August is “National Make-A-Will Month,” and if you have already prepared your will, congratulations—too few Americans have taken this key first step in the estate planning process. In fact, only 33% of Americans have created their will, according to Caring.com’s 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study

Yet, while having a will is important—and all adults over age 18 should have this document in place—for all but a few people, creating a will is just one small part of an effective estate plan that works to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. With this in mind, here we look at exactly what having a will in place will—and will not—do for you and your loved ones in terms of estate planning.

If you have yet to create your will, or you haven’t reviewed your existing will recently, contact us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to get this vital first step in your estate planning handled right away.

What A Will Does

A will is a legal document that outlines your final wishes in regards to how your assets are distributed to your surviving family members. Here are some of the things having a will in place allows you to do:

1. Choose how assets are divided upon your death: A will’s primary purpose is to allow you to designate how you want your assets divided among your surviving loved ones upon your death. If you die without a will, state law governs how your assets are distributed, which may or may not be in line with your wishes.

However, as we’ll discuss more below, a will only allows you to provide for the distribution of certain types of assets—namely, a will only covers assets owned solely in your name. Other types of assets, such as those with a beneficiary designation and assets co-owned by you with others, are not affected by your will.

2. Name an executor: In your will, you can name the person, or persons, you want to serve as your executor, sometimes called a “personal representative.” Following your death, your executor is responsible for wrapping up your final affairs. This includes numerous responsibilities, including filing your will with the local probate court, locating and managing all of your assets, paying off any debts you have outstanding, filing and paying your final income taxes, and finally, distributing your remaining assets to your named beneficiaries.

3. Name guardians for your minor children: If you are the parent of minor children, it is possible to name legal guardians for them in your will. However, naming guardians for your children in your will alone is seriously risky, and doing so may even leave your kids vulnerable to being taken into the care of strangers if something happens to you. And this is true even if you’ve worked with another lawyer to create your will, because most lawyers haven’t studied and been trained on  what’s necessary for ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.

Fortunately, whether you’ve named guardians for your kids in your will or have yet to take any action at all, you’ve come to the right place. As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we have been trained by the author of the best-selling book, Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents, on legal planning for the unique needs of families with minor children. 

As a result of this training, we offer a comprehensive system known as the Kids Protection Plan®, which is included with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children. While you should meet with us to put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place as soon as possible, protecting your children is such a critical and urgent issue, we’ve created a totally free website, where you can get your plan started right now.

⇒ If you’ve yet to take any action at all, visit this 100% FREE website, where you can take the first steps to create legal documents naming long-term guardians for your children to ensure that should anything happen to you prior to creating your estate plan, your kids would be cared for by the people you would want in the way you would want. Get started here now: https://lizsmithlaw.kidsprotectionplan.com/

After you’ve completed those initial actions, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us, so we can put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place, and determine if there is anything else your family might need to ensure the well-being and care of your children.

⇒ If you have already named long-term guardians in your will—either on your own or with a lawyer—we can review your existing legal documents to see whether you have made any of the six common mistakes that could leave your kids at risk. From there, we will revise your plan to ensure your children are fully protected.

4. Serve as a backup for a living trust: Because it can be difficult to transfer the legal title to every single one of your assets into a revocable living trust before your death, most trusts are combined with what’s known as a “pour-over” will. This type of will serves as a backup to a living trust, so all assets not held by the trust upon your death are transferred, or “poured,” into your trust through the probate process.

A Small—But Important—First Step
As you can see here, having a will in place only gives you a limited amount of power over the distribution of certain assets, but that doesn’t mean you should go without one. Without a will, you would have no say in who inherits your assets when you die, and everything you own could even go to the state.

But worse than that, your surviving loved ones will be the ones who have to clean up the mess you’ve left behind. And they will have to handle all of this while grieving your death. Instead, you should see your will as an important first step in the estate planning process—one that works best when integrated with a variety of other legal vehicles, such as trusts, powers of attorney, and advance healthcare directives.

Next week, in part two, we’ll detail all of the things that your will does not do, and then we’ll outline the different estate planning tools that you should have in place to make up for these potential blind spots in your estate plan. Until then, if you need to get your estate planning started or you would like us to review your existing estate plan (even one created by another lawyer) to see if you are missing anything, contact us, your Personal Family Lawyer®. 

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Personal Family Lawyer® in Juneau, Alaska. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 907-312-5436 to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge; or book a time for our team to call you at a time you choose.

5 Events That Necessitate A Review Of Your Coverage

Putting in place the right types and amounts of business insurance is a key part of your company’s LIFT risk-mitigation and asset-protection foundation. However, like other foundational business systems, if your business insurance isn’t regularly reviewed and updated as your operation grows, your coverage can prove inadequate, putting your business at serious risk in the event you are hit with a lawsuit, judgment, or an unforeseen accident or disaster.

It’s typically a good idea to review your company’s insurance coverage on an annual basis. But as your business evolves, you should also revisit your policies whenever your company undergoes significant changes involving infrastructure, assets, and personnel. 

While there are numerous different events that could necessitate an audit of your company’s insurance, the following five are among the most common reasons to immediately review your coverage. 

1. Office Relocation Or Renovation

When your company grows, you may need to move your office to a new location or make renovations to your existing space. But unless you review and upgrade your commercial property insurance and general liability insurance, your existing insurance policies may not be sufficient to cover your new property.

If you move to a new location, you’ll definitely need to adjust your commercial property insurance coverage to account for the particulars of the new space. For example, your insurance rates can fluctuate greatly, depending on your new office’s square footage, building type, the location’s crime statistics, safety features, history, and other factors. 

2. The Addition Of A New Product Or Service

Launching a new product or service is a great way to increase revenue and grow your operation. But such new offerings also open your company up to the potential for new lawsuits.

If you’ve recently expanded your product line, you should update your product liability insurance to cover the new items in case they’re defective or otherwise harm a customer. You’ll also want to review your property insurance to cover the new products in case of theft, damage, or loss while they’re stored on your property.

If you make your living by providing professional services and/or consulting, you need professional liability insurance, and your policy will need to be updated to account for your new services. Also known as errors and omission insurance, professional liability insurance protects you against lawsuits alleging your professional services caused a client to suffer damages, arising from actions like negligence, mistakes, and breach of contract. 

Such coverage can be essential for a wide range of businesses—accountants, lawyers, real-estate agents, consultants, IT firms, and others. Check with us, your Family Business Lawyer™ to find out if you should have such coverage.

