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The New Year is a time for reflection and resolution. For many business owners, it is a time to check your books and decide what business practices to leave behind in the previous year. January is the least busy month for many businesses, as customers often take a post-holiday break from spending.
For some business owners, this month may be the first chance they get to look at the signs around them – and the signs might not look good. As you are evaluating where your business currently stands, here are five clues that things might be troubled:
Your Bills Are Piling Up. This may be the most obvious example of trouble on the horizon, and yet so many business owners tend to ignore it. If you aren’t paying your bills on time, you need to identify what the issue is and how to fix it. It is often a cash flow problem – that your outgoing expenses are higher than your incoming profit. It can also be an issue with not tracking when your bills are due or dealing with inventory issues.
You’ve Lost Major Clients. All businesses have major clients, whether they think of them...more
Thorough and well-negotiated contracts undergird the operations for successful businesses in Alabama. As a business owner, you expect your clients to pay you for products or services rendered, just as you expect your vendors to supply you with raw materials for which you pay. As long as you have written agreements that layout expectations for each side, you have a good chance at winning legal remedies when the other side doesn’t perform (breach the contract).
Not every breach of contract is treated the same, however. Some breaches are relatively minor, while others strike at the heart of the written agreement. We’ll take a look at these two types of contract breaches—minor and material.
What is a Minor Breach?
A minor is sometimes called a partial breach, and it is almost exactly what it sounds like. A minor contract breach is something that causes inconvenience and might deviate from one or more terms of the contract but, ultimately, results in the delivery of the party’s end of the deal.
For instance, let’s say you hire an independent...more
Nobody looks forward to the legal proceedings and tying up loose ends after a loved one dies. Soon after the funeral, the survivors of the decedent must initiate the process in probate court (unless the decedent legitimately had no assets that must pass through probate court).
Depending on an estate’s overall value, the process of probating an estate can get quite complicated. In Alabama, though, there is a way for estates under a certain threshold to avoid the full probate court process. This simplified, expedited process is referred to as “summary administration” and is distinct from full probate administration. While the latter involves potentially multiple appearances in probate court, a successful summary administration only involves filling out forms and satisfying a post-filing waiting period.
Summary Administration Eligibility
As long as the decedent’s probate estate contains no real property and is valued at less than $30,245. The limit is raised each year; the $30,245 limit is applicable until Feb. 28, 2021. Additionally, there is a...more
The bare minimum of an estate plan should be to designate where, and to whom, your assets go after you pass away. Beyond that, there are countless purposes and benefits of having a thorough plan for your estate, but you need to have this basic principle of estate planning be true for your situation: if you were to pass away tomorrow, you know exactly what would happen to your assets and property.
For us AND for our loved ones, life is constantly changing. We marry, divorce, have children, see our children (and grandchildren!) grow up, and have to say goodbye to some of our loved ones. You’ll find out during these major life events that your estate plan may not keep up with these changes. How do you know which events necessitate an update to your estate plan, though? We’ll lay out a few such events in this blog.
- Divorce. Your spouse often becomes your emergency contact, agent through power-of-attorney documents, and your main beneficiary in your Will. Understandably, this all changes if you become divorced. The good news is that state law...
Even though many people in Alabama pass away each year without any estate planning documents in place, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a plan for each deceased individual. The plan for these decedents, simply, is the state of Alabama’s best guess at what they would want if they did draw up a Last Will and Testament. This is referred to as the state’s intestacy laws; these laws dictate where one’s assets go among surviving family members.
What are Probate Assets?
An important thing to know is that not all assets in a decedent’s estate have to go through probate court. Probate court is where estates are settled after the owner passes away. Some assets, like life insurance policies and payable-on-death bank accounts, for example, will instead go to whichever beneficiary is listed on the form. Any assets that have been placed into a trust will also be distributed according to the terms of the document and have no need to pass through probate. Almost everything else will be settled through the procedure in probate court.
The world of estate planning contains many different types of documents that you can use to hand off your assets and property to your loved ones after you pass away. Additionally, there are many different types of trusts that may prove useful depending on your situation. One type of trust available is what’s called a special needs trust, which is used to financially help those with mental, physical, or emotional difficulties. We’ll go over the key points of this estate-planning tool in this blog.
How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?
Let’s first go over a “trust.” This is a legal entity, similar to a business, in which property and assets can be placed (funded) for the benefit of someone else who is not the current owner. Once the trust is funded, those items are technically owned by the trust and subject to its terms. Depending on the type of trust used, those who previously had ownership can either retain control over its contents or relinquish control.
