Being the owner of a family business can complicate your personal estate planning, since no doubt much of the wealth you want to pass on to your heirs is tied up in the business. Being able to do so in a tax-advantaged way – and in a way that won’t cause a family feud – is one of the best reasons you should be talking with a Creative Business Lawyer about a business succession or exit plan as part of your own estate plan.
Even if you don’t have to pass on as much as the Waltons (Walmart), the Fords or the Murdochs, you do need to plan for what you have. Here are some things you should be considering:
How to handle not only the death of a family business owner, but also his or her possible disability, incapacity, bankruptcy or retirement. A buy-sell agreement is the usual way to prepare for these possibilities.
If you transfer family business assets to the next generation before you die, you will be able to lower estate and gift taxes.
Do your heirs want to continue to run the business without you? If so, a business succession plan needs to be put into place. If not, then an exit strategy for selling the business and divvying up the proceeds would be a necessary task.