3. Hiring New Staff

As your team grows over the years, you’ll need to adjust your workers compensation insurance coverage to reflect your current staffing level. Having the proper workers comp coverage is not only a good idea, it’s the law, and failing to update your coverage could lead to fines and other penalties.

Another liability consideration when adding new team members is employment practices insurance, which provides protection for lawsuits initiated by both employees and contractors. While this is an often-overlooked coverage, it’s actually one of the most important, since employment claims are among the most serious threats to small businesses.

Indeed, studies show that nearly one in every five small businesses will get sued by a team member at some point in their lifecycle. The more people who work for you, the greater the risk of a lawsuit and the higher the resulting damages are likely to be in the event of a successful suit, so you should adjust your level of coverage accordingly as your team expands. [FBL: INSERT HYPERLINK BEHIND HIGHLIGHTED TEXT TO https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/managing-risk/is-your-small-business-prepared-for-a-lawsuit/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20Hiscox%20study,of%20a%20half%20million%20dollars%5D

4. Purchasing New Vehicles

If you or your team use a company-owned vehicle, each of those vehicles should be covered by comprehensive commercial auto insurance to protect against liability as well as any injury or damage that might occur to your employees, vehicles, products, and equipment.

If your team uses their own vehicles, their personal insurance may cover them. But for maximum protection, consider purchasing “non-owned auto liability coverage” in case a team member fails to renew their insurance or has inadequate coverage.

5. Changes To Executive Governance

If your company grows large enough or changes corporate structure to add board members and/or executive officers, each person serving should be covered by directors and officers insurance. Such coverage protects executives should they be sued for a decision they made on behalf of the company.

At the same time, consider taking out “key-person” insurance any time you hire a new high-level executive. Key-person insurance is basically life insurance that pays out to your company should the owner, an officer, or another top executive pass away. Such coverage can be invaluable for small companies, which would otherwise collapse in the absence of certain top-tier staff.

We Can Support Your Insurance Audit

Before you sit down with an insurance agent, meet with us, as your Family Business Lawyer™. We will evaluate the specific risks your company faces as it expands to determine exactly what kind of insurance you need and what levels of coverage will best safeguard your business assets at every stage of its evolution. Contact us today to get started.


This article is a service of of Liz Smith, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 907-312-5436, or find a time for us to call you

If you have started to save for your child or grandchild’s college education, it’s worth considering whether to use a 529 plan, an education savings account, or an irrevocable trust. 

Last week, in part one of this series, we discussed 529 plans and education savings accounts, which are both popular options for saving for college education. One of the main reasons for their popularity is their tax-saving advantages. The money you contribute to a 529 account grows on a tax-deferred basis, and withdrawals are tax-free, provided they are used for qualified education expenses, such as tuition, room and board, and other education-related fees.

That said, one of the downsides of 529 plans is that they come with strict limits on how you can use the funds (for education-related expenses only), and they also have a limited range of options for how you can invest your funds, primarily in various mutual funds. For these reasons, 529 plans and ESAs aren’t always the best fit for some families looking to save for their loved ones’ education.

Education Trusts

As we noted in part one, one alternative way to save for your offspring’s higher education is by using an irrevocable trust. Although there isn’t any income tax deferral on income earned by the assets held by these trusts, it is possible to structure a trust, so your beneficiaries could qualify for financial aid that they may otherwise be ineligible for with a 529 plan. Depending on your situation, qualifying for financial aid may prove even more valuable than savings on the income taxes owed on income earned by the trust.

Here in part two, we’ll further discuss how these trusts work and why they may be an attractive alternative to 529 plans, if you are looking to save for your loved ones’ education—whether that education is college or some other form of learning.


The Benefits Of Education Trusts

In addition to the issue of qualifying for financial aid, another benefit of such trusts is that you can not only save for a single child’s or grandchild’s education, you can also structure your trust to provide a pool of funds for the education of all family members. Moreover, when creating the trust, “education” can be broadly defined to include any type of learning institution or organization, such as trade schools, educational workshops, community colleges, and private academies, to name just a few options. 

Furthermore, you can provide that the trust can pay for alternative education, such as travel, retreats, business building programs, and other nontraditional educational experiences, which may prove even more valuable than college. Bottom line: when you set aside money to educate your family with an education trust, you get to decide exactly how your beneficiaries can use the funds by what is most in alignment with your family values. And as part of creating your education trust, we will work with you to create a written set of guidelines for the trustee, who will be the person making decisions regarding distributions to the beneficiaries. 

Trust Creation Options

In terms of how the trust is set up, you can create an education trust that is built into your revocable living trust or will, and as such, it would not get registered and funded until your death. Or you can create an education trust that exists and is funded during and throughout your lifetime. In either case, the disbursements from the trust are designated for a beneficiary or a pool of beneficiaries’ education.

While you can stipulate how and when the funds are to be distributed inside the terms of the trust agreement itself, we would almost always provide the trustee with broad distribution authority and discretion (to maximize the asset protection benefits of the trust), and create a separate writing to provide guidelines on distributions, and then give a trusted person, or group of people, the right to remove and replace the trustee with someone else should your first choice not work out for any reason.

If a single trust is established for multiple beneficiaries, you can require the assets to be distributed in a number of ways. You can stipulate that the funds are divided equally among the beneficiaries, disburse the funds in a set amount, by percentage, or you can leave the decision as to how much each beneficiary receives to the trustee’s discretion.   

Tax Implications

Education trusts typically aren’t set up as tax-saving vehicles, as is the case with a traditional 529 plan, which does provide tax savings. That said, as we noted earlier, 529 plans have much more restrictive rules for how their funds can be used. Moreover, you could save on taxes with a trust if it is drafted in a way that allows the trust’s income to be taxed at your beneficiary’s tax rate, which could be significantly lower than your personal tax rate.  

If you establish an irrevocable trust for education purposes, make sure you consider all of the tax impacts on income earned by the trust. For example, the trust would be taxed on income not distributed by year’s end, but you can have the trust drafted to pay out all income to the beneficiary or include other provisions that cause the trust to be taxed to the beneficiary (even if income is retained).

That income would be taxed at trust tax rates, which could be higher than the beneficiary’s rate—and possibly even higher than your personal tax rate—so it’s important you are clear about whether income should be distributed before year’s end for each year the trust earns income. 

