Category: Business Succession Planning

ways to avoid a succession fight

Ways to Avoid a Succession Fight

Far too often businesses fail because there was not a plan in place to succeed the owner or CEO. There are ways to avoid a succession fight. A comprehensive succession plan is a set of legal guidelines to ensure an orderly transfer of financial control and executive responsibilities to a new generation of leaders. Index Fund Advisors’ recent article entitled “How to Avoid a Messy Succession Battle” suggests that you take a multi-prong approach to succession planning.

A business owner must identify the individual who has the skills to run a business. A succession plan can sometimes divide the leadership roles, with one person running the business and another in a senior role overseeing long-term development and planning.

Business owners also must consider their personal estate plans when devising a succession plan. Business owners need to be proactive about estate planning and succession planning. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about both processes as ongoing strategies. That means you don’t create an estate plan or a succession plan and file it away until you want to retire. Circumstances can change, so you’ll probably periodically need to review it and make sure everything is up-to-date.

When multiple owners are involved, a succession plan should create rules and procedures for other owners who might want to hire friends and relatives for key positions. The company’s founders must consider what happens if an owner gets a divorce, suffers a disability, or declares personal bankruptcy. These types of situations can change the rules within a buy-sell agreement—the master document that details the rules between who gets what and how a company is organized in the future.

A succession plan can also state the rules for issues involving transferring of equity and/or shares of a company to family members. In addition to putting into writing exactly who can be a transferee and the amount of equity they’re allowed, business owners should use the succession planning process to address issues related to voting rights. A succession plan should also specify the financial terms at the time of an owner’s death or sudden exit.

While avoiding such a decision-making process might appeal to younger executives, delaying these decisions and processes creates more uncertainty in a company’s ongoing success.

Whatever the size of a business, any business owner needs to create a succession plan sooner rather than later. If you don’t, you may not be able to avoid a succession fight for the next generation of owners and employees. If you would like to learn more about business succession planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Index Fund Advisors (Nov. 22, 2021) “How to Avoid a Messy Succession Battle”

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Small business owners need estate planning

Small Business Owners need Estate Planning

Small business owners need estate planning. Not having an estate plan can place business owners and entrepreneurs in jeopardy because they may face difficulties in keeping the business running, if they have to withdraw from the business at any point in time.

Legal Reader’s recent article entitled “What Small Business Owners Should Know about Doing Estate Planning” explains that estate planning is necessary to ensure business continuity. Think about who can take control when you’re no longer around to have the business continue according to your wishes contained in your estate plan. An experienced attorney can help create a comprehensive estate plan, so things do not become chaotic for their family in the event of premature death or any permanent disability. Consider these steps when it comes to good estate planning for business owners.

Create an estate plan if you haven’t got one. A will is designed to detail your wishes about how you want the business to run and the manner of sharing your property at your death. A power of attorney allows an entrusted individual to undertake your business transactions and manage your finances, if you are incapacitated by injury or illness. A healthcare directive permits a trusted agent to make medical decisions on your behalf when you can’t do so yourself.

Plan for taxes. Tax planning is a major component of estate planning. Our tax laws keep changing frequently, so you have to stay in constant touch with your attorney to develop strategies for decreasing your tax liability, as well as creating a strategy for minimizing inheritance/estate taxes.

Buy life and disability insurance. Small business owners should think about purchasing life insurance, so their families can have a source of income after their death.

Create a succession plan. In addition to estate planning, a business owner should have a succession plan that specifies exactly how your company, and your family will prepare for a transition of ownership. The purpose of a well thought out succession plan is to keep the business operating or to take steps to sell it. This plan also includes the organizational structure of the business in case of maintaining business continuity.

Small business owners need to consider their employees as well as their family when drafting their estate planning. You should keep everyone impacted by your decisions apprised of your estate plan and your business succession plan. If you would like to learn more about estate planning for business owners, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Legal Reader (Aug. 26, 2021) “What Small Business Owners Should Know about Doing Estate Planning”

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Businesses should have a buy-sell agreement

Businesses should have a Buy-Sell Agreement

Businesses should have a buy-sell agreement to protect the owners, their families, employees and the company. Without a buy-sell agreement or succession plan, any company is at risk, notes a recent article titled “Why does your business need a buy-sell agreement?” from the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Many business owners are reluctant to recognize the possibility of their becoming disabled or dying, so they put off creating a buy sell agreement. However, as we all know, unexpected events happen and it’s always better to be prepared.

A buy-sell agreement offers protection first by establishing what type of triggering events could happen and defining the terms and conditions for how shareholders will enter and exit their ownership of the business.

Companies often have a buy-sell agreement stuck in a file drawer from ten or twenty years ago. Chances are that big changes have taken place in the business and the old agreement is no longer relevant. The day-to-day operations of a business are pressing, and there’s never enough time to get around to it. However, when the unexpected occurs, shareholders are left to negotiate among themselves during the worst possible time.

A well-drafted buy-sell agreement for a business should address the most common events: death, disability, divorce, personal bankruptcy, voluntary termination, retirement and involuntary separation. The agreement should clearly state the percentage and type of ownership, how shares are valued and how any insurance proceeds are to be handled. Without knowledge of the value and terms of payment, there’s no way to provide protection for a triggering event.

Once the value of the company and its shareholders is defined, it may become clear that a business needs to close a valuation gap.

The intentions for the future of the business can also be clarified through this process. Some provisions to consider are:

  • How to notify other shareholders, in the event of a voluntary termination.
  • Trailer provisions to protect exiting shareholders, in the event of a subsequent liquidity event.
  • Discounts on value or extended payment terms for non-compliance of notification provisions.
  • Insurance portability provisions to allow existing shareholders to reassign beneficiary designations (once payments owed to the exiting shareholder have been made).

Businesses should have a buy-sell agreement. They are dynamic entities with frequent changes, so buy-sell agreements should be reviewed and updated in the same way that an estate plan needs to be updated—every three or four years. If you would like to read more about buy-sell agreements, and other succession planning topics, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Philadelphia Business Journal (Sep. 1, 2021) “Why does your business need a buy-sell agreement?”

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Succession planning for family farm

Succession Planning for Family Farm

If you think it’s bad that 60% of farmers don’t have a will, here’s what’s even worse: 89% don’t have a farm transfer plan, as reported in the recent article “10 Farm Transition and Estate Planning Mistakes from Farm Journal’s Pork Business. Succession planning for the family farm is just as vital as any other business. Here are the ten most commonly made mistakes farmers make. Substitute the word “family-owned business” for farm and the problems created are identical.

Procrastination. Just as production methods have to be updated, so does estate planning. People wait until the perfect time to create the perfect plan, but life doesn’t work that way. Having a plan of some kind is better than none at all. If you die with no plan, your family gets to clean up the mess.

Failing to plan for substitute decision-making and health care directives. Everyone should have power of attorney and health care directive planning. A business or farm that requires your day-in-day-out supervision and decision making could die with you. Name a power of attorney, name an alternate POA and have every detail of operations spelled out. You can have a different person to act as your agent for running the farm and another to make health care decisions, or the same person can take on these responsibilities. Consult with an estate planning attorney to be sure your documents reflect your wishes and speak with family members.

Failing to communicate, early and often. There’s no room for secrecy, if you want your farm or family business to transfer successfully to the next generation. Schedule family meetings on a regular basis, establish agendas, take minutes and consider having an outsider serve as a meeting facilitator.

Treating everyone equally does not fit every situation. If some family members work and live on the farm and others work and live elsewhere, their roles in the future of the farm will be different. An estate planning attorney familiar with farm families will be able to give you suggestions on how to address this.

Not inventorying assets and liabilities. Real property includes land, buildings, fencing, livestock, equipment and bank accounts. Succession planning requires a complete inventory and valuation of all assets. Check on how property is titled to be sure land you intend to leave to children is not owned by someone else. Don’t neglect liabilities. When you pass down the farm, will your children also inherit debt? Everyone needs to know what is owned and what is owed.

Making decisions based on incorrect information. If you aren’t familiar with your state’s estate tax laws, you might be handing down a different sized estate than you think. Here’s an example: in Iowa, there is no inheritance tax due on shares left to a surviving spouse, lineal descendants or charitable, religious, or educational institutions. If you live in Iowa, do you have an estate plan that takes this into consideration? Do you know what taxes will be owed, and how they will be paid?

Lack of liquidity. Death is expensive. Cash may be needed to keep the family farm going between the date of death and the settling of the estate. It is also important to consider who will pay for the funeral, and how? Life insurance is one option.

Disorganization. Making your loved ones go through a post-mortem scavenger hunt is unkind. Business records should be well-organized. Tell the appropriate people where important records can be found. Walk them through everything, including online accounts. Consider using an old-fashioned three-ring binder system. In times of great stress, organization is appreciated.

No team of professionals to provide experience and expertise. The saying “it takes a village” applies to estate planning and farm succession. An accountant, estate planning attorney and financial advisor will more than pay for their services. Without them, your family may be left guessing about the future of the farm and the family.

Thinking your plan is done at any point in time. Like estate planning, succession planning for the family farm is never really finished. Laws change, relationships change and family farms go through changes. An estate plan is not a one-and-done event. It needs to be reviewed and refreshed every few years.

If you are interested in reading more about succession planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Farm Journal’s Pork Business (June 28, 2021) “10 Farm Transition and Estate Planning Mistakes

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assets not covered by a will

Time to Consider Business Succession Planning

The importance of the family business in the U.S. can’t be overstated. Neither can the problems that occur as a direct result of a failure to plan for succession. Owners of a family business need to take the time to consider business succession planning. Business succession planning is the development of a plan for determining when an owner will retire, what position in the company they will hold when they retire, who the eventual owners of the company will be and under what rules the new owners will operate, instructs a recent article, “Succession planning for family businesses” from The Times Reporter. An estate planning attorney plays a pivotal role in creating the plan, as the sale of the business will be a major factor in the family’s wealth and legacy.

  • Start by determining who will buy the business. Will it be a long-standing employee, partners, or family members?
  • Next, develop an advisory team of internal employees, your estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor and insurance agent.
  • Have a financial evaluation of the business prepared by a qualified and accredited valuation professional.
  • Consider taxes (income, estate and gift taxes) and income requirements to sustain the owner’s current lifestyle, if the business is being sold outright.
  • Review estate planning strategies to reduce income and estate tax liabilities.
  • Examine the financial impact of the sale on the family member, if a non-family member buys the business.
  • Develop the structure of the sale.
  • Create a timeline for your business succession plan.
  • Get started on all of the legal and financial documents.
  • Meet with the family and/or the new owner on a regular basis to ensure a smooth transition.

Selling a business to the next generation or a new owner is an emotional decision, which is at the heart of most business owner’s utter failure to create a business succession plan. The sale forces them to confront the end of their role in the business, which they likely consider their life’s work. It also requires making decisions that involve family members that may be painful to confront.

The alternative is far worse for all concerned. If there is no plan, chances are the business will not survive. Without leadership and a clear path to the future, the owner may witness the destruction of their life’s work and a squandered legacy.

Take the time to consider business succession planning. Speak with your estate planning attorney and your accountant, who will have had experience helping business owners create and execute a succession plan. Talking about such a plan with family members can often create an emotional response. Working with professionals who benefit from a lack of emotional connection to the business will help the process be less about feelings and more about business. If you would like to learn more about estate planning for business owners, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Times Reporter (March 7, 2021) “Succession planning for family businesses”

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Family Farm Requires Complex Planning

The family is at the center of most farms and agricultural businesses. Each family has its own history, values and goals. The family farm requires complex planning. A good place to start the planning process is to take the time to reflect on the family and the farm history, says Ohio County Journal in the recent article “Whole Farm Planning.”

There are lessons to be learned from all generations, both from their successes and disappointments. The underlying values and goals for the entire family and each individual member need to be articulated. They usually remain unspoken and are evident only in how family members treat each other and make business decisions. Articulating and discussing values and goals makes the planning process far more efficient and effective.

An analysis of the current state of the farm needs to be done to determine the financial, physical and personnel status of the business. Is the family farm being managed efficiently? Are there resources not being used? Is the farm profitable and are the employees contributing or creating losses? It is also wise to consider external influences, including environmental, technological, political, and governmental matters.

Five plans are needed. Once the family understands the business from the inside, it’s time to create five plans for the family: business, retirement, estate, transition and investment plans. Note that none of these five stands alone. They must work in harmony to maintain the long-term life of the farm, and one bad plan will impact the others.

Most planning in farms concerns production processes, but more is needed. A comprehensive business plan helps create an action plan for production and operation practices, as well as the financial, marketing, personnel, and risk-management. One method is to conduct a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in each of the areas mentioned in the preceding sentence. Create a realistic picture of the entire farm, where it is going and how to get there.

Retirement planning is a missing ingredient for many farm families. There needs to be a strategy in place for the owners, usually the parents, so they can retire at a reasonable point. This includes determining how much money each family member needs for retirement, and the farm’s obligation to retirees. Retirement age, housing and retirement accounts, if any, need to be considered. The goal is to have the farm run profitably by the next generation, so the parent’s retirement will not adversely impact the farm.

Transition planning looks at how the business can continue for many generations. This planning requires the family to look at its current situation, consider the future and create a plan to transfer the farm to the next generation. This includes not only transferring assets, but also transferring control. Those who are retiring in the future must hand over not just the farm, but their knowledge and experience to the next generation.

Estate planning is determining and putting down on paper how the farm assets, from land and buildings to livestock, equipment and debts owed to or by the farm, will be distributed. The complexity of an agricultural business requires the help of a skilled estate planning attorney who has experience working with farm families. The estate plan must work with the transition plan. Family members who are not involved with the farm also need to be addressed: how will they be treated fairly without putting the farm operation in jeopardy?

Investment planning for farm families usually takes the shape of land, machinery and livestock. Some off-farm investments may be wise, if the families wish to save for future education or retirement needs and achieve investment diversification. These instruments may include stocks, bonds, life insurance or retirement accounts. Farmers need to consider their personal risk tolerance, tax considerations and time horizons for their investments.

The family farm requires complex planning, but coordinating your retirement, estate, business and transition goals will give you peace of mind.

If you would like to read more about planning for farm families, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Ohio County Journal (Feb. 11, 2021) “Whole Farm Planning”

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An Irrevocable Trust may be a Good Idea

An irrevocable trust is mainly used for tax planning, says a recent article from Think Advisor titled “10 Facts to Know About Irrevocable Trusts.” Its key purpose is to take assets out of an estate, reducing the chances of having to pay estate taxes. For estate planning purposes, placing assets inside the irrevocable trust is the same as giving it to an heir. If the estate exceeds the current limit of $11.7 million, then an irrevocable trust would be a smart move. Remember the $11.7 million includes life insurance policy proceeds. Many states with estate taxes also have far lower exemptions than the federal estate tax, so high income families still have to be concerned with paying estate taxes. When it comes to taxes, an irrevocable trust may be a good idea.

However, let’s not forget that beneficiaries must pay taxes on the income they receive from an irrevocable trust, usually at ordinary income tax rates. On the plus side, trusts are not subject to gift tax, so the trust can pay out more than the current gift tax limit of $15,000 every year.

If the trust itself generates income that remains inside the trust, then the trust will have to pay income taxes on the income.

Asset protection is another benefit from an irrevocable trust. If you are sued, any assets in the irrevocable trust are beyond the reach of a legal judgment, a worthwhile strategy for people who have a greater likelihood of being sued because of their profession. However, the irrevocable trust must be created long before lawsuits are filed.

A physician who transfers a million-dollar home into the trust on the eve of a malpractice lawsuit, for instance, may be challenged with having made a fraudulent transfer to the trust.

There is a cost to an irrevocable trust’s protection. You have to give up control of the assets and have no control over the trust. Legally you could be a trustee, but that means you have control over the trust, which means you will lose all tax benefits and asset protections.

Most people name a trusted family member or business associate to serve as the trustee. Consider naming a successor trustee, in case the original trustee is unable to fulfill their duties.

If you don’t want to give someone else control of your assets, you may wish to use a revocable trust and give up some of the protections of an irrevocable trust.

Despite the name, changes can be made to an irrevocable trust by the trustee. Trust documents can designate a “trust protector,” who is empowered to make certain changes to the trust. Many states have regulations concerning changes to the administrative aspects of a trust, and a court has the power to make changes to a trust.

An irrevocable trust can buy and sell property. If a house is placed into the irrevocable trust, the house can be sold, as long as the proceeds go into the trust. The trust is responsible for paying taxes on any profits from the sale. However, you can request that the trustee use the proceeds from selling a house to buy a different house. Be sure the new house is titled correctly: owned by the trust, and not you.

Asset swaps may be used to change irrevocable trusts. Let’s say you want to buy back an asset from the trust, but don’t want that asset to go back into your estate when you die. There are tax advantages for doing this. If the trust holds an asset that has become highly appreciated, swap cash for the asset and the basis on which the asset’s capital gains is calculated gets reset to its fair value, eliminating any capital gains on a later sale of the asset.

Loss of control is part of the irrevocable trust downside. Make sure that you have enough assets to live on before putting everything into the trust. You can’t sell assets in the trust to produce personal income.

Transferring assets to an irrevocable trust helps maintain eligibility for means-tested government programs, like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. Assets and income sheltered within an irrevocable trust are not counted as personal assets for these kinds of program limits. However, Medicaid has a look-back period of five years, so the transfer of a substantial asset to an irrevocable trust must have taken place five years before applying for Medicaid.

Talk with your estate planning attorney first. Not every irrevocable trust satisfies each of these goals. It is also possible that an irrevocable trust may not fit your needs. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to create a plan that suits your needs best for tax planning, asset protection and legacy building.

If you would like to learn more about using trusts to address tax liabilities, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Think Advisor (Dec. 16, 2020) “10 Facts to Know About Irrevocable Trusts”

 

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Creating a Successful Business Exit Plan

Motley Fool’s recent article titled “What Robert Redford’s Sale of Sundance Can Teach Investors About Exit Planning” says that, in announcing the sale, Redford told the Salt Lake Tribune that he’s been thinking of selling for several years. However, he wanted to find the right partners. Broadreach and Cedar plan to upgrade the resort, add hotel rooms and build a new inn. The companies have also said that they will keep the resort sustainable and practicing measured growth, as well as also continuing to host the Sundance Film Festival. So how did he set about creating a successful business exit plan?

The 2,600-acre resort has 1,845 acres of land saved from future development through a conservation easement and protective covenants. The 84-year-old actor has had a lifelong interest in the environment and in land stewardship. Redford and his family have also arranged with Utah Open Lands to create the Redford Family Elk Meadows Preserve at the base of Mt. Timpanogos. The gift will reduce Redford’s tax liability on his estate.

Both Broadreach and Cedar have extensive hospitality experience, but neither looks to have much ski resort experience. However, they’re working with Bill Jensen, an industry legend, who recently left his role as CEO of Telluride Ski and Golf Resort in Colorado.

Creating a successful business exit plan can be difficult—in part, because people don’t like to address such unwelcome topics. Most investors don’t have the luxury of waiting years to find the right buyer, but the Redford deal does show that planning ahead may be critical to creating a mechanism that supports the vision for the property.

When selling a large investment property, you must first understand why you’re selling, and your desired end result. Of course, a return on investment is nice, but there may be other considerations, like in Redford’s case. Another key is ascertaining the updated worth of what you’re selling. Get a valuation, especially with an irreplaceable asset.

The structure of the sale is important. You will likely be liable for tax on your capital gains, so ask an attorney. If you’re also structuring your estate plans at the same time, you’ll need to know what amount you can give and what your heirs may have to pay. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney before you begin creating a business exit plan to be certain that you’re covering all the bases.

If you are interested in learning more about succession planning and other business related planning topics, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Motley Fool (Dec. 12, 2020) “What Robert Redford’s Sale of Sundance Can Teach Investors About Exit Planning”

 

Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact The Wiewel Law Firm to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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