Estate planning is the process of getting your personal and financial affairs organized in the event of your death or mental incapacitation. By creating an estate plan, you can make sure your loved ones are protected.
Basics of Estate Planning
Estate planning is the process of designating who will receive your assets and handle your responsibilities after your death or incapacitation. The goal is to make sure your beneficiaries receive these things in the most cost-effective way possible.
Though it’s sometimes viewed as a task primarily for older people, estate planning can help young people establish a foundation that they can fine-tune as their personal and financial situations change. Regardless of your income level, it is important to create an Estate plan. The following is a simple process of how an estate plan works: (1) Take inventory of your assets; (2) Account for your family; (3) Establish directives; (4) Review your beneficiaries; (5) meet with a Lawyer to draft documents pertaining to your wishes; (6) Re-assess your Estate plan as life changes – children, death, grand-children, etc.
What will Happen if You Die Without an Estate Plan or Will?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has developed what is commonly referred to as the laws of Intestate Succession. A person who dies without a will in Pennsylvania is said to have died “intestate.” The Law of Intestate Succession govern how your assets are distributed in the event you die without a Last Will and Testament. It is important to create a plan so you can determine who inherits your assets instead of the state and federal government.
Estate Planning Options to Suit Your Needs
There are several documents that are used to create your estate plan and protect your family. The following are a few examples:
§ Wills. The Last Will and Testament will ensure that your assets, both personal and real property, are distributed to the right people based on your wishes.
§ TRUSTS: There are many types of trusts; a major distinction between them is whether they are revocable or irrevocable.
A. Revocable trust: Also known as a living trust, a revocable trust can help assets pass outside of probate, yet allows you to retain control of the assets during your (the grantor’s) lifetime. It is flexible and can be dissolved at any time, should your circumstances or intentions change. A revocable trust typically becomes irrevocable upon the death of the grantor.
You can name yourself trustee (or co-trustee) and retain ownership and control over the trust, its terms and assets during your lifetime, but make provisions for a successor trustee to manage them in the event of your incapacity or death.
Although a revocable trust may help avoid probate, it is usually still subject to estate taxes. It also means that during your lifetime, it is treated like any other asset you own.
B. Irrevocable trust: An irrevocable trust typically transfers your assets out of your (the grantor’s) estate and potentially out of the reach of estate taxes and probate, but cannot be altered by the grantor after it has been executed. Therefore, once you establish the trust, you will lose control over the assets and you cannot change any terms or decide to dissolve the trust.
An irrevocable trust is generally preferred over a revocable trust if your primary aim is to reduce the amount subject to estate taxes by effectively removing the trust assets from your estate. Also, since the assets have been transferred to the trust, you are relieved of the tax liability on the income generated by the trust assets (although distributions will typically have income tax consequences). It may also be protected in the event of a legal judgment against you.
Other benefits of trusts include:
- Control of your wealth. You can specify the terms of a trust precisely, controlling when and to whom distributions may be made. You may also, for example, set up a revocable trust so that the trust assets remain accessible to you during your lifetime while designating to whom the remaining assets will pass thereafter, even when there are complex situations such as children from more than one marriage.
- Protection of your legacy. A properly constructed trust can help protect your estate from your heirs’ creditors or from beneficiaries who may not be adept at money management.
- Privacy and probate savings. Probate is a matter of public record; a trust may allow assets to pass outside of probate and remain private, in addition to possibly reducing the amount lost to court fees and taxes in the process.
No matter how you choose to handle your estate planning, it is essential to have a plan in place to make sure your assets and family are protected. Having a plan allows for a smoother transition for your loved ones and eliminates the confusion that comes without the guidance of a will or trust.
Contact the experts at Sweat Law today to learn more about your Estate Planning options and how we can help you develop a plan to protect your estate and ensure your wishes are honored.
Do you fully understand your oil and gas lease and what you are owed? With oil prices dropping, some oil and gas companies have fallen short on paying royalties that are owed. The ripple effect has caused class action suits to emerge.
How can you protect yourself?
At Sweat Law Offices, we recommend a few strategies related to monitoring your lease compliance. Land and mineral owners face a constant battle to ensure lessees are complying with their oil and gas leases.
- Understand what you are owed. Are the royalties being calculated accurately? Your check stub should include certain information such as codes that indicate the product, type, etc. Get familiar with these terms so you know how to read your checks.
- Know the terms of your lease. It sounds simple, right? But many landowners do not understand how their royalties are calculated and paid especially based on term, production, and compliance.
- Monitor production activities. In some cases, a lessee is contractually bound to notify you of their actions. Not always. You will need to know when a well is completed and production has ended.
- Is a royalty audit necessary? Audits are expensive, depending on the terms of the lease, how many wells, and the complexity of the lessee’s internal operations. But they do identify large underpayment issues.
- Has production stopped? Is the lease still in effect? How does a gap in production affect the terms of your lease?
- Has there been a spill or leak? Have these spills or leaks been reported, remedied, and cleaned up? How does this affect your lease
- Consider consolidating funds to pay for an audit on property that is affected by multiple parties.
Not sure where to begin?
Reach out to Sweat Law Offices today to find out how we can help you monitor you royalties and lease compliance. It’s a complicated process for sure, but we have the proven ability to help landowners protect their mineral, oil, and gas rights.
Do you know if your oil and gas lease is about to expire or has expired? Often, the answer is unclear. In fact, many landowners are surprised to learn that according to standard oil and gas leases, the contract is not terminated even when a lessee fails to pay them royalties.
If you are currently under contract, and the production has ceased, you may find yourself in the situation where you’d like to terminate your oil and gas lease. This is where an oil and gas attorney is beneficial.
Work with a trusted, experienced oil and gas attorney at Sweat Law Offices
Here at Sweat Law Offices, we will review your lease to determine whether it has terminated and what you are owed.
