For business owners, an effective estate plan addresses a number of concerns over and above the desire to care for surviving family members. Control over who will run the business, conservation of the owner’s assets in the face of legal expenses and taxes, and the liquidity to pay estate taxes due shortly after death are just some of the most pressing issues.
For the sake of their heirs, business owners should plan for the orderly transfer of their wealth — including their business interests — well in advance.
Prepare for Estate Taxes:
Depending on the value of business and personal assets at the time of death, the law may require that estate taxes be paid on the value of the business. If there is not enough cash on hand, heirs may have no choice but to sell the business prematurely or for less than the real value.
Some business owners use an irrevocable life insurance trust to purchase policies on their life, collect any death benefits, and distribute the money according to prearranged terms. The proceeds can be used to pay any estate taxes due, so heirs are not forced to sell a business, property, or other assets they would prefer to keep in the family. The use of these approaches can involve a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional before implementing such strategies.
Plan for Successful Succession:
A buy-sell agreement may be forged between the owners or shareholders of a business, outlining the terms for a buyout in the event of death or disability. It usually includes a pre-negotiated sale price, but can also explicitly request individuals to sell their interests to others or indicate who should manage the business operations.
Payments from a life insurance trust may also be used to buy assets from an estate, such as transferring ownership of a family business according to a pre-existing buy-sell agreement.
Your business is not just your livelihood. It’s likely to be the largest portion of your estate and thus the core of the legacy and security you intend to leave behind for your family. A solid estate plan can help keep your business intact through the most difficult transition of all.
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