It has taken guts, savvy and sheer determination, but you’ve done it: You’ve made your business a success. You’ve weathered the market swings, outshone the competition, and kept your customers more than satisfied. Your achievements have enabled you to take care of and protect your family. So what happens if you get hit by that proverbial bus?
According to a recent national survey, 25 percent of family business shareholders who are entering their senior years haven’t completed any estate or succession planning other than writing a will. But succession planning for a business owner involves more than just deciding how your assets will be divided after you die.
At its most basic, a succession plan is a documented road map for partners, heirs and successors to follow in the event of your death, disability or retirement. This plan can include a program for distribution of business stock and other assets, debt retirement schedules, life insurance policies, buy-sell agreements between partners and heirs, division of responsibilities among successors, and any other elements that affect your business assets. The plan may also establish the value of your business.
So where do you start? In the succession planning process, you must first clearly establish your goals and objectives, as well as your company’s current human and financial resources. How much control of the business do you want to maintain? Is there someone capable of running the business once you step down? Are there key employees who must be retained? Are there sufficient assets to pay the estate tax, equalize the estate and keep the business? How much money do you need to reach your financial goals? And don’t forget: While clarifying your goals and wishes is important, it’s not enough. You also need to communicate your vision with your family, business partners and key employees.