So, it is with a special needs trust that the beneficiary, who has a disability, receives...more
After a loved one passes away, all you want to do, understandably, is take time to grieve your loss and learn to live in your new normal while trying to cherish the good times you shared. Unfortunately, the decedent’s estate (assets and property) must be taken care of; this often entails the reading of the Last Will and Testament. In normal circumstances, this means that you will know how much each beneficiary will receive as an inheritance.
Sometimes, though, the reading of a Will reveals peculiar choices made by the decedent. For instance, why would the former caretaker, who knew the decedent for all of eight months, receive more than the children? If something seems off about your loved one’s Will, then you might want to consider contesting the document in court.
Who Can Contest a Will?
Not just anyone can contest a Will. In Alabama, only “interested parties” have legal standing to file for a Will contest. In this context, an interested party is someone either named in the Will or someone who, in the absence of a Will, would receive part of...more
It is hard to know exactly what you need in your estate plan. Most everyone needs a Last Will and Testament (for many reasons), but for some people, trusts are better options. No matter how large your estate is or how many beneficiaries you have, everyone can benefit from having a document referred to as an “advance healthcare directive.”
An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that spells out your wishes for medical care you wish to receive when you are incapacitated; that is, when you are unable to verbalize specific actions you wish to be delivered to you by your treating medical team. The term “advance healthcare directive” is a generic term for particular documents that help others understand the medical care you wish to receive; a living Will is another name for this document. Another way you can create an advance healthcare directive is by naming a health care proxy (someone to make medical decisions for you) or by giving someone medical power of attorney.
What Does a Healthcare Directive Address?
After years of successfully owning and operating your small business, you might not be able to imagine a life without your days being taken up by your company. If you’re truly lucky, you merged your passions into your entrepreneurial dreams and created something that you enjoy managing. The truth is, though, that one day, you will not be able to be your company’s fearless leader. When you get to that point, you will be immensely grateful that you, years before, began planning for that day.
Why Do I Need a Business Succession Plan?
Even if everything goes according to plan and you retire at the age you aimed for, you need a solid plan for handing off your business. When you started your small business, you were aware that the odds were against your company surviving and succeeding. The odds are even worse for the survival of your business if you become unable to run it and there is no succession plan in place. Besides putting your company on solid footing, you will be able to receive a substantial windfall when you make the decision to hand off your...more
As with nearly everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected taxpayers and their upcoming obligations with state agencies and the IRS. A few federal bills have been passed that aim to help U.S. citizens stay financially afloat the next few months, and some parts of those laws affect what is already a busy season for filing taxes. To help clear up some of the confusion surrounding coronavirus and its effect on tax programs, we have compiled this guide to answer some frequently asked questions.
Has the tax deadline been pushed back?
Yes, you now have until July 15 to file your federal taxes. You can also wait until July 15 to send the IRS money if you owe. Many states have adopted this July 15 deadline for state-level tax, as well, with some notable exceptions. Mississippi only pushed the deadline back one month, to May 15, while Virginia and Idaho taxpayers must file by June 1 and June 15, respectively.
Will you have to pay taxes on payments the government is sending?
Much is still unknown about the logistics of...more
When you are creating your estate plan – something every adult should do – you will find that there are many different tools and documents at your disposal. One estate-planning document that has been gaining in popularity is a trust. This legal instrument is something in which you may place property and assets so they can be easily managed in one place, before and after your death, by the trustee.
The key individuals involved in a trust are the truster, trustee, and beneficiaries. The trustor is the one who initiates the trust, the trustee is the named personal representative who executes the trust according to the instructions, and beneficiaries are those who receive property and assets that were placed in the trust. In this blog, we will go over some common types of trusts that are used in Alabama.
- Living Trust: This type is created and entered into while you, the trustor, are still alive and have capacity. While you are alive, you still exert control over a living trust and its contents.
There are many options available to you when you are crafting an estate plan in Alabama, as well as many aspects of your personal estate to consider when you create the plan. You have to think about having enough funds to pay your final income tax and other debts while being able to leave your children, grandchildren, and other loved ones something so they can be set up for success later in life. There are other, more immediate concerns, like communicating the medical care you wish to receive in the event you cannot make personal decisions for yourself.
Two common estate-planning documents utilized by Alabamians are Wills and trusts. This blog will give you a general idea on what these two forms can and cannot do for you, as well as information on different types of Wills and trusts.
