Estate Planning for Business Owners: Your Guide to Getting Started

Estate Planning for Business Owners: Your Guide to Getting Started

estate planning for business owners

As a business owner, life can be hectic. Someone who chooses to take an entrepreneurial route often has to learn how to juggle managing their business with family life, in addition to actually doing their jobs! So many business owners put their blood, sweat, and tears into creating a profitable business. However, the job does not end here. As an entrepreneur, it is critical to implement an estate plan to protect the business you’ve worked so hard to grow. 

Appoint a Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney would appoint someone you trust to oversee your finances if you become incapacitated or worse. As a business owner, you more than likely have a more complicated financial situation than most. It is imperative that you choose someone who you not only trust, but who also understands the financial situation of your business. Many business owners will appoint a trusted CPA as their financial power of attorney.

Draft a Living Trust

Most business owners have several assets that are tied up in their business. These assets may even be essential to keep your business running. This is why it’s vital to create a living trust. A living trust is a legal document that will outline your directions for asset management and/or distribution, and will also name a legal entity or person as the trustee who is responsible for making sure your wishes are executed. 

One thing to keep in mind is that living trusts are not something you can draft once, and then forget about. As your business grows and assets change, it is important to remember to update your living trust in order to better protect your business. 

Create a Business Succession Plan

A business succession plan is a critical blueprint for any business owner who plans to one day transition ownership of their business. A succession plan is something that shows stakeholders your expectations of the business transition, and also outlines important company operations, mission statements, and visions for future owners. A business succession plan is a necessity for anyone who wants to protect the legacy of the business they worked so hard to create. 

If you have questions about creating an estate plan for business owners, we encourage you to contact Miller Estate & Elder Law at (256) 251-2137 or register for one of our free estate planning workshops.

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What an Anniston Business Lawyer Can Do for You

What an Anniston Business Lawyer Can Do for You

With thousands of lawyers to choose from, how will you know who to pick? As they started a new business in Anniston, Elaine and Paul were concerned. They knew they needed the advice of a business attorney. However, they did not know whether to hire locally or go to Birmingham. They needed to know why they should choose an Anniston Business Lawyer.

A local attorney knows the community.

For business legal matters, you want someone who understand the local community, especially the business community. Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.

An Anniston business lawyer knows and understands how things tick in Anniston. In fact, he or she may even have memberships in local civic and business organizations.

Elaine and Paul took advantage of the local network by hiring an Anniston business lawyer.

A local attorney knows the law.

Okay, any good attorney knows state and federal laws. However, an Anniston business lawyer is more likely to know about local ordinances, regulations, and other pertinent laws.

Elaine and Paul learned more about Anniston and Calhoun County laws from local attorney than they even expected. This helped expedite issues that cropped up related to their business.

A local attorney knows local government and courts.

This type of information could come in handy if a business owner runs into problems with codes, permits, and any unusual city or county laws. An Anniston attorney probably has a better understanding of how local courts work. In fact, he or she probably knows at least some of the people working in the courthouse.

Elaine and Paul were elated that their new Anniston business lawyer knew exactly who to talk to when problems cropped up.

A local attorney is easy to visit.

You may need to make an appointment before talking with your attorney. At least you will not have to waste a lot of time, energy, and gasoline driving to and from your attorney’s office.

Elaine and Paul appreciated the fact they did not have to spend hours on the road traveling to and from their attorney’s office.

Learn More About Anniston Business from an Anniston Business Lawyer.

The attorneys at Miller Estate and Elder Law efficiently assist their clients with business matters. For a free consultation, contact us at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient Contact Form. Although we’re located in Anniston, we also help clients in the Birmingham, Gadsden, Hoover, Talladega, Vestavia Hills, and surrounding areas.

