Category Archives: Blog

Complex Estate Planning for Business Owners

For business owners and those in private practice, estate planning can become highly complex. Not only must you determine how and to whom your financial holdings will be disbursed, but you must also plan for the succession or sale of your business.

This process requires careful planning that starts well in advance of when you may anticipate you will need it. And because you have no way of knowing what the future holds, most tax and
estate-planning lawyers suggest you begin the process now.

Complex estate planning

Estate-Planning Considerations for Sole-Practitioner Service Providers

Individuals in private practice, including CPAs, physicians, attorneys and other service providers, may not wish for their business to continue once they die or become unable to work. The first step in establishing a comprehensive estate plan is to determine what you want the disposition of your business to be at that time.

You may prefer that your estate plan provides for the sale of your business or liquidation of its assets, depending on your company structure, rather than transferring ownership to an heir or designee.

The services of a business law attorney are invaluable when establishing plans of this type, to address any potential estate taxes or other financial liabilities. Another potential threat comes in the form of professional liability, for any problems that may be discovered after your passing.

Addressing Complex Estate Planning Issues of Owner-Dependent Businesses

Many owners of closely held businesses maintain control of virtually every aspect of the operation. If you make every important decision and carry the fundamental knowledge of your business model around in your head, this can create significant problems in the estate-planning process.

If you want your business to carry on after your passing or incapacitation, you must begin planning for that event well in advance. In fact, if your company is owner-dependent, you may need as long as a decade (or more, in some cases) to effectively plan for succession.

Complex Estate-Planning Strategies

The minimum elements every business owner needs are a will, appropriate insurance coverage, a company succession plan, disability provisions and a comprehensive asset-protection and wealth-transfer plan.

Because this topic is difficult for many people to face, a substantial number of business owners and professional practitioners have never addressed the issue of planning their estate’s future. Even if discussing your mortality is uncomfortable for you, consider the challenges your family would face under those circumstances. Taxes and probate fees can quickly erode your accumulated wealth and leave your heirs without the resources they need for the future.

Even if you previously established an estate plan, having it reviewed regularly — and updating as often as needed — is a priority you cannot safely ignore. Tax and asset-transfer laws change regularly and can profoundly affect your estate.

The Salt Lake City business attorneys at Franchise & Business Law Group specialize in helping business owners with complex estate-planning and business-succession planning. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Understanding Trademarks, Service Marks, Trade Dress & Licensing

Although hard assets carry value, your company’s branding, logo and other symbols that make your business identifiable are invaluable to your success. You must protect these intangible assets through trademarks, service marks and other forms of intellectual property protection.

Trademark law is a highly complex field. For that reason, it is important that you have representation from business law attorneys who are well-versed in registering trademarks as well as managing, enforcing and protecting your intellectual property rights.

Using trademarks and service marks to protect your brand

What Are Trademarks?

A trademark can be a word, phrase, logo, symbol, color or sound — or a combination of elements — that distinguishes your business from any other. It allows prospects and customers to readily identify your products, and serves to communicate the quality, value and reputation of your company and its products.

The Nike “swoosh” is one well-known example of a strong, enduring trademark.

To protect your brand identity, you must register your trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Because this process is so complex and difficult, the USPTO recommends hiring an experienced trademark attorney who is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction to help you. You cannot receive legal advice or assistance with the forms and procedures necessary to obtain a trademark from anyone other than a licensed attorney.

What Are Service Marks, Trade Names and Trade Dress?

A service mark is essentially identical to a trademark, but rather than products, it is used to represent services.

A trade name is used to identify a business, as opposed to a product or service.

Trade dress is the term used to describe the design elements, packaging and the overall look and feel of a specific product. Trade dress is the full package of elements you use to represent and promote a product. Think about the iconic, hourglass shape and lettering of a Coca Cola bottle, for instance.

These elements can be registered through USPTO. However, other legal protections protect trade dress specifically; these protections are known as the Langham Act.

Understanding Intellectual Property Licensing

If you franchise your business, you must grant specific license to your franchisees to use your trademarks and related elements of intellectual property. You may also need to grant licensure to distributors, joint venture partners, dealers and others, based on your business model and goals.

Licensing is equally complex, due to concerns about how licensees could potentially harm your reputation and goodwill if they misuse your brand or fail to uphold the high standards you have established.

The Importance of Working with a Trademark Lawyer

Working with an experienced trademark lawyer is an effective way to ensure the legal protection of your trademarks and other intellectual property.

In Salt Lake City, the trademark attorneys of the Franchise & Business Law Group have extensive knowledge and experience in this complex area of the law. We can assist you with every aspect of registering, managing, protecting and enforcing your trademarks, service marks and trade dress. We can also negotiate the terms of licensing agreements and provide the necessary assistance to enforce them.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our Utah trademark attorneys.