Update on Same Sex Marriage in the 4th Circuit

The Supreme Court announced today that they would not hear any same-sex marriage cases in the 2015 term. While this may seem surprising, I think that it is a good strategic move. This decision means that bans on same-sex marriage will be immediately lifted in Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Virginia. There are 7 other states that this ruling will effect because they lie in the same federal districts.  In response to the Supreme Court announcement, the 4th Circuit, which contains North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, issued a mandate that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages will be lifted as of 1:00 pm today. Hopefully North Carolina will soon follow suit. 

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Independent Contractors – 1099 vs. W2

Today’s employers are classifying more and more workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Small business owners in particular need to research this decision carefully, and take steps to make sure you are complying with all tax rules and regulations. The IRS expects you to know the difference between employees and independent contractors and there are penalties for incorrectly classifying your workers

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Benefit Corporations

B Lab, a nonprofit organization, awards Benefit Corporation certifications (B Corp) to for-profit companies that “meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” To earn Certified B Corporation status from B Lab demonstrates that a company is committed to sustainability and aims to create value for society as well as the economy. This is a deviation from normal corporate standards, which are focused primarily on increasing profitability for shareholders. B Lab states that, "B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.” 

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Change in Probate Law

North Carolina is one of many states that gives married couples an elective share of a deceased spouse’s estate. This means that even if you have written your spouse out of your will, he or she can still apply to receive a certain share of your estate after your death. The rules on how this share is calculated changed dramatically on October 1, 2013. The new rule applies to everyone with a death date of 10/1/2013 and after, regardless of when the marriage occurred. 


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Business Succession Planning

Family owned businesses contribute roughly 50% of the gross domestic product in the US and are responsible for over half of all jobs. All businesses need to have a succession plan in order to provide for the retiring owners and give the business the opportunity for continued success and growth. This is particularly true for small family owned businesses that often have complex histories that are intertwined with family dynamics.

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Board Observer v. Board Advisor

It has become common practice for corporations to invite former board members, investors or people with certain expertise to serve as corporate board observers or corporate board advisors. These arrangements can be mutually advantageous; as it gives corporations opportunities to form strategic partnerships while potential investors get insight into corporations. It is important to understand the differences between the board observer and board advisor roles in order to determine which would be best for your company.

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Advance Directives Update - Living Wills

Advanced Directives, also known as Living Wills, are estate-planning documents that declare your end-of-life health care decisions. Advance care planning allows you to state your preferences about the type of health care treatments you would or would not want to receive should you become gravely ill or incapacitated. An Advanced Directive only comes into effect when you become unable to make decisions or speak for yourself.

There is a growing push for all American adults to have Advanced Directives because of the exponential rise in the cost of end-of-life health care. According an editorial in the New York Times, the top 5 percent of such patients account for nearly half of spending (more than $600 billion a year), and the cost per capita of 1 percent of such patients is $90,000 compared with $236 per capita of the bottom 50 percent.”

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Crowdfunding is a modern approach to the process of raising capital. In this model, individuals, businesses and organizations seek donations from a large pool of backers (the “crowd”). Successful crowdfunding initiatives have financed everything from political campaigns to movies and start up companies.

Crowdfunding is typically made possible by a web platform. Kickstarter.com is the largest crowdfunding platform for creative endeavors. There have been several successful Kickstarter campaigns funded locally in Asheville including: Asheville Free Media, Appalatch, and Asheville Tango Orchestra.

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Blog Update: Administrative Agencies Respond to Same-Sex Marriage Changes

The NC Department of Revenue has issued instructions on how same-sex couples should file their 2013 taxes. North Carolina does not currently recognize any same-sex marriages, even if the marriage was performed in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. If you are a same-sex couple with North Carolina residency, the state tax office has deemed that you must prepare a federal return with a filing status of single and then use those figures to file your North Carolina state taxes.

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Blog Update: Intellectual Property Warning

This is an update to my November 15, 2013 blog: Intellectual Property Warning for Small Business Owners.  In the past, I discussed issues that might arise for small business owners if they intentionally or inadvertently use any photographs owned or licensed by digital photo agency Getty Images on their website, social media sites or any marketing content. Getty Images recently announced they are now releasing up to 40 million images that can be used for “noncommercial” uses in blogs, social media websites and other online uses for free.

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Is Your Will Valid? The Importance of Execution

So you have written a simple will that clearly demonstrate your wishes regarding the disposition of your assets. Your job is done, right? Think again. A will must also be properly executed in order for it to become legally binding. Execution of a will is a technical term for the signing process. The will must be signed and witnessed according to the requirements of the law in order for it to become valid. Complications can happen in the case of an improperly executed will.

Read on to find out two of the most common issues that arise if a will is not signed or witnessed properly.

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Wills and EstatesEva Clement