Family Business Succession Planning
January 1, 20XX
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Transferring Your Family Business
As a business owner, you're going to have to decide when will be the right time to step out of the family business and how you'll do it. There are many estate planning tools you can use to transfer your business. Selecting the right one will depend on whether you plan to retire from the business or keep it until you die. Perhaps you have children or other family members who wish to continue the business after your death. Obviously, you'll want to transfer your business to your successors at its full value. However, with income, gift, and potential estate taxes, it takes careful planning to prevent some (or all) of the business assets from being sold to pay them, perhaps leaving little for your beneficiaries. Therefore, business succession planning must include ways not only to ensure the continuity of your business, but also to do so with the smallest possible tax consequences. Some of the more common strategies for minimizing taxes are explained briefly in the following sections. Remember, none are without drawbacks. You'll want to consult a tax professional as well as your estate planning attorney to explore all strategies. This allows your beneficiaries more time to raise sufficient funds or obtain more favorable interest rates. The business must exceed 35 percent of your gross estate and must meet other requirements to qualify.
Selling your business interest outright
When you sell your business interest to a family member or someone else, you receive cash (or assets you can convert to cash) that can be used to maintain your lifestyle or pay your estate taxes. You choose when to sell--now, at your retirement, at your death, or anytime in between. As long as the sale is for the full fair market value (FMV) of the business, it is not subject to gift tax or estate tax. But if the sale occurs before your death, it may be subject to capital gains tax.
Transferring your business interest with a buy-sell agreement A buy-sell agreement is a legal contract that prearranges the sale of your business interest between you and a willing buyer. A buy-sell agreement lets you keep control of your interest until the occurrence of an event that the agreement specifies, such as your retirement, disability, or death. Other events like divorce can also be included as triggering events under a buy-sell agreement. When the triggering event occurs, the buyer is obligated to buy your interest from you or your estate at the FMV. The buyer can be a person, a group (such as co-owners), or the business itself. Price and sale terms are prearranged, which eliminates the need for a fire sale if you become ill or when you die. Remember, you are bound under a buy-sell agreement: You can't sell or give your business to anyone except the buyer named in the agreement without the buyer's consent. This could restrict your ability to reduce the size of your estate through lifetime gifts of your business interest, unless you carefully coordinate your estate planning goals with the terms of your buy-sell agreement. There are many estate planning tools you can use to transfer your business. Selecting the right one will depend on whether you plan to retire from the business or keep it until you die.
You and your estate may get some relief under the Internal Revenue Code If you are prepared to begin transferring some of your business interest to your beneficiaries, a systematic gifting program can help accomplish this while minimizing the gift tax liability that might otherwise be incurred. This is done by utilizing your ability to gift up to $12,000 per year per recipient without incurring gift tax. By transferring portions of your business in this manner, over time you may manage to transfer a significant portion of your business free from gift tax. Clearly, the disadvantage of relying solely on this method of transferring your...