Forbes’ recent article entitled “The Importance of Estate Planning When Building Your Business” says that every business that’s expected to survive must have a clear answer to this question. The plan needs to be shared with the current owners and management as well as the future owners.
The common things business owners use to put some protection in place are buy-sell agreements, key-person insurance and a succession plan. These are used to make certain that, when the time comes, there’s both certainty around what needs to happen, as well as the funding to make sure that it happens.
If your estate plan hasn’t considered your business interests or hasn’t been updated as the business has developed, it may be that this plan falls apart when it matters the most.
Buy-sell insurance policies that don't state the current business values could result in your interests being sold far below fair value or may see the interests being bought by an external party that threatens the business itself.
If your agreements are not in place, or are challenged by the IRS, your estate may find itself with a far greater burden than anticipated.
Your estate plan should be reviewed regularly to account for changes in your situation, the value of your assets, the status of your (intended) beneficiaries, and new tax laws and regulations.
There are a range of thresholds, exemptions and rules that apply. Adapting the plan to make best use of these given your current situation is well worth the effort. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about your plan.
Including your estate planning as part of your general financial planning and management will frequently provide a valuable guidance in terms of how best to set up and manage your broader financial affairs.
Financial awareness can not only inform how you grow your wealth now but also ensure that it gets passed on effectively. The same is also true of your business.
A tough conversation about what happens in these situations can be a reminder to management that over dependence on any key person is not something to take for granted.