In some cases, landowners negotiate upfront that a lease is automatically terminated if royalties are not paid within so many days after the first production. Often though exploration companies are resistant to agree to such terms because it puts them at risk. But the last thing you want is to have to sue for unpaid royalties.
At Sweat Law Offices, we have been helping protect landowners with carefully drafted termination clauses and contract negotiation.
Examples of how our oil and gas attorneys can help you:
- If you’re in the initial contract phase, we can suggest the addition of clauses that provide provisions with your best interests in mind. For example, prior to the end of a primary term, a clause may allow an oil and gas lease to be extended for another term of equal length to the primary term upon payment of a bonus (equivalent to the bonus the landowner was paid when they signed the lease).
- We will review your contract and explain to you the status of your lease—whether it has expired or extended into its secondary term, for example.
- What happens when your primary term ends? The lease does not automatically expire or terminate. Certain provisions may cause your lease to extend—it’s important to know if this has happened.
- We will identify key language in your contract that triggers a secondary term and extends your lease.
- We will review all provisions in your lease that affect the length of the lease. For example, when an oil and gas well is “shut-in” because of a lack of market or transportation, the lease may be extended during that time. Other examples involve natural disasters, strikes, etc.
Have a question about whether your lease has expired, is about to expire, or has terminated? Consult with the oil and gas attorneys at Sweat Law Offices today.
Before starting a business, you need to ensure that your business strategy meets the legal requirements of the industry. The success of your business relies on having the proper legal matters in order, so it is essential to take the proper steps to ensure you start your business lawfully and remain protected. In this article, we provide you with seven steps you should take to make sure your business is operating legally.
1. File All Necessary Originating Documents
For almost all businesses, specific legal documents need to be filed to begin business operations. For example, if you plan to operate as a corporation, you need to file articles of incorporation. If you plan to run as an LLC, you would need to submit articles of organization to begin operations. This step of registering your business is simple and won’t take up much of your time, but it is crucial to starting your business legally.
2. Obtain all Licenses and Permits Needed
Many companies across all industries require a license or permit to operate. These permits can be issued at the local, state, or federal level. It is important to thoroughly research the requirements for your business to find out which licenses and permits you need to obtain. Be sure to consider the amount of time it will take to obtain these licenses or permits. Getting all the legal requirements squared away can take time, so be sure to plan ahead.
3. Keep Your Financials in Order
Be sure to open all bank accounts and credit lines in the name of your business, keeping them separate from your own personal bank account. If you don’t keep them separate, it could result in a court not viewing your business as a separate entity, leaving you personally responsible for lawsuits or debts brought against your company.
4. Get Insurance
Certain types of insurance, such as auto insurance or workers’ compensation insurance, are required by law to operate your business. Other types of insurance like general liability and property insurance are also good to have to further protect your business.
5. Protect Your Intellectual Property
Intellectual property is referred to as intangible creations of the mind. This includes company logos, symbols as well as names and images used for commerce. Every business has a type of intellectual property that needs to be protected. Whether it is your special process for making your product or simply your company logo, you should take these specific steps to keep your intellectual property protected:
- Copyright- Protects written and artistic content
- Trademark- Protects logos and business slogans
- Patent- Protects inventions
Taking the steps to obtain these for your intellectual property will help protect your business and ideas from being misappropriated by others.
6. Budget More for Legal Spending
Legal fees can be a large investment upfront when starting your business, so it is important to ensure you budget for more than you think you’ll need to help offset any unexpected costs that could arise. You don’t want to short yourself on legal funds and be forced to dip into funding meant for other important business objectives. Consult with your attorney to get an estimate of the total legal fees when you begin the process of setting up your business.
7. Find the Right Attorney
Hiring the right attorney to help you in the process of starting your business is crucial and will help to save you precious time and money in the long run. Sweat Law has extensive experience representing corporations and business entities of all sizes across a wide range of industries. With specializations in entity planning and intellectual property, Sweat Law serves as a comprehensive resource to help businesses get started on the right track.
Contact Sweat Law today to learn more about how we can help you start your business. The process of starting a new business can be daunting and complicated, so we are here to help you navigate through the process, offering unparalleled legal advice and practical solutions to help ensure you have all the required pieces in place to begin operating your business.
Selling your mineral rights is an appealing idea, but how do you know if you should? If you are a landowner, the idea of selling your mineral rights may have crossed your mind and these days, with the prices for minerals steadily increasing, it may be a good time to consider doing so.
Are you interested in selling some or all your interests? Maybe you want to diversify your assets. Pay for college. Prepare for retirement. Pay off debt.
You’re not alone.
Many mineral rights holders do not have the sentimental attachment to the land, as today’s estates have already been divided among heirs. Leasing of minerals has made exploration more attractive to companies. Some believe that mineral values are at an all-time high—predicting that the future will see a decline in the dependence on hydrocarbons.
If you are considering selling your mineral rights to an oil and gas company, it is important to understand what your options are. You may think your only option is to sell all your rights at once, but that is not the case. You have the option to sell only a portion of your rights and retain the remainder of your mineral rights to pass on to your children or sell later depending on what your needs are.
Are you interested in learning more about selling your mineral rights?
When? How? Here are a few questions you’ll need answers to:
- What is the value of your minerals?
- What is the leasing activity like in your area?
- Are new wells being drilled? Have they been successful?
And once you’ve decided to move forward:
- How can you get the best price for your mineral rights?
- How long does the mineral sale process take?
- Where do you go to put together a contract?
- Do you need a warrant title? How do you know what interest you own?
Let’s work together
Reach out to the experienced oil and gas attorneys at Sweat Law Offices today to learn more about mineral rights and how to put your best foot forward in making your next steps.