TOP TEN LEGAL TIPS
1. Preparing an estate plan online or through someone other than an estate planning attorney is never a good idea. While some estate plans can be repaired, once the Settlor (creator of the trust) or Testator (person who executed the will) has passed away, there is only so much that can be done to repair a poorly executed or incomplete estate plan.
2. You need an entire estate plan: Last Will and Testament, Advanced Health Care Directive, and Financial Power of Attorney. If you own real estate or have assets in a combined value over $150,000.00 then you need a living trust and accompanying documents.
3. Being the successor trustee of a trust or the executor/administrator of a will is a fiduciary responsibility. A fiduciary responsibility means that the trustee or executor has a duty of loyalty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. If you hold one of those positions, the easiest way to get sued is to ignore the beneficiaries and keep them in the dark as to the status of the administration. If you keep the beneficiaries apprised as to the status of the administration and listen to their input – even if you reject their advice – you will avoid most lawsuits.
4. Some people have an 80/20 rule about life. I have a 10/50 rule about the law…. It costs ten to fifty times the amount of money to litigate a matter as it costs to negotiate an agreement up front through an experienced lawyer.
5. Most shareholder disputes can be resolved ahead of time with a well-crafted Buy-Sell or Shareholders’ Agreement. It’s not so much the agreement that makes the difference but the process of two or more shareholders discussing their thoughts as to how a business should operate along with a long-term exit strategy. A few well-drafted paragraphs can save you years of regret later on.
6. All too often the parties focus on the economics of a pending business relationship and fail to take into account their differing personalities and differing points of view. It’s usually these differences which destroy the business relationship.
7. The party that controls the checkbook is the party in charge. Never allow the other party to control the checkbook without access and oversight.
8. A little due diligence with your lawyer and other professionals will save you thousands, and sometimes tens-of-thousands of dollars, on the back end. Every business lawyer has a drawer full of uncollected judgments against private parties and small businesses. Many times , you are not the only party with a lawsuit or judgment against that person or entity.
9. You didn’t trust your business partner to begin with but you went into business with him or her anyway?…. What the heck were you thinking!
10. Sometimes, the best advice is to convince you to walk away from that transaction.