What Is Family Business Succession Planning? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Many family-owned businesses have had to scramble to maintain ownership, when owners or heirs were struck by COVID-19. Lacking a succession plan may have led to disastrous results, or at best, less than optimal corporate structures and large tax bills. This difficult lesson is a wake-up call, says the article “Succession Planning for the Family-Owned Business—Keepin’ it ‘All in the Family’” from Bloomberg Tax.

Another factor putting family-owned businesses at risk is divorce. Contemplating the best way to transfer ownership to the next generation requires a candid examination of family dynamics and acknowledgment of outsiders (i.e., in-laws) and the possibility of divorce.

Before documents can be created, a number of issues need to be discussed:

Transfer timing. When will the ownership of the business transfer to the next generation? There are some who use life-events as prompts: births, marriages and/or the death of the owners.

How will the transfer take place? Corporate structures and estate planning tools provide many options limited only by the tax liabilities and wishes of the family. Be wary, since each decision for the structure may have unintended consequences. Short and long-term strategic planning is needed.

To whom will the business be transferred? Who will receive an ownership interest and what will be the rights of ownership? Will there be different levels of ownership, and will those levels depend upon the level of activity in the business? Will percentages be used, or shares, or another form?

In drafting a succession plan, it is wise to assume that the future owners will either marry or divorce—perhaps multiple times. The succession plan should address these issues to prevent an ex-spouse from becoming a shareholder, whose interest in the business needs to be bought out.

The operating agreement/partnership agreement should require all future owners to enter into a prenuptial agreement before marriage specifically excluding their interest in the family business from being distributed, valued, or deemed marital property subject to distribution, if there is a divorce.

An owner may even exact a penalty for a subsequent owner who fails to enter into a prenup prior to a marriage. The same corporate document should specifically bar an owner’s spouse from receiving an ownership interest under any circumstance.

A prenup is intended to remove the future value of the owner’s interest from the marital asset pool. This typically requires the owner to buy-out the future spouse’s legal claim to future value. This could be a costly issue, since the value of the future ownership interest cannot be predicted at the time of the marriage.

Many different strategies can be used to develop a succession plan that ideally works alongside the business owner’s estate plan. These are used to ensure that the business remains in the family and the family interests are protected.

Reference: Bloomberg Tax (April 5,2021) “Succession Planning for the Family-Owned Business—Keepin’ it ‘All in the Family’”

 

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How Blended Families Can Address Finances and Inheritance Issues – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The holiday season is a popular time for people to get engaged, including people who have been married before. If that’s you, understand that blending families means you’ll need to deal with inheritance and finance issues, says U.S. News & World Report’s article “6 Financial Considerations for Remarriage.” The best time to have these conversations is before you walk down the aisle, not afterwards.

Look at your budget and talk about how things will work. That includes day-to-day expenses, monthly expenses and large purchases, like houses, vacations, and cars. Talk about a game plan for going forward. Will you merge your credit card accounts or bank accounts? What about investment accounts?

Financial obligations outside of the marriage. Two things to check before you wed: your divorce papers and the state’s laws. Does anything change regarding your spousal support (alimony) or child support, if you remarry? It’s unlikely that you would lose child support, but the court may determine it can be reduced. The person who is paying child support or alimony also needs to be transparent about their financial obligations.

Review insurance and beneficiaries. One of the biggest mistakes people make, is failing to update beneficiaries on numerous accounts. If your divorce papers do not require life insurance to be left for your spouse on behalf of your children (and some do), then you probably want to make your new spouse the beneficiary of life insurance policies. Investment accounts, bank account, and any other assets where a beneficiary can be named should be reviewed and updated. It’s a simple task, but overlooking it creates all kinds of havoc and frustration for survivors.

What will remarriage do to college financing options? A second marriage may increase a parent’s income for college purposes and make children ineligible for college loans or needs-based scholarships. Even if the newly married couple has not blended their finances, FAFSA looks at total household income. Talk about how each member of the couple plans on managing college expenses.

A new estate plan should be addressed, even before the wedding takes place. Remember, an estate plan is for more than distributing assets. It includes planning for incapacity, including Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR), powers of attorney for finances and for health care, designations of guardianship or consent to adoption, various trusts and if needed, Special Needs planning.

Create a plan for inheritance. If either spouse has children from a prior marriage, an estate plan is critical to protect the children’s inheritance. If one spouse dies and the surviving spouse inherits everything, there is no legal requirement for the surviving spouse to pass any of the deceased’s assets to their children. Even if you are in mid-life and death seems far away, you need to take care of this.

Speak with an estate planning attorney who can help you create the necessary documents. You should also talk with your children, at the age appropriate level, about your plans, so they understand that they are being planned for and will be taken care of in the new family.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Nov. 18, 2019) “6 Financial Considerations for Remarriage”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What’s the Best Way to Gift an Interest in My Business? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A couple who owned a small family business was thinking about giving interests in the business to their married son over time. However, they were worried about the “what if” scenario of a possible divorce in his future. If their son divorced, they didn’t want to be in business with his ex-wife.

Forbes’s recent article, “What Family Businesses Need To Know About Gifting Business Interests,” explains that prior to the couple transferring some of their business to their son, they asked their attorney to draft a shareholder agreement with restrictions on to who the stock can be transferred in the future. The parents’ goal was to keep the stock from being transferred as part of a potential divorce. In our scenario, the parents want their daughter-in-law to sign a consent agreeing that she would be bound by the shareholder agreement and that the stock would never be transferred to her. If their son and his wife later divorced, she’d be bound by the agreement and the stock would remain with the son.

While the parents’ plan sounds like a great idea, it is in theory. However, the reality is that there’s a good chance of a far different and less desirable result. Let’s examine three ways this type of agreement could become a big headache.

  • Creating a big, icky issue. Ask yourself if you really want to ask your daughter-in-law (or son-in-law) to sign this? This may open a big can of worms in your family. If she didn’t think there was any value in the business, she may feel differently when she reads the agreement. Thanksgiving dinner may end up in a food fight!
  • Is it legal? Ask your attorney to analyze how effective the agreement would be under the laws that apply to the agreement and in the state where the couple may divorce.
  • How much protection does it offer? In many states, the agreement wouldn’t remove the stock as a marital asset. Even if the stock stays on the husband’s side of the balance sheet, its value would still be subject to division, and the wife could get other marital assets to balance things out.

An alternative might be the use of a marital agreement, like a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement. The family business may be better protected with the son having an agreement that states that the stock is outside the marital estate and not subject to division in the event of divorce. Of course, the parents can’t force their son to enter into the agreement, but they can stop the gifting spigot if he doesn’t.

Speak with your attorney and look at all your options to find the strategies that will work best for your business and your family.

Reference: Forbes (October 9, 2019) “What Family Businesses Need To Know About Gifting Business Interests”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys