For family business owners, estate planning is crucial to the success of the business. If you have not already drafted an estate plan that includes the succession of your business, begin today. Not only will early planning allow you to slowly implement the plan, thereby increasing its chances of success, but early planning will also ensure that your family’s main source of income is protected.
The first step is considering how you would like to transfer your business. This article discusses three common options:
1. Sell Your Business Outright
One way to transfer your family business to your children is through selling them your interest, outright. This is a good option for those who need income from the business, such as retirees. Importantly, if you decide to sell your business, you must sell it at its fair market value. If you fail to do so, you may trigger gift taxes.
2. Use a Buy-Sell Agreement
Buy-sell agreements are ideal for those business owners who have selected the person they would like to transfer the business to, but who are not quite ready to hand over the reins. In a buy-sell agreement, a business owner can specify that, after a triggering event, the designated successor will be required to purchase his or her interest in the business. Common triggering events include retirement, incapacity, and death.
3. Transfer Through a Living Trust
Ownership in a business can also be transferred through a living trust. In order to do this, the business owner must first transfer the business to the trust, then name the intended successor as successor trustee to the trust. Prior to the business owner’s death, he or she would serve as both trustee and beneficiary of the trust. This allows the owner to run the business as normal for as long as he or she chooses. It’s very important that the trust agreement contain carefully-drafted provisions concerning the operations of the business and how ownership decisions get made if the owner becomes disabled or dies. And if the business is taxed as an S corporation, more specific tax-oriented provisions are necessary.
Disclaimer Notice: It is my intention that the comments, articles, and other information provided on this website are intended to provide you with general information which may be interesting and of value to you. You should not construe any of this information as legal advice or my opinion as it may relate to your specific circumstances. Please feel free to contact me directly if you would like to discuss your own situation and your estate or business planning needs.