Elements of a Legally Enforceable Contract

Elements of a Legally Enforceable Contract

Just recognizing what something is not that hard. When it comes to legal documents, for example, you might recognize that the document before you is a contract. However, how will you know if it is a legally enforceable contract? No matter which side of the agreement you are on, it’s important to understand that the document you are signing can be enforced if necessary.

As an example, let’s consider Thomas and Jeremiah. They run a consulting company that provides computer and technology services to companies that can’t afford their own IT Department. As new business owners, they did not understand the importance of a legally enforceable contract – until they got burned by a bad client. They immediately asked their business attorney to draft simple contracts for them and to review contracts that were awaiting their signature. They needed to be reassured that the contracts were binding and enforceable.

To Be a Contract . . .

The simple definition of the word ‘contract’ is:

“An agreement between private parties creating mutual obligations enforceable by law.”

In Alabama, contracts should be in writing. However, under certain circumstances verbal contracts may be allowed.

Generally, legally enforceable contracts must include the following

Offer and Acceptance

One party to the contract makes an offer to the other, which is then accepted. However, in bilateral contracts, each party promises to do something for the other.


This is payment from one party to the other for performing the contract. Consideration does not have to be cash, though. In fact, consideration can include real property, personal property, or an action.


This refers to a party’s age or mental ability needed to enter into the contract. For example, someone below the age of 18 may lack the capacity to make the contract. A person who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease may also lack capacity.

Legal Purpose

The contract must have a purpose that is legal. A contract that requires a party to engage in illegal behavior is probably not legally enforceable.

Would You Know a Legally Enforceable Contract if You Saw One?

The attorneys at Miller Estate and Elder Law use their business experience to assist clients with contracts and more. For a free consultation with an experienced Alabama attorney, contact us at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient Contact Form.

We have offices in Anniston and Birmingham and serve clients in Gadsden, Hoover, Talladega, Vestavia Hills, and surrounding areas.

How to Form an Alabama LLC

How to Form an Alabama LLC

Sometimes we know something exists, but don’t know how to get to it. For example, Bart and Beatrice were in the early stages of planning their new business. They had heard of limited liability companies, or LLCs, but had no idea how to form an Alabama LLC. Bart and Beatrice need to find out what an LLC is, whether it is the right business entity for them, and what steps they must take to form one.

LLC: One Type of Business Entity

Generally, a business will be one of the following structures:

  • Sole proprietorship,
  • Partnership and limited partnership
  • Corporation (profit or non-profit),
  • Registered limited liability partnership,
  • Limited liability partnership, and
  • Limited liability company (LLC).

Each structure varies, usually in management, ownership, formation, and taxation. But we are specifically interested in the LLC structure.

Owners of LLCs enjoy the following advantages:

  • Personal assets are protected from LLC obligations.
  • Formation is fairly easy and inexpensive.
  • Avoiding the double taxation structure of corporations.

State laws vary on forming a business. The Alabama Secretary of State website offers some assistance.

Forming an Alabama LLC

To get your business entity started, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Research your business name. and file a Certificate of Name Reservation. Then, you will file this with the county probate judge where the LLC’s office is located. Note that your business name must include the words “Limited Liability Company” or LLC.
  • Next, file the original and two copies of a Certificate of Formation. Again, this is filed in the county where the LLC maintains a registered office.
  • Always check with the probate judge or clerk’s office before filing any documents. For example, you may need to file the original and several copies. Also, not all judges collect fees for the Secretary of State’s office.

Once your LLC is formed, you can get down to business!

Learn More About How to Form an Alabama LLC. Talk to an Alabama Business Lawyer.

At Miller Estate and Elder Law, we make it our business to put our client’s needs first. We assist our clients in making legal decisions regarding their business interests. For a free consultation, contact us at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient Contact Form. We have offices in Anniston and we assist clients in the Leeds, Gadsden, Hoover, Talladega, Vestavia Hills, and surrounding areas.

When to Use Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements

When to Use Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements

When two things are similar, yet distinctly different, choosing between the two can be difficult. Take non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, for example. It’s important to know the difference between the two to make sure your business is as protected as possible.

