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Estate and Business Planning Legal Blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Everyday Contracts: Avoiding the Pitfalls




   We all get inundated with paper work, both at the office and at home.  It seems that everywhere we turn we are being asked to sign contracts for things like telephone systems, office equipment, marketing and advertising services, computer services and office space.  The business owner, busy with running the company, is bombarded with so much paper, that it is almost impossible to give contracts more than just a quick glance before signing them.

   Most of the agreements we are asked to sign appear to be standard, boilerplate contracts. Unfortunately, many of them contain clauses designed to trap the unwary.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Importance of Getting Your Affairs in Order




There are a number of relatively easy steps which can be taken in order to simplify your estate plan, thus saving time and money for you and your family. 

It is not uncommon to have many separate savings accounts, mutual funds and brokerage accounts, and certificates of deposits held by a variety of institutions.  Consolidating your accounts will certainly make it easier to monitor them.  Additionally, in the event of your death or disability, it will save your heirs a great deal of time and energy in collecting and managing your assets. Eliminating bank accounts and putting those funds into investments accounts is also a good idea, since brokerage houses and mutual fund companies are usually easier to deal with than banks.
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Sunday, July 31, 2016

What to Do Upon the Death of a Loved One


 

 

Knowing what to do when a loved one dies can alleviate some of the uncertainty and anxiety that normally follows. Of course, funeral arrangements must be made quickly and family members must be notified.  One should order sufficient copies of the death certificate, as there may be a delay in obtaining additional copies later on. Death certificates will be need for each asset owned, as well as for filing(s) with governmental agencies.  If the decedent was collecting social security and/or a retirement pension, the appropriate entities must be notified.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beware the Dangers of Joint Ownership and Beneficiary Designations



It is quite common for a parent to put a child’s name on his or her checking account, savings account, or brokerage account, with the intent of making it easier for the child to access funds in the event of the death or disability of the parent.  Sometimes this is also done because a parent believes that by adding the child’s name to an asset, he/she is protecting the asset from taxes and long-term care costs.  While the purposes for which this is done may be well-intended, adding a child’s name to one’s assets can have serious, unexpected and undesirable consequences.  

By putting a child’s name on one’s accounts, you are making that child a joint owner with the power, during your lifetime, to withdraw monies from these accounts.  Even though you may trust your child implicitly, you need to be concerned about the unintended consequences of making the child an owner.
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Monday, July 4, 2016

Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements; How to Use Them Effectively


 

It is essential that business owners have employees sign non-disclosure and non-compete agreements, in order to protect their intellectual and proprietary information from competitors and others.  The best time to have employees enter into these agreements is when the employee is first hired.

A typical non-disclosure agreement is one where the employee agrees not to release confidential information that has come into his or her hands during employment.  Clearly, a business owner has a keen interest in protecting this information from customers, suppliers, and competitors.  Non-disclosure agreements are also typically used when a business is looking to be sold and is entertaining potential purchasers and even investors.


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Monday, June 20, 2016

Minimizing Estate Taxes: Some Simple Techniques


As of January 1, 2016, the amount of money which you can leave to your family and friends at death-- the “unified credit”-- is $5,450,000 at the federal level. This credit may also be used to make gifts while you are alive.  Most states impose their own estate tax and/or inheritance tax so one needs to research what the applicable state exemption is as well.

Of course, the easiest way to reduce your taxable estate is to make gifts of up to $14,000 per person each year. These annual gifts are tax-free and they do not reduce your unified credit amount.


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IRS Circular 230 disclosure: We inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and may not be used by your or anyone else for the purpose of avoiding penalties imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.


                                                     



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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Improving Your Cash Flow



It is certainly troubling, especially in a sluggish economy, when customers fail to pay their bills in a timely fashion or at all.  It is perhaps even more irksome when you experience a payment problem after you have exerted your best efforts to render valuable services or deliver high-quality goods.  Of course, there can be serious financial consequences to non-payment or late payment, especially if it becomes a common occurrence.  The good news is that there are ways to reduce payment problems and, thus, improve cash flow.

