Archive for October, 2009

When do I need a business lawyer?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Obviously, you should contact an attorney if you have received notice that you are being sued. But it would probably be a better idea to have legal advice at the earliest possible stage of the game. An attorney can help get you out of a mess, but even more importantly, your attorney can help keep you from getting into that mess in the first place!

The old adage that you should never sign anything until your attorney has had a chance to review it is based on truth.

As a business attorney, I review contracts of all types and make recommendations that will hopefully take into account as many of the ‘what if’ scenarios as possible. Once I have the basics of the contract terms completed, I ask ‘what if ….?’ and then make sure to write down the answer.

For example, in a commercial lease, I will ask ‘what if there is a fire in the property next door and the property involved in this lease has smoke damage?’ Or in starting a new business partnership, I will ask ‘what if one of the partners is injured in an accident and is not able to come to work for 3 months? or 6 months? or ever again?’ Or perhaps, ‘what if your partner and his/her spouse get a divorce?’

Thinking about the ‘what ifs’ and drafting the document to handle those situations is why you should always have an attorney assist you in all of your business needs.

Most of us want to help you have a very successful business, and the best way we can do that is to keep you from ever needing an attorney to help you with a lawsuit!

How long does it take to get divorced?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I get this question a lot.

People call and ask if they can get divorced in three days (I guess there are places where that can happen, but it is NOT in Virginia!).

A quick, easy, painless divorce in Virginia is almost impossible, but you can help things move more quickly if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can agree on things. Even with a ’simple’ no-property, no children and non-contested divorce, the courts will require a separation of at least six months. Why? Because the Commonwealth of Virginia thinks that marriage is a very serious commitment and leaving a marriage is a very serious decision.

Another question I get is whether or not a ‘better’ attorney can make things go faster? The answer is ‘not really’.

There are certain procedures that must be followed, and some of these take time. There might be a way to reduce this time if possible, but that really takes a lot of agreement between the parties. And if the parties could agree with each other, the chances are that they wouldn’t be in the process of needing (or wanting) a divorce!

I’ve also found that ‘non contested’ divorces have a way of turning into ‘contested’ situations. Which means that the ’simple’ case often turns into a more complex case as things progress.

I’ve heard of divorce cases that dragged on for 10 years, although this is definitely NOT the norm!

So, how long does it take to get divorced? I’d plan on a minimum of six months from the date you make the decision to the date of the final decree. And that’s if things all go as well as they can.

Things are changing.

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I love the start of a new school year!

When I was growing up, the start of a new school year was when things changed. I got a new teacher, got new clothes, got new school supplies, moved into a new grade and often found new friends.

That’s why I suggest this time of year to review your estate planning needs.

If you already have an estate plan (with the appropriate medical directives, powers of attorney, will and perhaps a trust), this is the time when you should take a few minutes and think about what changes have occurred since you last considered the plan.

Do you have a new spouse? (or are you now unmarried?) Do you have new children/grandchildren? Have your children left the home for lives of their own? Have you purchased a new home? Have you moved to another locality? Have you purchased or sold any items that should be considered in your gifting scheme? Have you changed jobs?

If any of these have occurred, you should consider a review of your estate plan.

Also, even if none of these changes have occurred, you should consider a review of your plan if it has been at least 3 years since your plan was established. Why? Because laws change and you want to make sure that your plan is taking advantage of the newest legal rules.

At Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law, we will be happy to review your existing estate plan to make sure it fits your needs today. Call us today at 757-234-4650 to schedule this review!

Do you have a Small Business ?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

A lot of people set up a small business as a sole proprietorship, and this is fine. Often, there is no real compelling need to set up a separate business entity (such as a Corporation or an LLC), and the IRS will allow you to use Schedule C to track your business income and expenses.

The problem is when people don’t keep their business finances separate from their personal finances.

Most people are aware that they need to keep receipts for their business expenses, but often they forget that you also need to keep accurate records of your business income. If you don’t have accurate records, and you use the same checking account for both your business and personal finances, it is possible that the IRS will allocate some of your personal income to your business. For example, if you are the ‘team mom’ for a sports team and all of the members send money to you so that you can send one check to the photographer, it is possible that the IRS might allocate those ‘picture’ checks as income to your company.

The easiest way to eliminate this potential problem is to have a separate bank account for your business and use that account for all of your business financial activity and ONLY for your business.

Also, as mentioned previously, keep very good accounting records for your business, including receipts where possible and notes to yourself when an actual receipt is not available. Use this method for both income and expenses.

You can also obtain a separate EIN for your business. This EIN is like the Social Security Number you have for your personal identification, but it is used only for the business. Using this separate EIN is also useful if you need to provide tax id information to others and you want to keep your personal SSN secure from possible identity theft.

The other way to help eliminate potential problems with the IRS is to always file your taxes on time and be sure to make all of your payments on time and in the correct amount.

You don’t necessarily need to have an Accountant or CPA to assist you in this process, but if that is what it takes to keep you on track, you might find that it is cheaper to pay the Accountant or CPA to help you get it right the first time instead of paying someone to help you with an audit later!

The bottom line is that if you are running a business, you need to treat it like a business.

If you have further questions about your small business, or if you need some help in getting started, please contact our office at 757-234-4650 to schedule a short meeting. We would like the opportunity to help you get started!

I think I want to start my own business….

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I get calls from people who say they think they want to start their own business and they want my help. Of course I can help them, but there are some steps they should go through first.

Before you even get to the point of deciding on a business name, or whether you should be a corporation or a partnership or a whatever, you first need to develop a mission statement and a business plan.

Let’s start with a mission statement.

A mission statement is a short, one paragraph statement of what your company will be. Think about where you want to be in 3 to 5 years and what you want people to say about your company. Do you want to be the ‘global leader’ in something? or do you want to be ‘the place where local people ….’? By clearly writing your mission statement, you are setting a goal for where you want your company to go.

It’s kind of like getting in the car to go on a drive, first you need to have a goal or you won’t know what direction to go first. If you want to end up in New York, you’ll drive North (from here in Virginia). But if you want to end up in Florida, you’ll drive South. Those are in opposite directions! So if you don’t know where you want to go, you might be driving a long time in the wrong direction.

You don’t want to do that with your new business.

So start with a goal. And formalize that goal by writing a mission statement.