Do you own a business? Will you inherit one? Does a family member? Even if you answer no to all those questions, you know business owners are hard working individuals who bought into a company or built their legacy from the ground up. They have devoted so much time and effort toward their companies that they are no longer just projects, but cherished assets. Estate planning for business owners is a topic well-received and one that must be addressed for these individuals. Everyone must consider what happens to their house, possessions, money, and pets after they die. For owners or beneficiaries of companies, they must also take into account the future of the business.
If you own a business or will inherit one, you should start to familiarize yourself with ways to protect the existing entity. If you're inheriting a business, you need to make sure the person you are receiving it from has protected not only their interest but your future interest. Below you will find some information about estate planning for business owners and entrepreneurs.
Whether you are the sole proprietor or a partner of an organization, you will need a succession plan for the inheritance of your portion of the company. When considering the direction of your enterprise after your departure, there are three main options:
- Continue the business
- Close up shop completely
- Sell the interest to a buyer
Once the intended direction is known, it becomes easier to plan who will inherit the business and how the company will proceed into the future.
If the business is meant to continue, a valuable tool to utilize to increase the likelihood of its success is a living trust. By drafting a living trust for a business, the owner transfers their ownership so that it belongs to the trust. The owner will also name beneficiaries to receive the company along with a trustee to manage the trust during the transition. It should be noted that you could have the trust come into existence upon the death of a certain individual. This tool creates a clear plan of succession while also avoiding probate. Additionally, a trust would help to protect the assets from creditors and beneficiaries from personal liability.
For companies outside of Florida, a trust can help to avoid many taxes such as the estate taxes (also known as the death tax). Estate taxes can range from 35% to 50% of the value of the business. And because many small businesses do not possess much, if any, liquid equity, this debt must often be paid by selling the business.
A buy-sell agreement is a valuable tool to consider if you or your family have a partnership. It is an agreement between shareholders that dictates the plan of action in the event an owner dies or becomes incapacitated. This will account for specific scenarios of incapacitation and can be broad or narrow, depending on what the partners want. The agreement can:
- Establish whether you want a partner to buy out your share of the company,
- Block specific individuals from obtaining ownership of the company
- Allow your heirs to have limited or broad control of your sale
- Establish a buyout price based on a specific type of evaluation
The buy-sell agreement is another estate planning tool that allows you to dictate the future of your business in a manner directly instructed by you. Take advantage of controlling this aspect of your company while you still can!
Members of partnerships should also consider different types of insurance. If you or someone you know is a member of a partnership another useful instrument they might want to take advantage of is a life insurance policy for the co-owners that names other members as the beneficiaries. The proceeds received from the policy can ensure the surviving member(s) can afford the cost of a buyout or afford to keep the company running.
Additionally, disability insurance can provide business owners' families protections in the case of incapacitation or if a disability prevents the insurance holder from working. An example would be if a surgeon gets hurt and can’t use his hands. His/her family is most likely accustomed to a certain lifestyle due to the income that is “assumed” to be coming in each month. If this income stream stops due to a disability, the disability insurance policy will “kick in” and provide the family with income until the surgeon gets better. If the surgeon does not get better, this insurance can continue to provide long-term disability insurance as well depending on the terms of the policy. Insurance is one of those products that you never want to use but if the time comes when you have to, you will be glad you bought it.
Key man/woman life insurance should also be considered. This insurance product is used to protect a very important person in the case they pass away or are incapacitated. In that situation, the company, assuming they bought key man life insurance, would receive insurance payouts for monetary loss to the business and the salary expenses to replace this key person.
A last note about estate planning for business owners:
When you die, you cannot take your money with you, but that does not mean you should just throw it away. Dying without a plan in place leaves your business vulnerable to excessive taxes and allows your enterprise to be divided in a manner instructed by the state, not you. You want to have a plan in place to safeguard the capital remaining within your company and to protect your heirs.
How terrible would it be for you to pass away, giving your company outright to your heirs and all of a sudden a creditor's claim comes in and takes everything? Use estate planning tools such as trusts to avoid probate and protect your assets. If you are determined to continue the growth and success of your business after you pass away, do not allow it to be crippled by preventable taxes and fees levied against it. Work with a professional who understands business and estate planning in your state.
Continue to protect and provide for your legacy, even after you are gone by planning accordingly. Remember, you can't plan for your death after you die! If you would like to discuss more protections for you, family member or a friend, please set up a FREE consultation by calling (407) 636-4066, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or filling the contact form out HERE.