The first step one can take to avoid payment problems is to require all existing and new customers to sign a contract, setting forth the basic terms of your business transaction.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Probate: Dispelling the Myths



The mere mention of the word “probate” usually engenders a rather negative reaction. For many people, the word conjures up visions of extensive delays and enormous expense involved in settling an estate.  Seminars promoting living trusts are pervasive and they promote the misconception that probate is an evil to be avoided.

The truth is that the process of “probating” a will is quite simple, at least if the decedent is a resident of the State of New York.  It involves the preparation and filing with the Surrogates Court of a probate petition and other documents which are typically prepared by an attorney.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Taking Stock of Your Business



   Slow business cycles provide a unique opportunity for companies to evaluate important and often overlooked aspects of their operation. In short, this “down” time offers business owners and executives a chance to get their affairs in order.

   Employment policies, such as vacation and leave policies, whether or not contained in a company employee handbook, should be reviewed and updated periodically. Employment termination policies should be looked at carefully if staff reductions are planned.  Obtaining releases from terminated employees, in exchange for severance packages, may help to avoid litigation.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Providing for Minors


  

 

A very common mistake clients make, in their estate planning, is that they name grandchildren, or other persons under the age of 18, as the beneficiary of their retirement accounts, annuities, or other investments.  Since persons under the age of 18 can not legally inherit assets in New York, and in most other states, this creates a serious problem.  Institutions are not permitted to disburse monies to minors; rather, they will normally require that someone be legally appointed as guardian of the minor in order to receive the funds.  That the minor has parents is not sufficient--the parents will be forced to commence legal proceedings in order to be appointed guardian for the purpose of accepting funds.

While it is certainly understandable that one wants to provide for grandchildren, the proper way to do so is by preparing a will that provides for a trust to receive the assets at least until the child attains the age of majority.


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Monday, March 14, 2016

Planning for the Future of Your Business

   It is extremely important, from time to time, to take a break from the rapid pace of business and devote some attention to the future and your long-term goals.  Whether you are at a stage in life where you are just beginning to grow your business, or you are at a point where you are looking to spend less time at work, putting together a plan is essential.

   If your goal is to gradually spend less time working, then you will need to think about your personnel situation and how to attract and retain employees who will be able to provide leadership in your absence.  Perhaps you will need to offer financial and other incentives to employees in order to accomplish this goal.  A written employment agreement may be necessary or desirable, with profit participation provisions.  Alternatively, you may wish to consider finding a  business partner who can share some of the burdens of operating your company, and relieve you of responsibilities so that you can devote more time to your personal goals.  Of course, finding a partner will necessarily involve preparing a shareholder or partnership agreement which spells out each of the parties’ duties and responsibilities.  The agreement should also provide for a mechanism in the event a partner dies, becomes disabled, or wants to leave.

   If you have mature children, you may wish to involve them in the business, with a view toward having them take eventual day-to-day control and responsibility.  Hopefully, this will allow you to enjoy more leisure time.  Passing on the business to them in a gradual fashion may serve the purpose of rewarding them for their work and devotion and providing them with incentives to succeed.  It can also serve the purpose of reducing future estate tax problems.

   Regardless of age, one must make financial and other provisions for family in the event of death or disability.  At an absolute minimum, you need to prepare a will, making clear what should happen to the business, to real property, and to other assets which are owned.  It must be ascertained if an estate tax problem is likely, and if it is, planning needs to occur so that the problem will be reduced, if not eliminated entirely.  Funds need to be made readily available so that taxes can be paid in a timely fashion without family members having to sell off assets quickly in order to meet payment deadlines .

    In summary, it is imperative that we all take some time to sit back and look at where our business is and where it’s going, so that we can achieve our business and personal goals. 

                       

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At the Law Office of Angela Siegel, we are pleased to offer legal assistance to clients located in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Kings and New York Counties specifically but not limited to Garden City, Jericho, East Meadow, Mineola, Syosset, Roslyn, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hicksville, Plainview, Merrick, Wantagh, Bellmore, Rockville Center, West Hempstead, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Astoria, etc., as well as clients located within the state of Florida.



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