Business Law & Growth

If you're the kind of entrepreneur who wants to make a real difference while you're in business and leave behind a body of work that continues to do good for your family, your customers, and the world after you're gone, you've come to the right place.

Business formation is a pivotal time in your new company's lifecycle. Your choice of entity impacts ownership, liability, taxes, profit sharing, ongoing management, eventual sale, and much, much more. Sky Unlimited can help you make the ideal choice.  

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We help our clients leverage their IP, establish a competitive position for the future, and achieve important milestones for growth.  Our chief goal is to identify key areas in which IP protection is the most critical for achieving the company's business objectives, determine the most effective methods of protection, and create strategies to avoid issues with third-party patents.  

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Regulatory Licensing & Compliance

Regulations exist to protect consumers: carving controls, ensuring competencies, and attempting to limit risk. Regulations are necessary, but for startups, they often create frustrating barriers - and compel caution, paperwork, and delay. Your time should be spent growing your business, not dealing with unnecessary fines and audits.  

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The traditional law business model is flawed. It incentivizes lawyers to spend more time on matters (since they are billing for every hour in six-minute increments), increase conflict (the more conflict there is, the longer the engagement), and constantly focus on the next new client (one off transactions are the norm in most legal practices). Plus, the world has shifted and quite a lot of legal work has become commoditized into online legal drafting software, documents on demand and do-it-yourself lawyering. 

 

Lawyers, not being entrepreneurs, tried to compete and became mere shadows themselves - document drafters, doing one-off transactions for clients, such as incorporating business, and then went on the hunt for the next new client.

 

Not us! We build lifetime relationships with our clients. Because a legal relationship not built upon a lifetime foundation is worthless. Really. If you want a transaction, go online and find a document drafting service. If you want someone great that will help you move your awesome idea into a revenue generating business, take your existing business to the next level of excellence, and prepare you and your business to leave behind a legacy of significance, you've come to the right place.

 

Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory will work with you to grow your business from day one. We support startups and small businesses through their exciting lifecycle, from business formation to sale - and every challenge and opportunity in between.


Entrepreneur Weekly

Articles from the Chief Counsel's desk.  Sign up for our newsletter to receive these in your email!

Business Trademarks: What’s Really in a Name?

If you’re thinking of starting a business (or already have a business in the works), make sure that the name you use is not already taken.

Original names are essential for three reasons:  marketing power, clarity, and trademark infringement avoidance.  For example, if you’ve decided to open a coffee shop, it’s fairly easy to determine that the name “Starbucks” is not an option.  But, what about “Smith’s?”  And what happens if the “Smith’s” trademark is an auto insurance company in your town?  

 

What’s Really in a Name When it Comes to Business Trademarks?

 

Before attempting to trademark your business’s name, find out if the name is available on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website.  TESS, the Trademark Electronic Search System database, will indicate whether someone else has already claimed the name or symbol you want to use.  

  • While U.S. trademark protection is granted to the first company to use it in its operational geographic area (regardless of registration), a company that grabs the trademark first will generally have a stronger case in court.
  • In some situations, the similarities between names or symbols may be negligible.  That’s where an experienced business attorney with intellectual property experience can help.
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I’m Starting a New Business - Should I Use an LLC (Taxed as a Partnership) or an S Corporation?

Entrepreneurship has been called the new American dream.

Hanging a shingle starts with an idea that develops into a business plan, but not without careful financial and legal considerations. Among the decisions that new business owners grapple with is whether to form a limited liability company taxed as a partnership (LLC) or a corporation making an S election (S corp).* There are similarities and differences between LLCs and S corps that business owners should understand before choosing between the two.

 

Similarities

-Both entities are created by filing the necessary paperwork with the state. Unlike a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, LLCs and corporations are not recognized under state law until the filing has been made. In addition to state filings required to form the corporation, a special filing on Form 2553 is required for the state-law corporation to elect S status for federal tax purposes.

 

-Both entities provide owners with limited liability, meaning the owner’s personal assets are protected from any business creditors’ claims.

 

-Assuming an LLC does not make an election to be taxed as a corporation, both LLCs and S corps are pass-through tax entities, allowing business profits and losses to flow through and be reported on the owners’ personal tax returns.

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5 Steps to Take When Winding Down Your Business

There are many reasons business owners close up shops, including retirement, starting a new venture or, hopefully, because they’ve won the lottery.

No matter what the reason, it’s important to diligently wind down a business before moving on.  

 

Here are five steps to take:

 

1. Reach consensus

If you’re a sole proprietor, then the only consensus you need is your own.  However, if you’re a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation, you’ll have to reach a consensus with your business partners on how and when to dissolve.

