Taking the Complexity Out of Estate Planning

from Brett Lee Shelton, licensed Family Business Lawyer™

Remember that old joke: How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time.  At the heart of that gag is the truth about how you tackle any seemingly complex task, taking it one step at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself.

Many people neglect to create an estate plan because they see it as the proverbial elephant…too big, too complex.  But if you approach estate planning in a systematic fashion, it takes the complexity right out of it – especially with the help of a knowledgeable Personal Family Lawyer®.

Here are some tips on how you can reduce the complexity in creating an estate plan, from a recent Fox Business article:

Add up your assets. Take into account your retirement accounts, life insurance, potential inheritance, savings, property ownership, etc.

Consider trusts. Trusts are simply vehicles for protecting your assets from creditors – yours or your heirs – and from potential future ex-spouses.  They are also a great mechanism for maintaining your privacy and allowing your assets to pass to your heirs without the expense and hassle of probate, which can tie up assets for a year or more.  And they also help you and your heirs avoid estate taxes.

Think about whom you trust to act as your agent(s). You will need to appoint a person or persons to act as your agent through a power of attorney in case you are unable to make those decisions yourself, in the case you become incapacitated or have a terminal illness.  This applies for health care decisions as well as financial oversight.

Realize what a will can and cannot do for you. A will is the cornerstone of your estate plan, giving you the legal power to pass along assets and property to heirs as well as name a guardian for minor children and appoint the people you need to carry out your wishes after you are gone – i.e., who will administer your estate and who will safeguard your assets for minor children.

If you would like to have a talk about estate planning, call our office today at 303-255-3588 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

How to Discipline or Fire Employees the Right Way

from Brett Lee Shelton, licensed Family Business Lawyer™

Disciplining and/or firing an employee is one of the most dreaded tasks for CEOs and small business owners.  Sometimes the trauma of termination can be just as bad for the boss as it is for the employee.  But in this litigious society, bosses need to take extra care when disciplining or firing an employee to be sure they stay on the right side of the law.

Here are some tips on how to discipline or fire employees the right way:

Establish clear rules. The best way to establish clear rules is to be sure you have an employee handbook that explains the rules and the penalty for breaking them.  You also need to be sure the rules are reasonable.

Uniformly enforce the rules. Company rules should be impartially and uniformly enforced, no matter who has committed the infraction.  Of course, there may be extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into consideration, but if you play favorites in rule enforcement, you create an environment of mistrust and open yourself up to litigation.

Establish a warning system. You want to devise a warning or probationary system and make sure your employees understand the consequences of each rule infraction.  Warnings should be made in private, to avoid embarrassment.  Record each warning in the offending employee’s personnel file, and follow through.

Document everything. As mentioned above, any time an employee receives disciplinary action, that action should be detailed in his or her personnel file.  Expectations for corrective behavior should be discussed with the employee and noted in the file.  Poor performance should also be documented.  Make sure any grounds for termination are very clear; there has been an increase in recent years of terminated employees filing suit against employers and written evidence is the only material used by labor boards and the courts to determine fault.

Conduct performance reviews. Even the smallest companies need to have a performance review policy.  These reviews set company expectations for performance and measure how an employee is – or is not – meeting expectation levels.  Reviews should be conducted every six months, and the results should be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

We can help you understand the federal and state labor laws that apply to your company.  If you’re a small or mid-size business owner, call us today at 303-255-3588 to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.  Normally, this session is $1,250, but if you mention this article and we still have room on our calendar this month, we will waive that fee.