Monday, October 28, 2013

Homeowners: Make sure Halloween doesn't turn into a fright!

All of us at the Law Office of Keith Taylor
wish you a safe and fun Halloween! 
At Halloween time children parade around in adorable costumes and delight at the drop of a piece of candy into their bucket.  Families carve jack-o-lanterns and decorate their homes and lawns with spider webs, animated skeletons and flashing lights. Unfortunately, a fun- filled night can quickly turn into a dreaded emergency room visit when a child is hurt because he trips over the cord to the lighted yard decorations, or because of a fall caused by an uneven concrete slab on the driveway.

Homeowners have a responsibility to provide safe conditions for those who come onto their property.  If a person slips, trips, or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition, the property owner may be held fully responsible.

By turning on your outdoor lights, you are inviting trick-or-treaters onto your property.  Ensure their safety by following some simple suggestions:
  • ·         Remove tripping hazards from your lawn, steps and driveway
  • ·         Halloween decorations should not block walkways
  • ·         Walkways, driveways and stairs leading to your door should be well-lit
  • ·         Keep pets confined
  • ·         Avoid any open flames or unattended jack-o-lanterns

If you don't want trick-or-treaters, turn your outdoor lights off.  However, don’t assume every child will follow the “no lights policy.”  Be proactive and remove any hazards from your property anyway.  Under Florida law, you may be liable for injuries to children who come onto your property uninvited as well.  Conscientious property owners will help prevent a fun Halloween tradition from turning into a nightmare.

As a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer, Keith Taylor understands every nuance of the law when it comes to property liability injuries in Florida.  If you have any questions about an injury you or someone in your family has sustained due to the negligence of a property owner, please call our office to schedule a free consultation.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why Small Businesses Need Good Lawyers

          However small your business may be, having a business lawyer is not only a good idea, but the best way to save you time, anxiety, and even money. A smart patient doesn't wait until they are really sick before they look for the right doctor. And when they get sick, they don't rely on advice they read on the internet on how to fix it. A smart patient will find a doctor they trust long before they ever need them to help prevent illness and to treat them, just in case. So, too, should a smart small business not wait until they are involved in a lawsuit before finding a lawyer. There is no doubt that your small business will encounter legal concerns along the way, whether they be actual lawsuits, or simply contract negotiations, buying and selling, leasing property, or one of the other many issues which might arise in any small business. It is essential that you prepare ahead of time by finding a great lawyer and building that relationship of trust and confidence from the beginning. A lawyer will be much more effective in protecting you and addressing your company's legal issues if they know your business before-hand rather than trying to play catch-up when an issue arises.

So, how can your business actually use a lawyer? 
  • Draft a Shareholder Agreement (or Partnership Agreement, or Operating Agreement)
          While the name may change, depending on how your company is set up, the necessity for this agreement remains the same. This agreement deals with those messy situations that "will never happen" but, in reality, unfortunately happen all the time. It outlines what happens when some partner in the business dies, or quits, or there is some other parting of ways. It outlines how a buy-out can be calculated, and should address a whole laundry list of other contingencies to prepare your business for the hopefully unlikely, but potentially very messy, uncertainties it might face. 
  • Manage Employees
          If you have a business with any employees, you should have a lawyer to help prevent potential future issues, and to protect you if any should arise. You might have the need for employment contracts, non-disclosure or non-compete agreements. You may need advice related to firing employees, or to help avoid lawsuits by disgruntled former employees. 
  • Document your Deals
          Your business is likely to buy or lease real property at some point. It is also certainly likely your business will need to buy and sell goods or services. You shouldn't rely on forms drafted by the other party, as they are likely to benefit them more than your business. A good lawyer will ensure that the agreements entered into by your business are well-documented, and that your interests are protected.

         Your business lawyer should be able to offer you tailored services that meet your specific business needs. They should be able to give you general, as well as business-specific, legal advice. They will help you deal with a variety of legal concerns and be there to address all of your legal needs. Every dollar you spend to help lessen your chances of ever having to face litigation, and, in case you do have to face litigation, to have the confidence that you will have the upper hand, is money well-spent on your business. 