If the education trust is irrevocable, meaning that the gift cannot be taken back, and the amount contributed each year is less than the annual gift tax exemption ($16,000 in 2022), then no gift-tax return is required to be filed. Conversely, if the gift to the trust exceeds that amount, then you will need to file a gift-tax return, reporting the gift and using up part of your lifetime exemption of $12.06 million if single and $24.12 million if married filing jointly.

Since there are so many variables involved and different ways to set up an education trust, it’s vital to reach out to us, your Personal Family Lawyer®, so we can walk you step-by-step through all of your options—and help you determine what’s best for your unique situation.

Potential Problems To Keep In Mind

One alternative to these plans (both 529 plans and education trusts) is to use money that has been saved for other purposes, such as funds you have saved for your retirement. However, it’s important to point out that using your retirement funds can affect your child’s eligibility for various need-based financial aid programs. To this end, retirement funds withdrawn to pay college expenses are reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as additional income.

Consequently, when using retirement funds, the expected family contribution used from FAFSA will be higher, which will therefore reduce your child’s chances of qualifying for financial assistance. Consult with us if you choose to tap into your retirement savings to fund college expenses, so we can ensure it’s done right and will have the maximum benefit for everyone involved.

Don’t Do-It-Yourself

To ensure you get the most benefit from your savings, don’t try to make these decisions on your own. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will work with you to determine the best way to set aside financial resources for the people you love, whether that’s using a 529 plan, an education trust, or some other option. Contact us today to learn more.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Personal Family Lawyer® in Juneau, Alaska. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 907-312-5436 to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge; or book a time for our team to call you at a time you choose.

Using independent contractors (ICs) can give your company an edge in today’s thriving gig economy, but if you are not careful, contractors can also be a serious liability. In fact, working with ICs comes with a number of unique legal and financial risks that can be potentially ruinous to your business if not handled properly.

Beyond getting sued or hit with hefty fines for misclassifying an employee as a contractor, you must also be careful to properly secure ownership of anything an IC creates for you. This is particularly true when it comes to your intellectual property (IP).

And whether you know it or not, IP is one of your company’s most valuable assets. Indeed, a recent study found that up to 80% of the value of today’s typical business is made up of different forms of IP.

Do You Actually Own The Work You Are Paying For?

Unlike employees, with whom you generally own automatic copyrights to everything they produce while working for you, ICs typically retain full copyrights to their work—unless they’ve signed a written agreement stating otherwise. Indeed, if you don’t have properly drafted agreements in place, you may not even own the work you pay ICs to produce for you. 

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to secure full ownership of these works by using the proper legal agreements. However, this is only possible if you actually put these agreements in place with every IC you work with—and yes, this means every single person, even those you have worked with for years without a single problem.

Work-For-Hire Agreements

When it comes to using legal agreements to secure ownership of the work you hire an IC to produce, you have a couple of options. One option is to include a work-for-hire clause in their independent contractor agreement.

A work-for-hire clause states that you, not the IC, own all copyrights to the deliverables he or she produces for you under the agreement. Such a clause effectively makes it as if you created the work yourself, and as such, it allows you to use the work in any way you wish.

Just be sure to have the IC sign the agreement before he or she starts working. If not, it may be too late to acquire full ownership. Additionally, work-for-hire clauses only cover certain types of materials. According to the U.S Copyright Office, in order for a work-for-hire to apply, the work being created must fall into one of the following nine categories:

  1. a contribution to a collective work, such as a magazine or anthology
  2. a part of an audiovisual work or movie
  3. a translation
  4. a supplementary work, such as a forward, editorial notes, appendix, bibliography, or chart
  5. a compilation created by selecting and/or arranging preexisting works
  6. an instructional text
  7. a test
  8. answer materials for a test
  9. an atlas


If the work you hire an IC to create does not fall into one of these categories, a work-for-hire clause would not give you full ownership. This catches many business owners by surprise, who falsely assume having such a clause is all they need. However, if the work you are paying for doesn’t fit into these categories, you will need a different type of agreement to secure ownership of the IP—and as you can see, the type of work covered by work-for-hire agreements is fairly limited.

Copyright Assignment

For works that fall outside of the work-for-hire domain, you will need to include an assignment clause in the contractor’s agreement, in which the IC transfers some, or all, of their copyrights to your business. Without this clause, the IC would retain all rights to the work, even if the agreement contained a work-for-hire clause.

Adding an assignment clause to the IC’s agreement is fairly simple, and for maximum protection, you can even include such a clause alongside a work-for-hire provision. It’s as easy as simply adding a brief clause in the agreement stipulating that if the work is not deemed a work-for-hire, the IC assigns all copyrights to your company.

Non-Disclosure & Non-Disparagement Agreements

In addition to work-for-hire clauses and copyright assignment agreements, all of your agreements with contractors should also include non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements, which would keep an IC from disclosing details about their work with you to outside parties, especially your competitors. A non-disclosure agreement could cover trade secrets, confidential business information, and financial information about your business, and even whether the IC worked with you.

Although you may not think of it this way, one of your most valuable items of intellectual property is your reputation. A non-disparagement agreement assures you that an IC is unlikely to tarnish your reputation after working with you.

Don’t Go It Alone

Although work-for-hire, copyright-assignment, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement clauses and agreements are not difficult to create, because each project is unique, there is not a specific template or generic form that would cover every job. What’s more, the wording of each agreement is also important, and some states require specific language for work-for-hire agreements to be legally valid.

Given this, you should steer clear of generic legal agreements you find online, and always have us, your Family Business Lawyer™ review your IC agreements, even if they were drafted by another lawyer. Whether you need your existing agreements reviewed or need help creating new contracts, as your Family Business Lawyer™, we will support you in developing the proper legal agreements that will give you the most comprehensive ownership rights possible with every contractor you hire. 

Furthermore, we can perform an IP audit for your company. This audit is a comprehensive, systematic review that identifies all of your IP assets, and evaluates all of the potential risks and opportunities associated with those assets. An IP audit will not only identify your IP assets, it can also help ensure you have all of the necessary IP protections, such as trademarks, copyrights, along with the proper legal agreements governing those projections to ensure you own the full spectrum of rights related to your IP. Contact us, your local Family Business Lawyer™ firm today to get started.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 907-312-5436, or find a time for us to call you

If you have started to save for your child or grandchild’s college education, it’s worth considering whether to use a 529 plan, an education savings account, or an Irrevocable Trust. 

