Letting go of a business is not easy, says a recent article titled “Estate Planning Strategies for Business Owners Planning an Exit” from CEOWorld Magazine. Where the exit is to sell the business or retire, or the result of an unexpected event, it’s crucial to have an estate and succession plan. Rudy Beck of Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law no longer gets heavily involved in business planning as a practice, but believes that creating exit strategies for business owners are an essential part of business planning.
When should you establish a plan? It should be early, perhaps even when you become a CEO. A long-term strategy is as important as short-term decisions. Not having an estate plan could mean your interest in the business goes through probate, which is both public and time consuming. The business may never recover from the distribution of assets and the exposure. No estate plan also means missed changes to leverage discount gifting or any other tax-reduction strategies.
Consider the following when talking with your estate planning attorney:
What is the exit strategy—to sell, be acquired or merged, have a family member take over, or sell to key employees?
How much money to do you need and want at the exit? Do you want to create a stream of income or a lump sum?
Do you have a charitable giving plan to reap tax advantages and support an organization with meaning to you? Structuring a gift far in advance avoids using a reduced fair market value and have it deemed as a cash gift.
Transferring the business to family members instead of selling to outside parties creates many different planning opportunities. With family members, emotions come into play, even though this is not always productive. If some offspring is not involved in the business, will they receive a share of the business? Do you want to equalize your inheritance? Assets can be divided by the use of trusts, for example.
You’ll want to work with an estate planning attorney with experience in creating a succession plan with a tax model. This is often overlooked in succession planning and can cause significant cash flow management issues as well as lost tax benefits.
Determine if you want to make gifts using business interests or sales proceeds early on and whether these gifts will go to family members or charities. The earlier the planning occurs, the more you can maximize the income and estate tax benefits.
Clarify your own retirement needs and goals. Business owners often fail to correctly calculate the expected investment income on after-tax proceeds from the sale of the business. Will it be sustainable enough for the lifestyle you want in retirement? If not, is there a way to structure the sale of the business to achieve your financial goal?
It’s never too late to plan for an exit strategy, and the earlier the planning, the higher the likelihood of a successful transition. Creating exit strategies for business owners are best accomplished in concert with an attorney who has solid experience in business and estate planning. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer can refer you to one in our local area.
Reference: CEOWorld Magazine (Aug. 16, 2022) “Estate Planning Strategies for Business Owners Planning an Exit”