Overview of Wills
The Last Will and Testament is arguably the most well-known estate-planning document. This document is, essentially, an instructional document that divides your property and assets to the people you wish to leave them to. It names a personal...more
Enron, a prominent energy corporation that was continually recognized as one of America’s most innovative companies and employed tens of thousands of workers, reported over $100 billion in profits in 2000. A year later, it was defunct and heading toward bankruptcy. This collapse was the most prominent of several high-profile corporations that folded in the early 2000’s, resulting from fraudulent accounting practices. To help restore consumer confidence in securities markets, Congress passed (and President George W. Bush signed) the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002.
This legislation, which was considered the most significant piece regulating financial markets since the slew of laws passed during the Great Depression, places standards and regulations on publicly traded companies. Although there are 11 total sections contained in the act, the (arguably) most pertinent section for businesses is Section 404.
Requirements of Section 404
This title of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is generally the most controversial and debated, yet still applies to almost all publicly traded...more
When you think about paying your taxes and filing your returns, most people don’t ever really consider themselves someone who could get audited by the IRS. For whatever reason, we all have it in our heads that audits are only for certain kinds of people and that if we do everything “right,” then there’s no chance of getting that dreaded audit notice in the mail. However, the truth is that audits are much more common than people think and dealing with the IRS doesn’t have to be as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Below we discuss some of the most common mistaken beliefs surrounding IRS audits.
1. Audits are only for businesses and the rich.
One of the most popular myths is that only businesses and rich people are at risk of an audit. Although it might make it more likely if you have a higher income and more assets, the truth is that any taxpayer can get audited any year. In fact, those with smaller businesses actually run a higher risk of getting audited because they tend to be more likely to have mistakes in their returns.
2. The IRS is trying to make things...more
If you are taking an extended trip out of the country, you might want to think about empowering someone to be able to make important decisions about your estate while you are gone. When the time comes that you are not of sound mind and cannot make reasonable decisions for yourself and your wellbeing, you need to have already signed a form designating someone you trust as able to make decisions about your end-of-life care. This legal authority you are giving someone else is called power of attorney.
Power of attorney simply means you have given (as the principal) or been given the authority (as the agent) to take certain actions on behalf of another individual. It is a legal document, and there are two types: healthcare and financial. It is a good idea to create a separate, distinct form for each kind.
When does Power of Attorney Become Durable?
To become durable, the power of attorney document needs to lay out that the authority to make actions continues when the principal becomes incapacitated. This incapacitation happens when someone falls into a coma, slips...more
There are many reasons why people venture into business. Perhaps it has been your passion since you were young and have now decided to give it a try. Maybe you have experienced a major life change that requires you to think outside the box, like retirement, parenthood, or losing your job. You could also be simply dissatisfied with your current job and believe that starting your own business is a better alternative.
Whatever the case, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the legal aspects of business to avoid unnecessary and embarrassing repercussions. Once you have decided which business you want to start, you need to collect certain documents that will allow you to operate your premises without legal interference. Here are the legal documents you need in order to start a business in Alabama.
1. Articles of Incorporation
If you are starting a limited liability company (LLC), you need to file articles of incorporation with the commercial services department. Articles of incorporation is a set of legal documents that are required to create a corporation and...more
It happens randomly, but being notified that you are being audited by the IRS can be anxiety-inducing nonetheless. It is even more daunting if you have had trouble with your taxes or finances in the past. The good news is that there are certain steps you can take to better cope with your situation. Here is what you need to do if you are being audited by the IRS.
Once the audit is complete, you will be given the IRS Form 4549 either by hand or mail. This form is the IRS examination report that shows the proposed adjustments to tax liability. If there are no changes, it means that you have won and could be owed a refund. On the other hand, if the report shows that you owe more taxes, the changes will be adjusted accordingly and you may incur additional penalties and interest. In this case, you have two options: either approve or disapprove of the IRS findings.
If You Approve of the Audit Report
If you do not object to the proposed changes, you should sign the report to indicate your approval. You should also sign IRS Form 870, which is the Consent to Proposed Tax...more
If you sustain loss or injuries either on your person or on your property because of the wrongful conduct of another person, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation is awarded in a damages claim through a civil suit. Damages are usually monetary awards designed to return the affected party to their original position, before the damage was done. Here are four types of damages that can be awarded in a civil suit.
- General Damages
These types of damages are awarded when a person incurs some specific, personal harm. The damage can be:
- Emotional distress caused by sexual harassment, physical harm, physical contact, or slander
- Pain and suffering caused by an injury, including scarring, aches, and temporary or permanent limitations on activity
- Defamation of character caused by the intentional communication of false information, which subsequently harms the reputation of a person or establishment. Also known as loss of reputation, this may include any untrue information that leads to decreased respect or regard of a person...