 

 Make sure that everything is in writing (this cannot be stressed enough) and follows whatever guidelines are applicable to your articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other organizational documents.

 

2. Seek counsel

Just as you would seek experienced counsel when starting a business, you should do the same when shutting one down.  Dissolution is a multi-tiered process. Everything must be identified, addressed, and resolved. This includes canceling licenses and permits, as well as filing legal and tax documents with courts, creditors, and government authorities.

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Is Your Living Trust Really Going to Work For the People You Love?

Traditionally, one of the primary reasons for establishing a living trust has been to avoid probate.

But there are a few more benefits of a living trust that can help you do much more than that, if it’s set up right:

 

Asset protection for heirs. One of the most significant benefits of a living trust is to protect inherited assets for heirs. For example, minor children are not allowed by law to inherit property.

 

 Instead, a guardian is appointed by the state to hold the property for them until they reach the age of 18. However, most parents would agree that even 18 is too young to manage a significant inheritance. Executing a living trust allows you to control how and when an inheritance is distributed and to name a trusted person to serve as trustee. In addition, a living trust can be especially useful in protecting assets from spendthrift heirs, creditors or an heir’s potential divorce, if it’s set up right.

 

Most living trusts we see distribute assets outright to kids at 25, 30 and 35 instead of keeping assets in trust for the life of the beneficiary -- while giving the beneficiary control of the assets -- via a lifetime asset protection trust.  This type of planning is still fairly unknown to most attorneys, but we’ve got specific training to ensure that what you leave to your kids will not be at risk from their future divorce, lawsuit, bankruptcy or other creditor matter.

 

Ensure none of your assets are lost.  The vast majority of the time that a living trust is created, one of the most important and valuable aspects of creating the trust are lost -- and that’s making sure that when you become incapacitated or die that your loved ones stay out of Court and the assets you’ve worked so hard for make it to the people you love aren’t lost along the way.

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Unintended Consequences from the Case of the Missing Will

Even the best intentions can have unintended consequences when it comes to estate planning.

An illuminating case that winded its way through the New York appellate court system provides a cautionary tale when it comes to the safekeeping of your estate planning documents.

 

According to a past news report, Robyn Lewis and James Simmons divorced in 2007 in Texas.  During their marriage, they had executed “mirror” wills, with each leaving the other his or her entire estate.  In her mirror will, Robyn stated that if James died first, her father-in-law would serve as the executor and sole heir of her estate. 

 

The 2007 divorce effectively cancelled the wills made during the marriage.  As part of the divorce decree, James received property owned by the couple in Texas and Robyn received property in New York that the couple had purchased from her family.

 

Robyn then moved to her New York property and executed a new will naming her two brothers as her heirs.  She gave the new will to a neighbor for safekeeping.  Sadly, Robyn died in 2010 at the age of 43.  When her family could not locate any will, the brothers petitioned for and received Letters of Administration to serve as executors and beneficiaries of Robyn’s estate.

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Aretha Franklin Dies Without a Will and Leaves Her Family to Deal With Court and Conflict

Aretha Franklin, heralded as the “Queen of Soul,” died from pancreatic cancer at age 76 on August 16th at her home in Detroit.

Like Prince, who died in 2016, Franklin was one of the greatest musicians of our time. Also like Prince, however, she died without a will or trust to pass on her multimillion-dollar estate.

 

Franklin’s lack of estate planning was a huge mistake that will undoubtedly lead to lengthy court battles and major expenses for her family. What’s especially unfortunate is that all of this trouble could have been easily prevented.

 

A common mistake

Such lack of estate planning is common. A 2017 poll by the senior-care referral service, Caring.com, revealed that more than 60 percent of U.S. adults currently do not have a will or trust in place. The most common excuse given for not creating these documents was simply “not getting around to it.”

 

Whether or not Franklin’s case involved similar procrastination is unclear, but what is clear is that her estimated $80-million estate will now have to go through the often lengthy court process known as probate, her assets will be made public, and there could be a big battle brewing for her family. 

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How and When to Talk to Your Children About Money

Whether you consider yourself wealthy or not, you need to think about how (and when) you’ll talk with your children about money, whether they’re little kids, tweens, teens, or already adults.

The Wall Street Journal article “The Best Way for Wealthy Parents to Talk to Children About Family Money” offers guidelines for how and when “the money talk” should take place. Based on interviews with multiple financial experts, the article suggests these discussions should happen in three stages during the child’s lifetime.