Legally Speaking

Non-compete and non-disclosure agreements are both contracts. The parties signing the agreements intend to protect something. Non-compete agreements may protect a company against unfair competition while non-disclosures protect a company’s confidential information.

These agreements are not mutually exclusive. In other words, a business owner may use a non-compete, a non-disclosure, or both. It just depends on the situation.

Employers Use Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements

A business owner may have employees sign a non-compete agreement, often on or before their first day at work. The employee, then, is prohibited from working for competitors or from starting their own business within an industry or geographic area.

Additionally, companies typically maintain information that should be kept confidential. For example, sales strategies, client lists, reports, new product details, and research results may be safeguarded from accidental or intentional disclosure. An employee who signs a non-disclosure agreement is agreeing not to share or misuse their employer’s confidential information.

An employee may sign both a non-disclosure agreement and a non-compete. Although the non-compete is probably most often used with employees, companies sometimes use non-disclosure agreements for other reasons.

Other Business Uses for Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements

The basic use of a non-disclosure is to prevent the inappropriate distribution of confidential information. Employees are not the only parties that may be asked to sign a non-disclosure.

Non-disclosures may also be used during negotiations, collaborations with other companies, and discussions with potential investors or lenders. There are two basic forms of non-disclosures:

  • One Way agreements are used when only one party has provided confidential information.
  • Two Way agreements are used when two parties exchange information.

For example, a company sharing confidential data while raising capital may require the other party or parties to sign a non-disclosure. However, companies involved in a merger negotiation may both be required to sign non-disclosures.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements

The attorneys at Miller Estate and Elder Law assist clients like you with their business concerns. a free consultation with an experienced Alabama attorney, contact us at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient Contact Form.

We have offices in Anniston and Birmingham and serve clients in Gadsden, Hoover, Talladega, Vestavia Hills, and surrounding areas.

Common Business Contracts

Common Business Contracts

Doug and Jackie finished preparing the paperwork to start their new business, Alabama Technology Partners, Inc. However, it soon became apparent that they would need to write, review, and sign many different contracts and agreements in the course of their work. Doug and Jackie didn’t know much about common business contracts – yet.

Contracts, Generally Speaking

Any legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties may be considered a contract. However, contracts usually need to have the following elements:

  • The parties must be competent to enter into the contract.
  • The contract must state the purpose for making the agreement.
  • A benefit of some sort must be exchanged between the parties.
  • Mutuality of agreement must be present, which means the parties agree to form the contract.
  • The parties must agree that contract is mutually binding.

Although Alabama courts may consider oral contracts valid under certain circumstances, it’s best to get your agreements in writing.

Some Business Operations Contracts

A business might use a contract during formation:

  • A joint venture agreement states the responsibilities of each party to a joint venture.
  • A partnership agreement formalizes the details of a partnership.

Business owners may face other contracts very early in the life of their company.

Regarding Sales and Purchases

Leases or mortgages may be necessary to acquire office and work space. Additionally, raising capital is often a concern, so the new business owners may sign contracts like security agreements and loans.

If the new company hires employees, there may be employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, non-disclosures, and non-competes to prepare.

Whether it’s hiring vendors or buying supplies and raw materials, it’s probable that the new owners will be writing bills of sale and purchase orders.

Some contracts will be simple forms. However, contract law can be very complicated. Drafting and signing an ambiguous or erroneous contract could very well have unintended consequences, like litigation.

Consult with an Alabama Business Lawyer

Doug and Jackie worked with their attorney to make sure their contracts were in order. The attorneys at Miller Estate and Elder Law have the experience to help with your business-related questions and concerns. Contact Miller Estate and Elder Law at 256-251-2137 to schedule an appointment or fill out our convenient Contact Form. We help clients in Anniston, Talladega, Birmingham, Gadsden and surrounding communities.