Do you have an estate plan? According to a survey by Caring.com, only 42% of adults have one. An estate plan is a collection of documents that specify how you wish your assets to be distributed once you are gone. Many people think that estate planning is reserved for the super-rich. But this is not true. It can be done by anyone, regardless of your financial status or family dynamics. If you are still on the fence, here are 6 major reasons you should have an estate plan.
- To Control your wealth
The most obvious reason you should have an estate plan is to prevent your wealth from going to unintended beneficiaries in the event of your death. If there is no estate plan, for example, in the form of a living trust or a Will, your wealth may be distributed in counterproductive ways. An ex-spouse with whom you had a bitter divorce, for instance, may appear out of nowhere to claim your property. Proper documentation clearly defines how your assets will be transferred upon your death. This will save your family unnecessary frustrations and your assets will be...more
Your partnership agreement is one of the most important business documents you will ever sign. There are many instances where people have gone into business with friends or loved ones without a particular contract, only to find that a partnership agreement should have been in order. A partnership agreement outlines the expectations of everyone involved and can help prevent certain problems in the future. Here are 5 elements to remember when drafting your partnership agreement.
- Percentage of Ownership
Every partnership agreement should highlight the percentage of ownership of each partner, depending on how much they are contributing to the business. Typically, there should be a record of each one’s contributions to be used in determining ownership percentage. Keep in mind that there are various factors that can influence the percentage of ownership. For instance, one partner may invest a lot of money in the business without putting too much input, while another partner may put in a lot of work to make the partnership a success with little to no monetary...more
There has been a common trend in the financial sector where individual bank accounts, assets, and also houses are being taken by IRS. This is done to compensate for tax arrears after an audit. The good news is that there are certain things you can do to prevent an IRS audit. Read on to find out what they are.
1. Keep Up with Your Accounts
One of the best ways to prevent a tax audit is by checking your calculations thoroughly. This is needed before filing your returns and paying your taxes annually. It is important to use a calculator when balancing your accounts to avoid errors. It is also suitable to counter check the source documents to ensure the calculations are correct.
When you are not certain what you can and cannot claim in the deductions, ask a tax expert. Their specialized knowledge and expertise in that field will come in handy during this process. Your record will be clean and you will reduce your chances of an IRS audit.
2. Keep Proper Records
Another key element to avoid having an IRS audit is to keep the right records. This makes it...more
When a person causes damage to your health, property, or well-being, you can seek compensation through a personal injury attorney in a tort lawsuit. A tort is basically a civil wrongdoing by one party against another. As they are a civil action between private parties, there is no fine or incarceration when dealing with torts. Here is a brief overview of the different types of torts.
As the name suggests, an intentional tort is an act that is done by one party to deliberately cause harm to another party. Notable examples include trespassing, invasion of privacy, battery, and assault. The court will consider the behavior of the defendant during the tort to determine whether his or her actions were malicious or simply reckless misconduct not specifically meant to cause damage or injury. If you are the plaintiff in an intentional tort, the success of your case will depend on your ability to prove intent.
Everyone has a personal responsibility to act in a certain, acceptable manner to avoid causing harm or injury to another...more
If you’re thinking of starting a business in Alabama, you should be aware of the different legal entities available. Whether you choose to start a C Corporation or remain a sole proprietorship, you need to understand that each entity has various advantages and disadvantages at tax time. In this article, we will walk you through your legal options and explain each one.
In a sole proprietorship, a single individual runs an unincorporated business with no legal separation between the business and its owner. As the owner, you are entitled to all your profits, but are also responsible for all of the company’s debts, liabilities, and losses. Because you and your business are one entity, it is not taxed separately. The income the business makes is your income.
When you conduct transactions and activities for reasons other than shareholder financial gain, you need to form a non-profit corporation. While you’re allowed to make a profit, it must be put towards the goals of the company rather than become dividends for...more
Understanding Employment Discrimination
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on color, race, legal alienage, national origin, pregnancy, sex, age, religion, union activity, or disability. In Alabama, state laws protect employees on these same grounds but provide little in the way of extra protections against discrimination.
Laws against employment discrimination protect everyone including applicants, present employees, and former employees of a company. Federal laws include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – This Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on color, religion, race, national origin, or sex. It applies to apprenticeship programs and unions, employment agencies, public employers, and private employers with a minimum of 15 employees.
- 42 U.S.C. section 1981 – This prohibits racial discrimination in all contracts. It was originally made law after the Civil War and is valid for all contracts, including between individuals.
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 – This Act protects...