Estate planning isn't usually at the top of most people's lists of ways to have fun, but it's an essential part of planning for the future and providing for your family. If you run a business with one or more partners, things can get complicated, so it's even more important that you get your affairs in order. It won't only be your loved ones who are impacted, but your partners, your employees, and the business itself.

By taking care of estate planning, you can help ensure that surviving family members receive the full value of your life's work. Work with a professional who can help you design a plan that works for you, your partner, and your company.

When it comes to your partner(s), estate planning should really start with your business plan. All partners should be clear from the beginning about what happens to a partner's share in the event of their death. It should also include provisions giving a surviving partner the ability to purchase a deceased partner's share in the business at the time of death.

One consideration is who owns the physical property. Ideally, in a business partnership where property is owned and not rented, you would share joint tenancy with a right of survivorship.

You and your partner(s) should also have a business continuation plan in place. This can be funded by a life insurance policy. Without such a plan, partners risk the dissolution of their company if they are unable to “buy out” the interests of a deceased partner’s family. Each partner should take out term life insurance, naming the other partner(s) as the beneficiary. This will help provide the funds for a partner to buy out the deceased's share of the business.

The business continuation plan should include a buy-sell agreement, which dictates how shares of a business will be transferred. There are different types of buy-sell agreements to consider, depending on the nature of your partnership. Buy-sell agreements are complex legal documents and should be drafted by attorneys specializing in business transfer law. There are also tax implications, which should be discussed with qualified tax professionals representing the business, the owners, and their estates.

If you haven’t already done so, take some time to discuss these issues with your partner(s), your attorney, and your tax professional. Put your decisions in writing and file the proper legal documents. That way, you’ll be better prepared in case you need that legal and financial protection in the future.

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC