • I still sucked at “networking”, and my personal network was not large enough to allow my career to truly take off. No surprise.
    • My listen-first disposition actually served me extremely well when I met with clients. I was much better than most at assessing needs, and people really enjoyed working with me. Surprise.

*I’m extremely thankful for my experience as a financial advisor. Again, it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but the life lessons I learned extend far beyond the three I have listed.*

I promise I’ll tie this into Exit Planning soon… But for the sake of completely beating a dead horse, I want to address what happens to us, internally, when we are faced with a “challenge”:

It always starts with a little voice in our head. That voice, in its own annoying little way, declares what needs to be done. We then have a decision: Act or Avoid. The natural instinct is to avoid, and while every person is different, there are generally two methods for avoiding a “challenge” that pushes us outside of our comfort zone:

  1. Avoidance by procrastination. We suppress the voice and avoid the “challenge” until the window of opportunity to act has expired (Examples: the other person ends the relationship first, the application window for the job has expired, etc.). When we handle it this way, we usually experience a lot of guilt, because we have acknowledged the “challenge”, and possibly admitted to ourselves that we should act, but we avoid action anyways.
  2. Avoidance by rationalization. Others of us have become adept at “walling off” our “challenges” by rationalizing why we shouldn’t act. “That promotion would come with so many headaches. It’s not even worth it.” The rationalization allows us to “wall off” the challenge almost as quickly as it announces itself, and we are able to pretend like it was never there in the first place.

So I’m thinking we’re on the same page now… If I lost you, I’m sorry. That took more words than I thought it was going to take.

But the bottom line is this: life gives us opportunities to “level up”. To get outside our comfort zone. And even though it’s really, really, really difficult to do it, I believe that when we accept those challenges, amazing things can happen.

That’s why I love Exit Planning.

It is the quintessential “challenge” that business owners want to avoid. Why do they want to avoid it?

I’ll give you a couple reasons here:

  1. Business owners are afraid of getting old. Exiting the business represents “the end” of an era that they have spent nearly the entirety of their adult lives building! A classic reason for avoidance.
  2. “I don’t even have enough time in the day to run my business, how am I supposed to have time to plan for an exit?” They have priorities that feel way more urgent than exit planning. A classic rationalization technique.

I would strongly encourage you to read this article to learn more about the various reasons business owners choose to avoid Exit Planning.

Basically, it’s the end of an incredibly long, challenging, amazing, stressful, wonderful, painful, rewarding journey. Business owners, even more-so than “normal” people, have a tendency to allow work to equal life. When that happens, the end of work naturally feels like the end of life. It’s pretty easy to understand why someone would avoid that.

BUT! For the few that are able to accept the “challenge” and proactively PLAN FOR THEIR EXIT, the rewards (financially and emotionally) are unmatched. ß More on the benefits of Exit Planning in a future post.

I am so filled with admiration and respect when we engage with a new Exit Planning client for the first time. Despite the façade of confidence they cloak themselves in, those of us who understand this process appreciate the internal battle that was likely waged in order for that business owner to walk through our door. A major challenge was accepted.

They say, the first step is always the hardest, and so it is with Exit Planning. That fact is not lost on us. I only hope that if I was in their shoes, I would be brave enough to do the same.

I continue to be humbled by the likes, comments, shares and general love that you have shown our blog. If you have questions, comments, or topic suggestions for us, please direct those to: [email protected]

What is a Power of Attorney?

When I was little, sometimes mom and dad would go on vacation and leave me and my brother with Nana.

One of the things I can remember about that is mom pulling me aside and telling me that she was leaving an important note. It said something along the lines of, “If either of my children should need medical treatment between the dates of ____ and ____, I authorize _____________ [Nana] to make those decisions on my behalf.”

Then mom and dad would both sign it.

I won’t get into the psychology behind why THAT is something I vividly remember… I’ll just chalk it up to: I’m weird.

From mom and dad’s perspective, obviously the hope in leaving the note was that whoever was watching us – usually Nana – could show this note to a doctor, and be able to make immediate medical decisions on our behalf – if it was ever necessary.

In legal speak, we would refer to this as a Power of Attorney (POA) for Minor Children. Albeit an unofficial one.

To make it “official”, an attorney would likely draft it and it would be signed by a public notary. It would say essentially the same things as what my mom wrote on a notepad, but there would be no questions as to its legitimacy if Nana ever had to use it. Parents who have an official Power of Attorney for Minor Children can be 100% confident that a doctor will immediately listen to the direction of whoever is granted authority. It’s a small thing, but as we know, minutes can sometimes make a big difference in a medical emergency.

I start there because most of you who have been away from your kids for a period of time can relate to it – you probably did something similar to what my parents did, or at least thought about doing it.

Of course, the POA for Minor Children is not the only Power of Attorney you should know about…

 

Healthcare Power of Attorney: A legal form that says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself, I want _______________ to be able to make health care decisions for me.”

Financial Power of Attorney: A legal form that says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself, I want _______________ to be able to make financial decisions for me.”

Special or Limited Power of Attorney: A legal form that says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself, I want _______________ to be able to make ___________ decisions for me.” It designates a specific person for a specific kind of decision. Business owners, for example, often have a Special Power of Attorney, just for their business.

 

More Stuff Related to Power of Attorney:

Living Will: First, you should know that this document is completely unrelated to the conventional will and living trust that can be used to leave property at death. The LIVING WILL is used to provide guidance or state choices for treatment at the end of life. It says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself AND I (have a terminal condition/am in a persistent vegetative state), I (want you to/don’t want you to) pull the plug.”

Advance Directive: This term is just annoying to me. I think it exists just to confuse people. It is used to describe a legal document that tells doctors how you want them to carry out medical decisions you have made, even if you cannot communicate these decisions for yourself.

  • Healthcare POA and Living Will are two kinds of Advance Directives.
  • It’s really smart to have BOTH a Healthcare POA and a Living Will. In this case, you have designated a person AND given them instructions for handling your health.
  • Having an advance directive does not affect the quality of your care.
  • Having an advance directive does not affect life insurance or health insurance.

Final Disposition: Instructions for your burial.

Healthcare Proxy/Healthcare Agent/Surrogate: These terms are interchangeable. It is the person who you have given authority to make your healthcare decisions.

The word “Durable”: In the vast majority of cases, a Healthcare or Financial Power of Attorney can also be described as “durable”. Anyone who uses the word is simply emphasizing the fact that the Power of Attorney remains effective, even after the individual is unable to make decisions. It’s kind of like going to a restaurant and exclaiming, “I want my food to TASTE GOOD!” Duh. Of course you do… That’s the whole point of it.

  • Bottom line: “Durable” POA’s are the norm, and it takes a unique situation for a “non-durable” POA to become relevant.

Food for Thought:

So this post is all fine and dandy, and my sincere hope is that you have picked up a bit of clarity on the topic in exchange for your time. But… We really haven’t accomplished anything if nobody chooses to act on that clarity.

Science will tell us that 20% of the population will never bother themselves with a something like a POA… They just don’t give a damn.

Another 20% seemingly came out of the womb knowing that this is something they needed to do. They got it done ASAP, and probably convinced a smattering of their closest friends/family to do the same.

The remaining 60% of us are somewhere in limbo. Swaying in the breeze of indecisiveness. Somedays – like today perhaps – thinking, “Yeah, that guy makes some good points. That seems like a really smart idea. I need to do that,” only to have the thought drift away. After all, it doesn’t feel very urgent.

Imagine, for a second, that you are hosting a birthday party for your 2 year old child. Friends and family are planning to attend, and they will be at your house in about an hour. Then, like clockwork, your husband forgets to pick up a cake on the way home from work. Ooo… Triggered. What are the chances that you would make him turn around and drive 30-45 minutes to go get the cake? Pretty high, right? It feels urgent because people are going to be at your house in about an hour and the house is a mess and the world is falling apart. But, REALLY, on a scale from 0-10 where:

  • 0 = Completely Irrelevant
  • 10 = Life or Death

How IMPORTANT is it to have a cake at the party? For your husband, yeah it might be a solid 10. But for everyone else? Probably in the 1-2 range. We know they will be happy to be sipping coffee and eating the ice cream or whatever else you have for them. The point: It feels super urgent so it gets done. No question about it.

Now, it’s tough to draw a direct comparison… But on the same scale (0-10), how IMPORTANT is it to have a Power of Attorney? Probably in the 7-9 range? Clearly way more IMPORTANT than having a cake at your 2 year old’s birthday party.

Problem: It doesn’t feel urgent. So 60% of us do nothing, even though it would take about as much time and effort as going to pick up a cake from the grocery store. That 60% of us remains in limbo until some crazy life event smacks us in the face that makes it feel SUPER urgent: A parent, family member, friend, etc. goes through a nightmare situation. Such is life.

Please. Spare yourself the theatrics, strap on your big-boy pants, and generate your own sense of urgency. Don’t wait for life to do it for you.

Thanks to all for the continued support! If you have questions, comments, or topic suggestions for us, please direct those to: [email protected]

What is a Revocable Trust?

As a sophomore in college, I spent 5 months in Bordeaux, France.

Another example of me pushing myself WAY out of my comfort zone, it turned out to be one of the most valuable/memorable/amazing – and difficult – experiences of my life. I might write a little more about it another time – specifically the lessons learned. But, we’ll see.

In preparation for that trip, I started learning French. #RosettaStone. It sucked. Like… I’m a reasonably intelligent person, but for whatever reason my brain just wants NOTHING to do with learning another language. 2 years of Spanish in high school were an absolute prison sentence for me.

Something to know about me: If I’m not good at something… and I know I’m not good at it… I’m not trying to do that thing anymore.

So, naturally, after about 1 month of struggle-fest with Rosetta Stone French I started looking for a reason not to do it. It was pretty easy to find one. Everyone I talked to about the trip – advisors, former exchange students, current exchange students – asked me, “How’s your French?” … “Uhhh… Not very good,” … “Don’t worry, almost everyone there speaks English, so you’ll be fine.”

Bingo!

So yes, I was the lazy American that spent 5 months in a foreign country relying on others to speak my primary language.

And it worked out just fine.

My Points:

  • I recognize, respect, and envy anyone that takes the time to learn another language. It is an amazing skill. I don’t care who you are, you have not gotten enough credit for it… Especially if you did it as an adult (sorry kids, it’s just easier for you).
  • Those of us who are born speaking English are lucky. English is the Universal language of the world. By some estimates, almost 2 billion people speak English as their Secondary language. People in other countries STRIVE to perfect their English. Parents PUSH their children to excel in speaking it the way we push ours to excel in sports. We were born speaking it. It’s a real blessing. We may not realize it or appreciate it, but it is.
  • Finally – and this is the point that will link into this week’s content – I feel bad for the people who have to learn our language.

By almost all accounts, French is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn (talk about a blow to the ‘ole self esteem). English is among the most difficult.

There are probably thousands of examples of why that is true. Here is one from NapoleonMidnight, commenting on this blog:

“The plural of chicken would be chickens only if you are speaking about chickens – the animal. Once they have been slaughtered and are used for food, all of the multiple pieces of chicken that you might cook are always referred to as chicken, no matter how many pieces you use. UNLESS you specifically cooked 2 or more whole chickens and somebody specifically wanted to know how many of them you were cooking. Then you would say ‘two chickens’. Is this confusing enough?”

At this time I’d like to direct your attention to a term from Lawyer-Land that I expect would be puzzlingly confusing for anyone trying to learn the English language:

The Revocable Trust.