Here’s what we think you should consider as you decide: 

First, consider whether you want your offspring to have broader options than just the traditional college experience. 

Since the start of the pandemic, college enrollments have declined by over one million students over the past two years, and with college tuition getting more and more expensive, many students are considering alternatives to the traditional higher education path.

Gap years, travel, trade programs, and online training are replacing the traditional college education path for many, and if you want that to be an option for your children or grandchildren, you should be aware that the traditional college savings plans may not be the right fit for your family.

Instead, consider whether it may make more sense to create an educational trust for your family, in which all of your children and grandchildren can benefit. More on that below in the section on education trusts.

Second, consider the financial aid consequences of how you are saving for college.

If you think your child or grandchild may need or want to qualify for financial aid, beyond student loans, the way you save for their education may significantly impact their ability to qualify. If your offspring will need financial assistance to pay for their education, it’s vital that the way in which you choose to save will not negatively impact their qualification for such assistance.

Third, consider the income tax consequences of how you are saving for college.

When you set aside money, unless you are saving for retirement in a qualified retirement plan, the income earned on that money is subject to income taxes. However, with various types of college savings plans, you can defer or avoid income taxes altogether. 

529 Plans & Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)

Since 1996, 529 plans, which are named for Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, have been one of the most popular options for covering college costs. Congress expanded these plans to cover K–12 education in 2017, and it also changed the program to pay up to $10,000 in student loan debt in 2019.

One reason 529 plans are so popular is due to their tax-saving advantages. The money you contribute to a 529 account grows on a tax-deferred basis, and withdrawals are tax-free, provided they are used for qualified education expenses, such as tuition, room and board, and other education-related fees. And many states also provide a tax deduction or credit for 529 contributions.

Another appealing feature of 529 plans is their relatively high contribution limits. There is no limit on how much you can contribute each year, although if you contribute more than $16,000 (the amount of the gift tax exemption limit  in 2022), you can trigger federal gift taxes and the requirement to file a gift tax return. If you plan to make a contribution close to or above $16,000, contact us for guidance.

Finally, with many 529 plans, you can set up an automatic transfer to add money directly from your bank account to your 529 account. Plus, many 529 plans allow automatic contributions as low as $25 per month.

Before you automatically save for your offspring’s future education using a 529 plan, keep in mind that to avoid paying taxes, plus a 10% penalty, the money must be used for eligible expenses only. Eligible expenses include tuition and fees, room and board, books, as well as  computers and other items if they are required for classwork.

If your child decides not to go to college, you will pay income taxes, plus the 10% penalty in order to withdraw the funds and use them for something else. The other downside to saving for your child’s education in a 529 plan is that your investment options may be significantly limited to only a small selection of mutual funds.  

Education Trusts

While 529 plans are quite popular, there is another way to save for your child or grandchild’s education through the use of an irrevocable trust. While there isn’t any income tax deferral on income earned by the assets held by these trusts, it is possible to structure a trust, so your beneficiaries could qualify for financial aid that they may otherwise be ineligible for with a 529 plan. If qualifying for financial aid would be even more valuable than savings on the income taxes owed on income earned by the trust, contact us to discuss setting up an educational trust for your family.

Next week, in part two, we’ll go into more detail about educational trusts. For now, take into consideration what matters most to you when it comes to saving for college: tax savings, financial aid considerations, or a variety of investment and education options. Then, contact us if you’d like to consider the educational trust option as part of your legal and financial decisions for the people you love.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Personal Family Lawyer® in Juneau, Alaska. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 907-312-5436 to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge; or book a time for our team to call you at a time you choose.

When you run your own business, oftentimes one of the most confusing aspects of the job, especially if you are new to the experience, is understanding how to separate yourself from your business. And this issue can show up in so many ways, from achieving a work/life balance and managing your time to how you get paid and even how much taxes you owe.

With this in mind, here we will offer a big-picture overview of this issue, and in future articles, we’ll drill down to some of the finer details of keeping your business and personal assets separate. Although it might not seem overly complicated or important, separating yourself from your business is a serious issue for every business owner.

You & Your Business Are Separate Entities


The first thing to keep in mind is this: you are not your business, you are not your heart project, your are not your work in the world or even the services you offer. Your business, heart project, work, service, and/or product may feel like it’s one and the same as you, or even as if it’s your baby. But one day, just like the little ones you give birth to, you may want your business to grow up and go on to live on its own without you. Or you may not want that—it’s all a matter of preference, and your decision on this point may even evolve over time.

Either way, this is a good thing to start thinking about now. Do you want what you are creating to live beyond you? If so, you’ll need to start thinking about it as an evolutionary entity that can grow separate from you. And whether you want it to live on beyond you or not, you want it to exist separately from you, because as you’ll learn, there are major tax and asset protection benefits for you by doing this properly.

Owning A Business vs. Being An Employee
To add perspective, let’s contrast what it’s like to run your own business with what happens when you are working as an employee.

The Employee Experience: As an employee, you get paid via a paycheck, with taxes taken out and a W-2 issued to you at the end of the year. In this case, you and your money-earning vehicle are essentially one and the same. 

You earn money, and you pay taxes on that money in the form of income taxes and payroll taxes. As an employee, what comes to you every pay period via your paycheck is yours to put into your personal financial accounts, so you can pay your bills, save, or invest. In that context, you are getting taxed on every dollar you earn. 

There are some ways that you can save money tax free as an employee, such as by directing some of your pay into a 401(k), an IRA, or even a Health Savings Account, provided your employer offers such benefits. But for the most part, you are paying payroll taxes and income taxes—which are two separate types of taxes—on every dollar you make.

The Business Owner Experience: In contrast, when you are earning money through a business entity that is under your control, money comes into your business, goes into your business accounts, and is first used to pay business expenses, which are deductible expenses to your business. When you deduct business expenses from the income of your business, you do not pay income taxes on that income. In this way, you can think of business expenses as a government-subsidized expenditure.  

Here’s what I mean: if you can purchase a computer through your business and use it for business, you are paying for that computer with pre-tax dollars, which could save you up to 40% (or more depending on your state) on the cost of the computer, versus if you were to purchase that same computer with after-tax dollars. But this only works if you treat your business like a business, and properly separate your personal and business accounts.

