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A successful business succession or exit plan can accomplish three important objectives for a business owner: (i) financial security, because the business sale or transfer provides income that the owner and owner’s family will need after the owner’s exit; (ii) the right person where the business owner names his or her successor; and (iii) income-tax minimization.
Likewise, a successful estate plan achieves three important personal goals: (i) financial security for the decedent’s heirs; (ii) the decedent (not the state) chooses who receives his or her estate assets; and (iii) estate-tax minimization.
Business owners will realize that the two processes have the same goals. Therefore, they can leverage their time and money and develop their exit plans into the design of their estate plans. The Phoenix Business Journal’s recent article “Which comes first for Arizona business owners: estate planning or exit planning?” explains that considering exit and estate planning together, lets a business owner ask questions to bring their entire picture into focus. Here are some questions to consider:
- If a business owner doesn’t leave her business on the planned business exit date, how will she provide her family with the same income stream they would’ve enjoyed if she had?
- How can a business owner be certain that her business retains its previously determined value?
- Regardless of whether an owner’s exit plan involves transferring part of the business to her children, does her estate plan reflect and implement her wishes, if she doesn’t survive?
- If an owner dies before leaving the business, can she be certain that her family will still get the full value of the business?
Another goal of the exit planning process is to protect assets from creditors during an owner’s lifetime and to minimize tax consequences upon a transfer of ownership.
Because planning exits from both business and life are based on the same premises, it can be relatively easy to develop a consistent outcome. There isn’t only one correct answer to the “estate or exit planning” question. A business owner must act on both fronts, since a failure to act in either case creates ongoing issues for owners and for their businesses and families.
If you are a business owner and thinking about succession, start planning early.
Reference: Phoenix Business Journal (October 8, 2019) “Which comes first for Arizona business owners: estate planning or exit planning?”