Trust: An unwavering reliance on the character, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Revocable: Capable of being cancelled.

I’m sorry, what?

You want me to put all my most valuable assets into something called… “Revocable Trust”?

So the lawyer marketing people had a bad day that day. But don’t let that discourage you from learning what a Revocable Trust is!

It’s approximately 1,327% better than its name would lead you to believe.

Explain it to me like I’m 5 please… Think of it like a special basket. This basket is created by an attorney for you to put assets in. When you die, the basket will be delivered directly to whoever you said it should go to.

But that’s why I have a will… (3) Things to know: 1) The legitimacy of a will must be verified by a court of law. This is called Probate. Probate costs money. 2) Probate takes a long time and can be very stressful for your loved ones 3) When a will is verified by a court of law, everything in your estate becomes public record. Trusts, on the other hand, are private.

Ok. But what if I still need my assets after I put them in the basket? No problem. Most people do. With a revocable trust, you can still use your assets.

Isn’t this just for rich people? No it isn’t. If you don’t want people knowing how much “stuff” you had after you die – a trust is what you need. Period. End of story. Privacy is a very legitimate, non-financial reason to own a trust. You are also doing your loved ones a big favor when you create a trust – it’s one less stressful thing they have to deal with after you are gone.

Do YOU own a trust? No. Why not? 1) As of today, my estate is rather small. Avoiding the cost of probate doesn’t help my family out a whole lot. 2) Privacy is not a concern of mine at this point in life. After all, I just told you that my estate is small… So if I die tomorrow and you look up public records of my estate and find out that it’s… Small… I don’t really care.

Ok, I get the privacy thing and I don’t want anything to be stressful for my family… But I’m still not convinced it’s right for me. If you’re looking for further rationalization that your estate is “big enough” to need a trust, try this:

Think about the value of your estate, minus anything that has a named beneficiary. As a general rule:

 This Counts      

This Doesn’t

Home Equity

401(k)/403(b)/IRA

Real Estate / Land Equity

Life Insurance Proceeds

Guns

Anything held in a Trust

Jewelry

Cash

In the state of Wisconsin, probate generally costs 4% of ‘Probate Assets’ (roughly half of that going to attorney fees. The other half going to the state fees.)

So, for an estate that has $100,000 in ‘Probate Assets’… The probate process will cost roughly $4,000.

The Google Machine tells us that the average cost of creating a Trust is about $2,500 for married couples.

Does it make financial sense for YOU to get a Trust? Make a simple comparison between the expected cost of Probate and the cost to create a Trust to find out:

Estate Size (Assets subject to Probate)

Cost of Probate (Assuming 4%) Cost of a Trust (Average)

$1,000,000

$40,000 $2,500

$750,000

$30,000 $2,500

$500,000

$20,000

$2,500

$250,000 $10,000

$2,500

$100,000 $4,000

$2,500

$50,000 $2,000

$2,500

Is it worth it for you to spend $2,500(ish) on a Trust now in order to avoid ______ financial cost when you die, privacy to your estate, and less stress for your family? Only you can decide that.

For me, right now, the answer is no. It’s not worth it. But I can also tell you that at some point down the road, the answer will be an emphatic YES.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • What I have done here is very rudimentary in nature. These are purely estimates to give you some sort basis upon which you can start making your decision.
  • In reality, the cost of a Trust varies greatly based on the specific Firm and Attorney you are working with. In many cases, costs are based on the amount of time (Billable Hours) an attorney takes to draft your document.

Give Epiphany Law a call if you want to find out what our Fixed Pricing is for Estate Plans w/ a Trust.

Question for the Crowd: Have you ever had to deal with an extended/stressful Probate process? Do you wish a Trust would have been involved? Please comment below or send us an email (Re: Probate Experience) and we will post your story anonymously.

I continue to be humbled by the likes, comments, shares and general love that you have shown our blog. If you have questions, comments, or topic suggestions for us, please direct those to: [email protected]