To keep your business and personal expenses separate, your business entity needs its own bank account, its own credit cards, and it needs to pay you. You then always pay your personal expenses out of your personal accounts, never your business accounts. Whatever your business pays you will be subject to income tax and possibly payroll tax as well, though there are ways to significantly reduce your payroll tax obligation by choosing the right way to structure your business entity. Be sure to talk with us regarding how to structure your business for maximum tax savings, if you have not already gotten great guidance on that front. 


To the extent that your business earns more money than what’s required to cover your basic needs, you may want to consider investing to hire experienced support staff (especially a skilled bookkeeper and administrative support) to free up your time and allow you to focus on generating more revenue, better serving your clients or customers, and growing your operation. Or you may choose to invest that money in additional education or training for yourself, so you can increase the value (and price) of your services. If you have excess cash flow, you’ll also want to know how to structure your profits, so you pay the smallest amount in taxes legally possible.

Don’t Mix Personal & Business Finances
Whatever you do, do not simply have one bank account that you pay both your personal and business expenses from, or you are going to get seriously confused, and you could even end up losing money or getting into legal or tax trouble, depending on your company’s entity structure. 


If you have already paid business expenses out of a personal account, or by using personal credit cards, keep careful track and document exactly how much you paid out from those accounts to your business. This payment will either be an investment in your business that you will want to track for the future, or it will be a personal loan to your business that you will want to eventually have paid back.

Talk with your CPA regarding how best to structure investments in or as loans to your business, and then we can help you properly document your decisions. Or if you need strategic support on this issue, contact us, and ask about a LIFT Business Breakthrough Session, and we’ll look at all of your legal, insurance, financial, and tax strategic decisions together.

When you work with us, as your Family Business Lawyer, we offer a number of systems and processes that make keeping your personal and business finances separate a snap. Not only that, but we offer additional services that make separating yourself from your business as easy and convenient as possible. Reach out to us to learn more.

Get Clear On Your Actual Financial Needs & Goals
One of the best ways to effectively manage your business and personal finances is to first get clear on what you need your business to pay you at a base level, so you can pay all of your bills and other personal expenses as well as meet your personal time and money goals. To get clear on this, we use a process called Money Mapping. If you haven’t worked with us on this yet, now is the time to finally get a solid understanding of how much money you actually need to reach your goals, rather than guessing or worrying about how much you need to earn to stay afloat.

We’ve Got Your Back
When it comes to separating yourself from your business and managing all of the different aspects involved with this process, you can count on us to provide you with the trusted support and guidance. With our help, you’ll learn how to do this in a way that not only ensures you are doing it right, but that actually adds value to your company and generates increased revenue. Sit down with us, your Family Business Lawyerto learn about all of the different ways we can support you in this area. Schedule your visit today.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 907-312-5436, or find a time for us to call you

You might think that only the super wealthy need to worry about asset protection planning. But the truth is that if you don’t have millions, you may be at even greater risk. For instance, if you are a multi-millionaire, a $50,000 judgment against you might not be that big of a deal. But for a family with a modest income, savings, and home, it could be devastating.

Furthermore, asset protection planning isn’t something you can put off until something happens. Once you are under threat of a lawsuit, it’s likely too late to protect your assets. Like all types of planning, to be effective, you must have your asset protection strategies in place well before something happens. And your asset protection plan isn’t a one-and-done deal: it must be regularly updated to accommodate changes to your assets, family dynamics, and the law.

While you should meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine the asset protection strategies that are best suited for your particular asset profile and family situation, here are four essential strategies to consider for safeguarding your family’s most valuable assets. 

1. Invest In Insurance

Insurance is always the first line of defense when it comes to asset protection. Anyone can file a lawsuit against you at any time—and basically for any reason. And whether you are ultimately found at fault or not, defending yourself in court can be extremely costly.

The insurance coverage you purchase should not only pay damages if a lawsuit against you is successful, the policy should also cover the cost of hiring a lawyer to defend you in court, whether you win or lose your case. And because a large judgment could exceed your policies’ coverage limits, you should also seriously consider buying umbrella insurance.

Should your underlying insurance policy max out, an umbrella policy will help cover any remaining damages and legal expenses. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will evaluate your current insurance policies and advise you about the types and amounts of insurance you should have for maximum protection of your assets.

2. Take Advantage Of Statutory Exemptions

Another way to protect your family’s assets is by taking full advantage of federal and state laws that make certain types of assets “exempt” from creditor claims and judgments. Depending on the state, the availability and amount of protection offered by these exemptions can vary.

For example, many states offer a homestead exemption, which protects a certain amount—or even the full value—of the equity you have in your primary residence from creditors. If your state provides a generous homestead exemption, paying down your mortgage could protect funds that would otherwise be vulnerable.

Similarly, federal and state laws also classify many retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, as exempt assets. Additionally, some states offer significant, or complete, exemptions for life insurance policies and annuities, as well.

Even though such exemptions won’t offer you total protection, they can provide significant shelter for certain assets. Plus, using statutory exemptions is something that can be accomplished without investing anything—all that’s required is for you to understand how best to structure your investments to take advantage of these protections. Meet with us, your local Personal Family Lawyer® to learn what types and amounts of exemptions are available in your area, and how to make the best use of each one.

3. Use The Right Business Entity

Owning a business can be a major wealth-generating asset for your family, but it can also be a serious liability. In fact, without the proper protection, your personal assets are at serious risk if your company ever runs into trouble. For example, if your business is currently a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you are personally liable for any debts or lawsuits incurred by your business.

However, structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation is typically the best move for most small businesses. When properly set up and maintained, both entities create an impenetrable barrier between your personal assets and your business activities. Creditors, clients, and other potentially litigious individuals can go after assets owned by your company, but not your personal assets. Additionally, having the right business insurance in place can help shield your business assets from such claims.

If you own any kind of business, even just a side gig to earn extra income, you should consider setting up a protective entity to ensure any liabilities incurred by your company won’t affect your personal assets. We can help you select, put in place, and maintain the proper entity structure for your particular business operation. If you haven’t done this already, contact us right away to ensure your business doesn’t put your personal assets in jeopardy.

4. Put The Proper Estate Planning In Place

Although each of the above scenarios are mere possibilities, there is one certainty in life—death. It’s coming for all of us, and given this fact, your eventual death—or your potential incapacity from a serious accident or illness before you pass away—is the biggest risk to your family’s assets. 

