Although everyone should plan for an unexpected health crisis or death, it has added importance for those who own a business. For many owners, much of their wealth is tied up in their business and if it isn’t adequately protected, it could significantly hurt loved ones, employees, vendors, customers and others who rely on it. If you don’t want to leave a mess for others to handle, you need an appropriate plan that considers both short-term and long-term protections since a crisis can take many forms.
If you suffer a temporary crisis, such as an illness or accident, who will take over for you in your business? Someone will need the authority to handle financial matters and business decisions. These issues can be addressed in a durable power of attorney and other legal documents. An important part of this planning process is determining who should be your agent. The person should have knowledge of your business and the skills to manage it. Ideally, he/she should have a relationship with key employees and anyone else integral to your business. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to have more than one agent and split duties – for example, one person handling business matters and the other personal matters. You also need a second choice in case your first choice cannot serve as power of attorney.
In addition, business owners should plan for how they will pay for care or make up for lost income since cash may be tied up in the business. This includes disability and long-term care insurance.
Remember to also execute a health care proxy and living will. Although these do not relate to protecting your business operations, they are important to ensuring your wishes are followed with respect to your care.
Succession and estate planning are crucial for business owners. Too many business owners fail to plan for either a voluntary or involuntary exit. According to one survey, “43 percent of family-owned businesses don’t have a succession plan. Yet roughly three quarters of the enterprises plan to pass ownership to the next generation.”
Whether you envision leaving the business to someone or you expect heirs to sell it, a business adviser can help maximize the value of the company. From a legal standpoint, however, your plan will require executing appropriate documents such as a will, trust, buy-sell agreement, etc. In addition, life insurance should also be discussed.
If you are contemplating leaving your business to children, think carefully about how you want to distribute your estate. Should your children get equal shares in the business? How will you compensate those who are involved with the business vs those who aren’t? These and other questions can easily result in family disputes.
If you are a business owner, an estate planning attorney can advise you in making appropriate decisions and drafting the necessary documents to implement your plan.
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