 

Here, we’re showing you how each of these three stages apply to your family wealth as a whole, regardless of how much—or how little—money you have at the moment:

 

Tweens and teens

The tween years (ages 10-12) are a good time to start talking with your children about your family wealth. At this age, the discussion should be aimed at letting your children know that family wealth is not just the amount of money that your family has, but involves all of the family resources.

 

Time, energy, attention, and money (TEAM) are the resources that make up your family wealth. With this in mind, use one day over a coming weekend to create a Family Wealth Inventory with your tween or teen children. Inventory all of the family’s TEAM resources, along with other intangibles, such as values, insights, as well as stories and experiences you want considered as part of the Family Wealth bank.

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The GDPR—What It Is, Who It Impacts, and How to Comply

Like everyone else, you’ve probably been getting a ton of emails and online notices announcing that companies are updating their privacy policies and/or website tracking tools.

Although businesses do this from time-to-time as part of routine updates, practically all of the latest notices are aimed at complying with a new European Union (EU) law known as the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR).

 

Some of you probably don’t even know what GDPR is, and for those of you who do, I’m betting only a fraction of you have made serious efforts to comply with the new law.

The good news is—you’re not alone.

 

Surveys have shown that up to 90% of U.S. business owners are currently not in compliance with GDPR, which went into effect on Friday, May 25th. But just because only a few people are following the law doesn’t mean it’s something you should ignore.

 

With the maximum fines for non-compliance as high as 4% of your annual revenue or $24.6 million (whichever is higher), doing nothing could potentially devastate your business. But before you go into panic mode, realize that a lot of the hype surrounding the law has been overblown, particularly for small US-based companies.

 

The GDPR’s vague language, conflicting media reports, and fear-mongering from newly minted “GDPR consultants” have all fanned the flames of anxiety. Fortunately, we’ve thoroughly researched the GDPR, and we’re going to highlight our findings here to clarify what the new law is, who it applies to, and what—if anything—you should do to comply.

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4 Reasons Why an Entrepreneurial Retreat is Just What You Need Right Now

For many entrepreneurs, being a “workaholic” is the default status. Though such drive and dedication can be positive in short bursts, in the long run it leads to stagnation, burnout, and worse.

Just as experts advise us to step away from what we’re working on for short breaks throughout the day to maximize creativity, the same applies on the macro scale. An ideal way to escape the insane pressures of running a company is to attend one of the numerous different entrepreneurial retreats available.

 

Entrepreneurial retreats are specifically designed to remove stressed-out business owners from their demanding daily routines, so they can focus on improving themselves mentally, physically, and/or spiritually. While there are dozens of different retreats to choose from, most offer a blend of personal and professional development activities aimed at giving attendees a chance to relax and recharge their creative batteries.

 

If you’re not sold yet, here are four reasons you should consider taking a little extra “me time” by attending a retreat. They can be one of the most beneficial events you can attend for both yourself and your business.

 

1. You need to regularly step away from your daily duties to see the bigger picture.

It’s far too easy to stay trapped in the “busy bubble” by throwing ourselves into the daily demand of running a business for months—or even years—at a time without a significant break. This can easily lead to tunnel vision, exhaustion, and health issues if you don’t disconnect from those responsibilities on a regular basis.

 

By attending a retreat once or twice a year, you’ll have the much-needed time and space to slow down, relax, and look within to more fully develop yourself, not just your business strategy. Recharging your creative energy in this way frequently results in a renewed sense of motivation, focus, and vision, which you can use to enhance your business upon returning.

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Think Your Corporation or LLC Totally Protects You from Personal Liability? Think Again

One of the primary reasons business owners set up corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) is to shield their personal assets from debts and other liabilities incurred by the business.

Indeed, corporations and LLCs exist as separate legal entities from their owners, meaning the business itself can acquire assets, enter into contracts, and take on debt. In turn, if a corporate entity is unable to pay its debts, creditors are typically only allowed to go after the company’s assets, not the owners’ personal assets.

 

However, there are several circumstances whereby business owners can be held personally liable for corporate or LLC debts.

 

Sometimes, business owners simply make innocent mistakes when running a business that leave them personally liable.

 

Other times, when business owners take certain actions, such as using the corporation to promote fraud, failing to observe corporate formalities, or even just inadvertently commingling corporate and personal assets, a court can hold the owners personally liable for the debts and liabilities of the corporate entity. When this happens, it’s known as “piercing the corporate veil.”

 

If you’re a business owner who’s thinking of incorporating, or if you already own a corporation or LLC, be aware of the following considerations, which can leave you personally on the hook for business debts.

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