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Passing the Family Business to the Next Generation

Passing the Family Business to the Next Generation

Planning to hand off significant assets, especially a business, to the next generation is a financial decision. However, it is one that also requires the careful handling of a family’s internal dynamics.

Creating a succession plan for a family business needs awareness of more than just spreadsheets, says the article “How to plan for a smooth transition of your family business” from North Bay Business Journal. Family owned vineyards or farms face challenges, when one or two children have chosen to work in the business. Sometimes there is preferential treatment, either with economics or voting and control of the business.

Estate planning attorneys can serve as sounding boards in creating a balance between what will be best for the business and what will work to maintain peace and cohesiveness in the family. With experience in guiding families through this process, they are able to provide an unbiased view and can be helpful, when hard decisions need to be made.

Another part of the plan is having the family and the estate planning attorney meet with other professionals, such as a wealth manager and CPAs. This is especially helpful when the owners are reluctant to talk about what is happening in the business with their children, before clarifying their own thoughts about the business. 

Taking time to step back and gain some perspective before holding a family meeting where decisions are made, will give the owners more clarity.

A succession plan often starts a business plan. Once there is a plan for the future of the business, it’s an easier transition to financial and estate planning. Taking these steps, can help the business’ success. Any business will run better when the numbers and projections for future growth are in place. Banks and other lenders look favorably on a company that has its financial reports in place.

This also permits tax planning to be done properly. In some cases, transferring a business or other asset, while the owner is still living, can be beneficial in the long run, even with today’s higher federal estate tax exemptions.

Lifetime gifts can be a way to reduce estate taxes because making a gift today before there has been substantial appreciation, is one way to leverage the gift and estate tax exemption. Let’s say an asset is valued at $1 million, but at the time of your death it may be valued at $8 million. By giving it today, you can use less of your lifetime exemption.

To transfer the business to one or more children and give them an opportunity to succeed on their own, through their own efforts, consider bringing them in as a responsible manager with some ownership.

A gradual approach in transferring control of a business is a wise move, say experts. One family put their real estate holdings into an entity that gave some ownership interests to each of their children, but one of them was appointed as the manager.

Reference: North Bay Business Journal (April 9, 2019) “How to plan for a smooth transition of your family business”

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