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The confluence of business succession and estate planning

On Behalf of | Jul 13, 2020 | Business Succession Planning |

Running a business requires an intense focus on the here and now. There are customers to serve and contracts to fulfill. Ensuring these things happen often takes priority.

However, there comes a time where you need to think long-term, to the days when you are no longer personally involved in the operation. Who will take over, and what will that transition look like? The answers to those questions certainly belong in a succession plan, but can also have a profound impact on your estate planning.

Your current and future financial needs

If you own a business, it is likely not just your most valuable asset, but also your main source of income. Before moving on to something else – be it retirement or a new project – it’s vital to ensure you have the necessary funds for what is to come. Health care costs, including those tied to long-term or specialized care, should be carefully estimated and compared with your situation.

This type of financial planning can save time, money and unneeded stress down the line.

Consider the tax burden

Knowing who will take over the business and preparing them for that role is key to its survival. But how this transition occurs can affect potential tax obligations, particularly when passing ownership to family members. You may need to consider:

  • Income tax
  • Gift taxes
  • Estate taxes
  • Generation-skipping tax

Some people may want to simply give the business to heirs, for example, while others hope to sell it to help fund their future. A change in the business’ legal structure may also impact the potential tax burden. Determining your own goals will help reveal the best path forward.

Probate can slow things down

A business is not exempt from the lengthy probate process. If left unprotected, it will end up going through the same legal procedure as many of your other valuable assets. This can lead to setbacks, including inconvenient delays and unexpected costs for your business successors or loved ones. An estate plan that lacks clear business succession directions would also be vulnerable to legal challenges from others.

There are potential workarounds and solutions, including through the use of certain trusts. But establishing these complex legal tools takes foresight and planning in order to be done correctly.