While every adult needs an estate plan, the need is even greater if you own a business. Why? Because business owners’ assets are more complex than those of the average person and protecting them is a matter of maintaining one’s livelihood. This holds true for both small start-ups and large, established enterprises. No matter the revenue you generate or the number of people you employ, you want to make sure your interests are protecting and all that you have worked to cultivate is looked after both in the present moment, and long after you are gone.
Instituting a business estate plan is a multi-step endeavor that involves a detailed conversation with an attorney and financial advisor. Before you schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning firm, it helps to review the required steps. After all, going in with a clear sense of your needs ensures an expeditious process and we all know if there’s one thing business leaders need, it’s expedience.
Essential Estate Planning Steps for Businesses Big and Small
1. Start Now
As a business owner, you have a lot to worry about. It makes sense that between marketing your product, hiring staff, invoicing customers, and plotting strategic growth, estate planning would fall off your radar and yet it is a task you should not put off a day longer. After all, should you pass away prematurely or become disabled and have no plan in place, all that you have worked so hard to build could quickly fall apart.
2. Execute a Will and Revocable Living Trust
It sounds basic but many people neglect to draft a will until they are of advanced age or struggling with a chronic health condition. Doing so leaves their will vulnerable to legal challenges based on claims of incompetency or undue outside influence and risks seeing assets end up in the wrong hands.
In addition to a will, business leaders will also want to consider a revocable living trust. This legal tool ensures that your assets don’t need to pass through probate before being distributed to beneficiaries, saving both time and money in the case of complex estates. What is more, a trust allows you to control how and when beneficiaries receive their inheritance—an important feature for business owners with minor children.
3. Draft a Succession Plan
Ensuring your business and associated assets end up in the right hands after you pass means little if unaccompanied by a plan. A business succession plan charts a path to continued growth not only by determining who may be best suited to take the reins after you retire or die, but by designing, hiring, onboarding, and upskilling protocols to ensure that when the next generation arrives, the transition is seamless.
4. Work Out a Tax Strategy
Tax legislation changes about as frequently as fashion trends so having a strategy to ensure your business does not suffer undue burden is an active task requiring regular maintenance. An experienced estate planning attorney working in conversation with your financial advisor can instruct you on how both to minimize your year-to-year payments and reduce the estate or inheritance tax your business may face when passed onto heirs.
5. Keep Your Plan Up-To-Date
This article has hardly addressed all of the estate planning needs of businesses big and small and yet one item that mustn’t be left off the list is the importance of continued maintenance. Just as your life evolves with age, so too does your business and, inevitably, with this evolution comes changing priorities and new understanding. If your estate plan does not keep pace, you risk allowing a younger, less experienced person take some of the most important personal and professional decisions of your life.
To learn more about business estate planning or to get started on implementing a plan of your own, do not hesitate to reach out to the Deliberato Law Center either by calling our office at (216) 341-3413 or writing us using the contact form on our website.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at Deliberato Law Center