If you become incapacitated or die without proper estate planning in place, your assets and family will face a number of potentially tragic outcomes. Without the proper planning, your assets will get stuck in the court system, which could result in those assets passing to family members you would never want inheriting them, or if the assets eventually do pass to the loved ones you would want inheriting them, those assets could be seriously depleted or even lost. To this end, planning in advance for the inevitability of death is one of the greatest gifts you can give those you love most. 

You work way too hard to leave your family’s assets at risk. If you’ve been putting off creating your estate plan—or if you haven’t updated your existing plan recently—now is the time to get it handled. As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we’ve made estate planning incredibly easy, and we start with a Family Wealth Planning Session, which is the first step in our Life & Legacy Planning process.

Life & Legacy Planning: Do Right By Those You Love Most 

During this process, we’ll walk you through an analysis of your assets, what’s most important to you, and what will happen to your loved ones when you die or if you become incapacitated. From there, we’ll work together with you to put in place the right combination of estate planning solutions to fit with your unique asset profile, family dynamics, budget, as well as your overall goals and desires.  

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we aren’t like most estate planning firms—we see estate planning as far more than simply planning for your death and passing on your “estate” and assets to your loved ones—it’s about planning for a life you love and a legacy worth leaving by the choices you make today. And this is why we call our services Life & Legacy Planning. Contact us today to schedule your visit to ensure that your assets and loved ones are safeguarded from all potential threats.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Personal Family Lawyer® in Juneau, Alaska. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 907-312-5436 to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge; or book a time for our team to call you at a time you choose.

Despite the fact that it happens to every single one of us and is as every bit as natural as birth, very few among us are properly prepared for death—whether our own death or the death of a loved one. 

Yet the pandemic might be changing this.

According to Census figures, the pandemic caused the U.S. death rate to spike by nearly 20% between 2019 and 2020, the largest increase in American mortality in 100 years. More than two years and 1 million deaths later, it’s more clear than ever that death is not only ever-present, but a central and inevitable part of all our lives.

Yet, some in the end-of-life industry believe the pandemic’s massive loss of life has also created an opportunity to transform the way we face death, grief, and all of the other issues that arise when we lose someone we love dearly. In fact, this sentiment is the mission of the new startup Empathy, an AI-based platform designed to help families navigate the logistical and emotional challenges following the death of a loved one.

“For far too many, COVID-19 has been a terrible reminder that death and loss are all around us,” notes Empathy CEO and co-founder Ron Gura in a recent company report. “But it also represents an opportunity to shift public perception, to bring a topic that has been for far too long shrouded in darkness into the light of day, where we can fully examine it and figure out how best to help those who have to shoulder its burdens.”

As anyone who has dealt with loss knows, when a loved one dies, those left behind face major challenges, not only emotional and logistical, but financial as well. Empathy was designed to help manage and streamline these responsibilities for grieving families. In addition to the app, in March 2022 Empathy released its first-ever Cost of Dying Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans—each of whom had lost a loved one in the last five years—to get a clearer picture of dying’s true cost to families.  

Last week, in part one of this series, we discussed some of the Cost Of Dying’s most notable findings and explained how proactive estate planning can dramatically reduce many of the financial, logistical, and emotional challenges for your loved ones following your death. Here in part two, we wrap up our summary of the report and outline more of the ways proactive planning can relieve the burden of your death for your family.

THE COST IN LOST TIME

On average, the report found that families spent 420 hours over 13 months completing all the tasks needed to settle a loved one’s estate after death. However, the time commitment shot up to 20 months for estates that required the court process of probate. Additionally, most respondents underestimated how long these tasks would take: 54% said it took longer than they expected, while 31% said it took much longer. 

To give you some idea of what consumed families’ time most during these months, the report breaks down the responsibilities that respondents reported taking the longest as follows:

Most Time-Consuming Tasks

  • The funeral: 55%
  • Financial matters: 47%
  • The will and probate: 45%
  • Paying bills, debts, and taxes: 41%
  • Dealing with the house or other property: 25%
  • Finding service providers: 23% 

Reducing The Time Burden For Your Family

With proper estate planning, you dramatically reduce the time your surviving loved ones will have to spend on many of these tasks. For example, by preplanning and prepaying your own funeral, you can greatly reduce what most families reported as the most time-consuming task.

For other tasks, such as dealing with probate and paying off estates with debt, you can use estate planning to totally eliminate the need for your family to deal with these issues. As we noted last week, you can save your family both the time and expense of probate by creating a revocable living trust. One other unnecessary task we see families spending a lot of time on is simply locating all of a loved one’s assets when they die.

This happens when you become incapacitated or die, and your family is unable to find—or simply overlooks—all of your wealth and property. And this occurs because most people fail to properly inventory their assets or keep that inventory regularly updated throughout their lifetime. Indeed, this is why there’s currently more than $58 billion of lost and unclaimed assets held by state and federal agencies in the U.S.

Keeping an updated inventory of all of your assets is so important, we offer this service for free to every one of our clients. Moreover, when you work with us, we will not only help you create a comprehensive asset inventory, we have systems in place to make sure your inventory stays consistently updated throughout your lifetime. 

We’ve even created a unique (and totally FREE) tool called a Personal Resource Map to help you get the inventory process started right now on your own, without the need for a lawyer. Once you’ve done that, schedule a meeting with us, as your local Personal Family Lawyer®, to incorporate your inventory with your other estate planning strategies

THE TOLL ON THE MIND & BODY

The seemingly endless number of tasks and responsibilities grieving families must deal with can be both confusing and stressful. And since most of us have never handled such processes before, you face a surreal learning curve that only adds to your emotional burden.

To this end, more than 30% of respondents said they simply didn’t know what to do during the period immediately following a loved one’s death, and for those under age 45, that number rose to 43%. Not surprisingly, estates with debt typically caused more stress to those who had to manage them, and lower-income families were considerably more likely than those with higher incomes to report feeling lost during the process. 

Such stress can even result in debilitating emotional and physical symptoms. As evidence of this fact, more than 57% of respondents reported suffering at least one clinical symptom of stress, while the average person suffered three or more. The most common symptoms induced by grief-related stress include the following: 

Clinical Symptoms Experienced

  • Stress headaches: 30% 
  • Stress-related fatigue: 42% 
  • Panic attacks: 17.5% 
  • Memory impairment: 16%

A Lack Of Communication Compounds Stress

Our society is so separated from the dying and grieving process that just talking about it is often considered taboo. Sadly, this only makes things that much more difficult when we finally face death’s inevitable reality.

“Bereavement is emotionally and physically taxing,” writes BJ Miller, MD, Empathy’s Compassion Advisor, in the report’s section on dying’s mental cost. “It’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your mind, it’s hard on your life. By not talking about it openly, we have made it much harder than it needs to be.”

One positive part of this situation is that when those enduring loss are properly educated and informed about what to expect and how to best deal with these responsibilities, things do get easier for them.

“The good news is that when we give them the guidance they need, when we fill that knowledge gap, the bereaved tend to feel a lot better,” says Miller.

Don’t Leave Your Family In The Dark

One easy way you can make dealing with your own eventual death far easier for your loved ones is by working with us, as your Personal Family Lawyer®. We will support you to have intimate discussions about planning for death and incapacity with your family. When done right, such proactive communication and planning can put your life and relationships into a much clearer focus and offer you peace of mind, knowing that the people you love most will be protected and provided for no matter what happens to you.

Furthermore, we take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process. In this way, everyone affected by your plan is well-aware of what your latest planning strategies are and why you made the choices you did, along with knowing exactly what they need to do if something happens to you. And by getting to know your family over time, when something does happen, your lawyer will be there for the people you love, with an underlying relationship and trust already established.

A New Kind Of Estate Planning

As the pandemic has made abundantly clear, death is unavoidable—and it can strike at any time. However, you can make your eventual death far easier for the people you love by creating a proper estate plan. Moreover, facing life’s greatest fear head-on and planning for it will allow you to enjoy your current life even more. In fact, our clients often report a huge sense of relief after meeting with us, and they frequently say they wish they’d created their Life & Legacy Plan sooner.

In the end, by working with us, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, you’ll discover that the estate planning process isn’t something morbid or depressing. When done right, estate planning is about far more than just planning for your death and passing on your “estate” and assets to your loved ones—it’s about planning for a life you love and a legacy worth leaving by the choices you make today—and this is why we call our services Life & Legacy Planning.

With this in mind, if you’ve been avoiding preparing for death, you could be missing out on an incredible opportunity for yourself, while leaving behind a potential nightmare for your family. If you’re ready to start truly living your life and make things as easy as possible for your family, meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to properly plan for the inevitability of death in service to more life. Contact us today for an appointment.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 907-312-5436, or find a time for us to call you

If you dream of one day leaving your company to your family, but you haven’t properly included your business in your estate plan, that dream could become a nightmare for your heirs—and for your partners, team members, and clients, too. In fact, properly planning for what would happen to your business upon your death or incapacity is one of the most important things you can do for your company.

Without a proper estate plan, the business you worked so hard to build could be in serious jeopardy when something happens to you. Not only that, but since your business is likely your most valuable asset, proactive planning is crucial not only for your company’s continued survival, but for your family’s future well-being as well.

Fortunately, you can use a few basic estate planning strategies to make sure your business survives your incapacity or death. Although you should consult with us, as your Family Business Lawyer™, to determine the specific planning vehicles that are right  for your particular business and family situation, the following estate planning tools are essential for nearly all business owners.

1. Living Trust

Putting your company in a customized and thoughtfully prepared revocable living trust is one of the best ways to ensure your business’ continued success upon your eventual death or in the event of your incapacity. A living trust is a separate legal entity that effectively owns your share of the business, and allows you to document what will happen to your business when you can no longer run it yourself due to incapacity or death.

Unlike a will, assets properly included in a trust are not required to go through the court process of probate. Instead, those assets are promptly transferred to the person, or persons, of your choice in the event of your death or incapacity. In this way, a trust allows for the smooth transition of control of your company, without the time, expense, and potential conflict associated with probate or guardianship. 

Using a trust, you choose the individual(s) you want to run your company in your absence, whether that absence is permanent (your death) or merely temporary (your incapacity). Plus, trusts are not open to the public, so your company’s affairs and its assets would remain private, and transfer of ownership can take place in your lawyer’s office, not a courtroom.

2. Buy-Sell Agreement

If you share ownership of your business with one or more other people, you’ll want to put in place a buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement ensures that upon certain conditions—such as your death or permanent incapacity—the other owners are able to purchase your shares of the business, or it can stipulate that your shares will pass to your heirs.

A properly prepared buy-sell agreement can prevent your family members from getting stuck owning a business they don’t want and can’t sell. And it also protects your surviving partners from being forced to deal with new owners they never planned on. The key to ensuring a buy-sell agreement works is to make sure it’s funded, usually with life insurance.

3. Life Insurance

Unless your business generates significant revenue—and will continue to do so upon your death—that income might not be enough to support the ongoing operation and financially provide for your family. By purchasing and properly structuring your life insurance, you can offer your family, team, and clients a financial safety net, while your loved ones finalize your affairs and your successor assumes control of the company.

If your business has multiple owners, you can pair life insurance policies on each partner with your buy-sell agreement. By doing so, your remaining partners can buy out your shares at a previously agreed-upon price, and the life insurance can help pay for the buyout, without leaving the business bankrupt.

4. Succession Planning

If you hope to pass control of your company to a loved one or team member, you’ll need to create a comprehensive business succession plan to ensure the company doesn’t fall apart when you die. Beyond merely naming your successor, a proper succession provides stability and security by allowing you to lay out explicit instructions for how the company should be run once you are no longer around.

From specifying how ownership should be transferred and providing rules for compensation of partners and team members to establishing dispute resolution procedures, an effective succession plan can provide the new owner with a detailed roadmap for your company’s continued success and growth.

Don’t Put Your Business & Family At Risk

Estate planning is every bit—if not more—essential to your company’s (and family’s) continued survival and success as any other issue facing your business. If you’ve yet to put your estate plan in place, consult with us, your local Family Business Lawyer™ today to take care of this vital responsibility.

And even if you have an existing plan, you should have us review it to make sure you’ve actually covered all of your bases and that your plan has been properly updated. We have a 50-point assessment we use to look at your plan, which needs to be updated to take into account changes in your life, assets, and the law. Taking these actions will not only help shield your company and family from unforeseen tragedy, but it will also give you the peace of mind needed to take your business to the next level. Schedule your appointment today to get your planning handled.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Personal Family Lawyer® in Juneau, Alaska. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 907-312-5436 to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge; or book a time for our team to call you at a time you choose.

If you are thinking about hiring a lawyer to help with your business, you may be wondering why you should work with us, your Family Business Lawyer™ rather than a “traditional” business lawyer. What makes us so different from other lawyers?

