Business Succession Planning
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Founders and Business Owners throughout the U.S.
Reston Business Succession Planning Attorneys
Preparing Your Business for the Future
According to various surveys, family businesses account for over 50% of U.S. economy, 35% of Fortune 500 companies are controlled by families, and are responsible for 60% of jobs in America. Yet, a family business survey done by the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Family Business Alliance indicates that despite succession being a critical issue for many family companies, only 15% of them have anything resembling a succession plan in place. Furthermore, businesses have a difficult time surviving through multiple generations; only 30% make it through the second generation, and just 12% make it through the third, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Nearly all of these businesses need business succession plans and the founders/owners need to integrate those plans with their estate planning, but few have done so.
Business succession planning involves much more than just deciding how your assets will be distributed after you pass away. The process contemplates how your business will thrive once you are no longer able to guide it.
Our Reston business succession planning lawyers can help you develop and implement a forward-thinking plan for success. We can evaluate your business’s current and anticipated needs before helping you create a succession plan that will protect both your interests and those of the company you have worked so hard to build. Our team at Zell Law operates at the intersection of business planning, estate planning, and tax planning, and we can leverage our unique blend of knowledge to provide you with the comprehensive guidance and representation you need.
What Should a Business Succession Plan Accomplish?
If you were to suddenly pass away or were unable to communicate, who would manage your business? Who would immediately take over and make important decisions? Would this successor have the knowledge and resources to do the job effectively? Will people you trust have a say in the future of your company? Would your family and estate be provided for? Would they retain any control or stake in the business?
Too many business owners are not able to answer these questions. You must take proactive steps to prepare for the inevitability that you will not be able to lead your company forever.
A well-designed business succession plan creates a clear roadmap for partners, shareholders, heirs, and successors to follow in the event of your death, incapacitation, or retirement. A plan will usually contain guidance on how to determine the value of your business. It must also be flexible and recognize that business, family, and health situations are dynamic. For this reason, your plan must be easy to modify and amend.
Depending on your unique situation and objectives, your business succession plan might include:
- A program for distribution and/or sale of business equity and other assets
- A plan for repaying business debts
- Purchase of life insurance policies to ensure liquidity
- Buy/sell agreements between partners or shareholders and their families
- Division of responsibilities and authority among successors
We recognize that business succession planning is a delicate matter that can sometimes be overwhelming. Our Reston business succession planning attorneys can work closely with you to efficiently understand your goals and advise what should be incorporated into your plan.
When a business owner passes away, becomes incapacitated, or retires without a clear succession plan in place, a power vacuum often results. Without indisputable successors, many players within the company may lobby to take control. This can lead to major disruptions in your business’s operations and chronic disputes over the future direction of the enterprise.
Your business succession plan should identify successors and ensure they have the tools they need to take over when the time comes. The goal should be to facilitate a smooth transition with minimal conflict or disruptions.
Part of the business succession planning process involves understanding how the business will be taxed for estate planning purposes. A deceased individual’s estate taxes generally must be paid within nine months of their passing or may be deferred with interest in certain limited cases, so it is important to know and prepare for the potential tax consequences a business can confer. Will the value of business assets cause the founder’s estate to incur significant estate taxes? Will there be sufficient liquidity to negate the tax burden? Alternatively, does the founder control enough equity in the business so that taxes can be deferred under Code Section 6166 for up to fifteen years?
Unexpected estate taxes resulting from business ownership can burden an already grieving family, especially if steps were not taken to protect their stake in the company. Our Reston business succession planning lawyers can help you take steps to mitigate the impact of estate taxes. Potential strategies include engaging in lifetime gifts and sales of equity interests in the business to your family, managers, successors, and/or trusts.
Implementing Post-Exit Strategies
While business succession planning should address scenarios where you become disabled or pass away, it should also prepare for the possibility of your retirement. You may wish to hand off control of your enterprise to a worthy successor and enjoy the fruits of what you have grown. You must carefully plan your departure and the resulting transition. You will also need to consider post-exit strategies for managing your wealth.
Our team at Zell Law is made up of experienced entrepreneurs and is invested in the long-term success of your business. We encourage you to review our many blogs and videos to learn more about how we can help you prepare post-exit strategies. Topics include building a family legacy, managing post-retirement risks, avoiding fraud, and maintaining business continuity.
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