Once we assess the type of assets you own through our Family Wealth Worksheet questionnaire, we will better understand your specific risk factors and the level of protection you desire.
We assist our clients in determining the appropriate level of asset protection planning for their particular circumstances.
If you have a business, it is necessary to review how it is set up. Our Small Business Legal Audit is a key first step.
Customized combinations are layered depending on your needs. There are many different strategies to accomplish the protection of your assets while you are alive and after you are gone.
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Over time, as your business grows and changes, a more complex business structure may become beneficial. There are several key considerations in deciding whether a change in your business structure may be right for you and your company.
1. Protection from personal liability. If your small business has hired employees, taken out loans, or provided products or services to customers, you, as the owner of the business, may be exposed to extensive personal liability for business-related damages in lawsuits against the business unless you have selected a business entity that limits potential liability to business assets. In an LLC, for example, members can only lose the amount they have invested in the LLC, and they are generally not liable for business debts or obligations.
2. Changes in ownership. If you have been a sole proprietor, but now want to add one or more business partners, it is beneficial to formalize the arrangement by entering into a partnership or limited liability company (LLC), with a partnership or operating agreement that clearly spells out everyone’s rights and obligations.
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) completely overhauled the tax code, and if you’ve yet to take full advantage of the benefits offered by the new tax law, now is the time to do so.
To qualify for some TCJA’ tax benefits, you’ll need to act by December 31, so don’t wait to get started. The following 4 tips could save your family big money on your 2019 tax bill. That said, there may be other strategic opportunities for savings, so contact your Personal Family Lawyer® to be certain you haven’t missed any.
1. Rethink itemization
Under the new tax law, itemizing your deductions might no longer make sense. That’s because the TCJA increased the standard deduction up to $12,200 for individuals and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly. So, if you're filing a joint return, you need more than $24,400 in itemized deductions to make itemization worth it.
The law also places new limits on itemized deductions, including a $10,000 cap on property taxes, and the elimination of state and local income-tax deductions.
Given these changes, taking the standard deduction might be the best option, but other factors, such as your health expenses and charitable giving, could affect your decision, so consult with us and/or your CPA to make sure.
2. Maximize contributions to retirement accounts
By maximizing your contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(ks), you can not only save for retirement, but also reduce your taxable income for 2019.
If you are one of the many owners of a home-based small business, you should consider whether your home office meets the IRS requirements for the home office deduction, which is a sometimes overlooked way to reduce taxes.
How Do I Qualify for the Home Office Deduction?
Although the home office deduction was eliminated for employees as part of the 2017 tax reform, owners of home-based businesses may still take advantage of this deduction as long as they meet the following requirements set out by the IRS.
1. You must use your home office exclusively for the operation of your business. To qualify as exclusive use, your office must be located in a separate room or rooms, or even a section of a room if you have a clear division, such as a partition, to exclude personal activities from that part of your home. If you use the office during the week, but your children use it as a playroom on the weekend, your office will not qualify for the home office deduction. If you occasionally engage in very limited personal activities, e.g., if you make an occasional personal phone call from your office, just as you might if you worked at another location, this is not likely to preclude you from meeting the exclusive use test.
While Daniel shared these processes in the context of the impending death of a parent, the reality is that your parents are heading toward death, even if there is no official diagnosis. And starting these processes when mortality isn’t immediately on the table is even better.
1. Help them make a timeline of their life
Create a timeline of all the big events in their life, starting with birth and their earliest memories up to the present. This is a great way to get to know them even better while you still can. Recalling their life through these stories can help them harvest the gifts, relive the good times, and identify any areas that still feel unresolved.
There are apps for creating timelines, but it’s easily done with pen and paper. Create the timeline by writing “birth” on the far left of the page, and draw a horizontal line going towards “death” on the far right. Experiences are placed on the line chronologically in the order they occurred. Positive experiences are depicted as vertical lines going up from the horizontal line, and difficult experiences as lines going down. Write short descriptions to correspond with each experience.
One way to help prompt memories is to ask questions about different people, places, and things from their past: romantic relationships, jobs, and places they lived. Going through old photos, letters, and music can also trigger meaningful memories.
When documenting their life events, positive experiences can simply be recalled and enjoyed. For the negative ones, you can ask them what they learned from the experience and write that lesson in the description. In this way, you can find beauty and meaning in all of it.
Before you begin to sell products online, there are several legal issues you should be aware of to ensure that your business is compliant with the law and that your interests are protected.
Business entity. If you are starting a new business to pursue online sales, it is important to carefully consider the pros and cons of different business structures. A sole proprietorship is uncomplicated and inexpensive, as no separate business entity is formed. In a sole proprietorship, there is no distinction between your business and personal assets, so you are personally responsible for all the business’s debts and liabilities. A partnership is a similarly simple business structure used when two or more people co-own a business. Like a sole proprietorship, you will be personally liable for all the business’s obligations—including those incurred by your partner. A limited liability company (LLC) is a separate business entity that can be formed by a single business owner or multiple owners. It involves the payment of certain fees to the state and a few formalities, such as an annual meeting, and in some states, an annual report. An LLC, however, provides limited liability, meaning, if someone is injured by one of your products, they can only sue the business, and your personal assets will be protected. Other business structures are available as well—these are just some of the most common structures used by small businesses. We can help you evaluate which business structure will best achieve your goals.
Trademarks. A trademark is a word, name, symbol, device, or a combination of them used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods and services of a seller or provider, and to indicate the source of a good or service. A trademark is one of your business’s most valuable assets, and if you engage in e-commerce transactions beyond your state’s borders, it is important to register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which enforces your rights as a trademark holder across the entire country, not just the state in which your business is located.