Last week, in part one of this series, we discussed what it’s like to work with most other business lawyers, describing how their “one-size-fits-all” approach and focus on providing standard legal documents and forms can result in potentially ruinous results for you and your business. And as we pointed out, we know exactly how these lawyers operate because that’s how we used to do things as well… that is, until we discovered a whole new way of serving our clients as your Family Business Lawyer™ firm.


Here in part two, we’ll describe exactly how Family Business Lawyers™ differ from these “traditional” business lawyers, and detail all of the ways we will support, guide, and serve your business when you work with us. 

Family Business Lawyers: Understanding The Difference

As your Family Business Lawyer™ firm, we serve you and your business in a way that’s far different from other business lawyers—we are the holistic business advisors you have been looking for. We don’t simply incorporate your entity, put in place a few legal documents, or file your trademark application and then never see you again or only see you when something goes wrong. 

Instead, we give you peace of mind, knowing that you have not only set your business up right from the start, but that your business systems will continue to keep pace with your company’s growth trajectory throughout its entire evolution. We focus on the nitty gritty details of running your business— negotiating contracts, finding insurance, crunching numbers, and dealing with taxes—so you can maintain the highest level of creative focus to grow your company and serve the right clients and customers in the right way.

Not Your Typical Business Law Firm

Here are a few of the ways we differ from traditional business lawyers, along with the level of service you can expect when you work with us, your Family Business Lawyer firm:


1. Fixed Fees: We’ve done away with billable hours—all of our services are offered on a one flat-fee, or recurring monthly basis that’s agreed to in advance, so there are never any surprises. And, best of all, you’ll choose your fee based on the structure that works best for you and your needs. We’ll help you do that during your LIFT Business Breakthrough Session.
2. Proactive Advisors: We are proactive business advisors, who check in with you on a regular basis, rather than waiting for something bad to happen. By regularly monitoring your business activities (weekly, monthly, or quarterly,  depending on the level of planning you choose), we can proactively ensure your company is fully protected and positioned for maximum growth. We will put our legal minds to work to help you grow your business and take the best-calculated risks to achieve the biggest rewards. 

3. Regular & Effortless Communication: We encourage you to regularly contact us as well, and we have a whole team available to serve you. In fact, we’ve thrown out the time clocks, so you never have to be afraid to call with a quick question. Plus, when you call our office to ask a quick question, you won’t have to wait hours or days for a call back. You’ll get your question answered right away. And if you need to schedule a more in-depth legal or strategic call with your lawyer, that call will be scheduled at a time that’s most convenient for you, so we can make the very best use of your time and not waste it by forcing you to leave voicemail after voicemail or play an endless game of phone tag.

4. An Ongoing Relationship: We meet with you at least quarterly via our membership programs. Through these programs, we foster a lifetime, ongoing relationship with our clients, so we can guide you through all of your business’ stages—even preparing your business for succession or sale—and always remain focused on helping you get to the next level. Throughout the life of your business, things change: you change, your assets change, your business changes, and the law will definitely change. We are here to help you navigate those changes.

5. A Diverse Array Of Services: Our unique membership programs will keep your company’s legal, insurance, financial, and tax (LIFT) components constantly updated. In fact, we offer you trusted guidance and support for every aspect of your operation: we will ensure all of your deals are properly documented, that you have the right insurance in place at all times, that your new ideas are protected with trademarks and copyrights, that everyone you employ or do business with has robust legal agreements in place, and that your company’s financial systems and tax strategies are generating you the maximum revenue possible.

Furthermore, you will have full access to our trusted team of legal experts for guidance on any legal or financial matter that might come up. And if we can’t help you with a particular issue, we will refer you to a professional we trust who can. With this kind of support, you will never spend more money than necessary or get taken advantage of by unscrupulous salespeople who merely view your business as a cash cow.

A Lasting Legacy

Finally, we don’t just take care of your business in the immediate term—we make sure it will continue to be a valuable asset that creates wealth for your family long after you are gone. Many business lawyers overlook this critically important issue. But we know that one day, you will either want to sell your business or you will want to pass it on to your loved ones, so that succeeding generations can benefit from what you’ve built. This is what true legacy is all about.

Businesses that are built right are built with this in mind. And that’s exactly what we help you do—build a business that will one day be able to run without you. This means that you can take vacations, retire, and/or pass on your business to your family, knowing your company will continue to bring in money, serve your clients, and benefit everyone who comes into contact with it.

And really, what could be better than that? Ultimately, isn’t this why you went into business in the first place?

But How Much Is This All Going To Cost?

If you think that all of this sounds super expensive, well, you are both right and wrong. If you qualify to work with us, as your Family Business Lawyer™, we can guarantee you that the overall fees you pay us will be substantially less expensive than it would be for you if your business gets into a jam, without your legal, insurance, financial and tax matters handled.  Not only that, but our fees will also be far less expensive for your family, partner, and/or clients should you or a key partner die or become incapacitated without getting these matters properly handled.

And if you are still in doubt about being able to afford us, just know this: we’ve never had a single business owner who wanted this kind of comprehensive LIFT support walk out of our office simply because he or she couldn’t afford it. To this end, we make creative financing available to our clients, because we know without a doubt that our programs work and form the foundation for a truly successful business.

Here’s the way we look at it: one day you will need a lawyer. We don’t know why and we don’t know when, but when you do, you will be grateful you can call on us, and we’ll be here to advise you on the best way to move forward or to get you out of a jam.

Take Your Business To The Next Level

As your Family Business Lawyer®, we are specially trained to help you keep more money in your business, watch out for risks and pitfalls, handle sticky situations, and effectively tend to the parts of your business that are especially challenging, particularly those involving the legal, insurance, financial, and tax components of your operation.

To give you a taste of how we can support your business, and at the same time, identify any weak spots in your company’s foundation, contact us, your local Family Business Lawyer™ to take our free LIFT 20-Point Assessment. Just taking the 20-Point Assessment is a huge benefit, as it shows you the gaps in your business’ foundation that need the most attention. 

From there, you can meet with us, your Family Business Lawyer™ to conduct a more thorough audit of your business, so you can eventually implement our full LIFT Foundation System & Toolkit into your operations. If you are ready to take your business to the next level and reach goals you previously thought were unattainable, schedule your visit with us today.

This article is a service of Liz Smith, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 907-312-5436, or find a time for us to call you