          If you would like to learn more about the business representation services offered by The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor, and how we can provide services tailored to your business' needs and budget, visit our website or give us a call at 352-795-0404 today. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Estate Planning for the Owner of a Small Business or Family Business

If you're an owner of a family business or another small business, do you have an estate plan? Does it address your business' needs? When you own a business, your estate planning needs become more complicated than just having a will. Consider the following questions to determine if your estate plan is adequate to protect your business:

Do you have a Will?
It may seem basic, but over half of Americans do not have a will. A will provides basic instructions about what should happen to your personal and business assets on your death. Especially if you are a sole proprietor of your business, you should create a will that effectively protects your beneficiaries, as personal assets can overlap business assets as well as liabilities. 

Do you need a Trust?
A trust is commonly used  by business owners to transfer their business to the person of their choice after their death. A revocable trust can designate you as grantor and trustee and can allow you to retain control over the assets in the trust (your business assets) during your lifetime. The trust is funded with existing assets and, when a certain event happens, the trust would disburse those assets to your chosen heir(s). You can determine what the triggering event would be, which could be the heir reaching a certain age or a certain life goal, such as graduation. You can also designate who will have control of the trust after your death by naming alternate trustees. The primary advantage of a trust is that it avoids probate; the probate process can be long and involved and can delay the shift in control of the business to your chosen heir(s). A secondary benefit is that if your chosen heir or heirs are too young or inexperienced to control the business at the time of your passing, the power to control the business can be given to someone else whom you trust to maintain the business until the heirs are old enough and responsible enough to take control themselves.

How can you minimize taxes?
There are many ways you can minimize taxes on your estate, and a financial advisor, or CPA can advise you as to all of your available options. However there are a couple of things you should consider. The first, is making annual gifts. There is a federal annual exclusion which allows annual gifts to an unlimited number of people without paying federal gift tax and a business owner can use this exclusion to gift shares of the family business to each heir, each year. Another option to consider is a family limited partnership. This partnership is created by the business owner or owners who would gift a business interest into the partnership, while retaining control over the business as general partners. The other members, limited partners, would have an interest in the business and income would be divided proportionally. This type of partnership can have estate tax benefits because the transfer of assets reduces the size of an owner's taxable estate.

Do you have a Shareholder Agreement?
If your company has more than one owner, a Shareholder Agreement (or Partnership Agreement, or Operating Agreement) considers and plans for a lot of circumstances in your business, including who and under what circumstances someone can be fired, bought out of the business, or quit, as well as planning for contingencies like divorce (in the case of a family business). Important from an estate planning standpoint, is that within this Agreement there can be what is generally described as a "buy-sell" provision, which controls what happens with one shareholder's stock in the company when that person dies. This agreement can determine who acquires the shares, whether it be the company, a family member, or some other individual. The primary benefit of this agreement is that it establishes a sale price for the business and for your share of the business, and the purchase of the shares can be funded by a life insurance policy, which can help ensure that surviving family members receive adequate compensation. A buy-sell agreement can also be entered into separate and apart from your shareholder agreement.

Estate Planning for business owners can be complicated, but it is essential to make sure your business and your family are secure after you're gone. You should speak to several professionals to determine if you have an estate plan that works for your business including an experienced business and estate planning attorney, a financial planner, and your accountant.

If you would like to learn more about the business or estate planning services offered by The Law Office of Keith Taylor, and how they can help you develop your own estate plan as a small business owner, visit our website, or call 352-795-0404 to set up a free consultation. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Estate Planning for the Young Family: 5 Things to Consider After the Birth of Your First Child

By: Attorney (and new Mom) Jessica Czaya

Having your first child is an exciting time in anyone's life, but it brings with it a whole set of new challenges. In the midst of the post-birth chaos and sleep deprivation, it can be easy to put off reviewing and making changes to your estate plan. However, it is important that you take the time for your family to consider whether you estate plan is effective. Here are 5 ways you can make sure you have an estate plan that reflects your wishes now that you have welcomed your bundle of joy:

          1. Update (or Create!) your Last Will and Testament
If you or your spouse do not have Wills, there is no time like the present to make one! If you already have Wills, look them over. It is likely that they will not do what you need them to do now that you have your little one. For example, most Wills created for married couples without children are "sweetheart wills," where each one leaves everything to the other - This part will likely stay the same now that you have your new arrival. What is likely to change is what comes next. Should something happen to you and your spouse, you want to ensure that your child is taken care of financially. (See number 3)

          2. Name a legal guardian
Should something happen to you and your spouse, you'll also want to make sure you have an input into who will become the legal guardian of your child. While a judge will have to confirm the guardian for your child, the parents' wishes are typically honored. Take time to talk to your spouse about who you would like to take the responsibility for raising your child should you be unable to. There may be a number of important factors to consider, but ultimately it comes down to who you believe will do the best job raising your child.

          3. Consider setting up a trust for your child
Trusts can be used for a variety of purposes including to minimize estate taxes, shield assets from potential creditors, or preserve assets for minor children until they are a certain age. There are several types of trusts you could consider in developing your estate plan including Living (or Revocable) Trusts, which allow you to maintain control of the trust, changing or even dissolving it, for as long as you are alive, Irrevocable Trusts, which cannot be changed or dissolved once created, and Testamentary Trusts, which are established by your Will and will not come into existence until your will is probated. There are pros and cons to each of these types of trusts which you can learn more about here. Keep in mind that creating and maintaining trusts can be expensive and there are some disadvantages that may affect you. If you are interested in the option of setting up a trust, you should consult the services of an experienced Estate Planning attorney.

          4. Think about purchasing or increasing your life insurance
If you do not have life insurance, you may want to consider investing in a policy. If you already have life insurance, you'll want to examine your policy to make sure it provides enough support for your growing family. The best way to determine if you need life insurance and if so, how much you should get, is to consider how many people depend on your income. If, for example, you and your spouse both worked full time before the birth of your child, but now one of you will be staying home, you will have two people who depend on the income of the working member of the family (one adult and one infant). In this case you may need more life insurance.

          5. Re-examine your estate plan components once a year
You can use your little one's birthday as a benchmark for re-examining your estate plan annually. When you keep up with it, the process should be very short. You will just ask yourself if you have had an major life events in the past year (e.g. birth, death, marriage, divorce) and whether that impacts your estate plan. Keeping your estate plan up to date will ensure that your family is well taken care of should anything ever happen to you, and it will give you some peace of mind moving forward.

If you would like more information on the estate planning services offered by The Law Office of Keith Taylor, or to set up a free estate planning consultation, visit our website here. Learn more about Author, Jessica Czaya, here.

Three Types of Trusts Available for Estate Planning

Please bear in mind that there are many types of trusts and this is only a brief description of three of the most commonly used trusts for estate planning. You should discuss your options for trusts with an experienced estate planning attorney.

1. Living (revocable) Trusts: With a living trust, you maintain control of the trust and can change or dissolve it as long as you are alive. Unlike a will, a living trust is not part of the public record. The trust can also be used to help you protect and manage your assets if you become incapacitated. However, assets in a living trust are not protected from creditors, and you are subject to income taxes on income earned by the trust. In addition, you cannot avoid estate taxes using a living trust.

2. Irrevocable Trusts: Unlike a living trust, an irrevocable trust can't be changed or dissolved once it has been created. You may have to pay gift taxes on the value of the property transferred into the trust. However, all of the property in the trust, plus all future appreciation on the property, is out of your taxable estate. Property transferred to your beneficiaries through an irrevocable trust will also avoid probate, and property in an irrevocable trust may be protected from your creditors.

3. Testamentary Trusts: Established by your will, these trusts don't come into existence until your will is probated. At that point, certain assets passing through your will can move into the trust. After probate, these trusts work very much like other trusts. The terms of the trust document control how the assets within the trust are managed and distributed to your heirs. And, since you have a say in how the trust terms are written, these types of trusts give you a certain amount of control over how the assets are used, even after your death.