Business owners work long and hard to build wealth and establish a successful enterprise. However, protecting and preserving that wealth for future generations can be complex and challenging. In this guide, we provide key strategies to safeguard your assets and ensure your legacy continues.
Planning Your Estate
Estate planning is essential to managing and preserving your assets. Among the key components to consider is trust planning. Trust planning offers a number of benefits, including
- Seeking to ensure wealth gets distributed according to your intentions
- Managing estate tax exemptions
- Striving to protect your heirs’ inheritance from a spouse, should their marriages end in divorce
- Providing an independent trustee to help manage assets
- Better positioning transfer tax on appreciating net-worth
Use a Generation-Skipping Trust
For grandparents who envision a legacy that spans generations, a generation-skipping trust (GST) may be the ideal vehicle. Typically, any attempt to transfer estate assets directly to a generation other than your children would trigger a generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT), which is separate from and in addition to an estate tax. A properly drafted GST can cleanly and directly facilitate the transfer of money to your grandchildren, effectively skipping over your children and reducing the estate tax burden on the money.
Business owners who have acquired substantial personal assets face the possibility of having their assets targeted by creditors or claimants who want to resolve a personal or business liability. This is especially true in the case of a business owner who guarantees a debt of the business with his personal assets. Business owners should explore all legitimate strategies to protect their personal assets from business-related liability claims, including creating a limited liability company (LLC) or a trust to hold assets. Business owners should also consider purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy.
In many cases, the greatest impediment to building and preserving wealth is unnecessary taxes. Working with a tax professional who can help identify tax-saving opportunities to better position your profits and grow your wealth is critical.
Growing and Preserving Your Assets
For business owners, wealth is built through concentration in their business. But ultimately, it is preserved through diversification. To ensure your assets continue to grow and are preserved for future generations following the sale of your business, it is essential to have a well-diversified investment strategy based on your specific objectives and risk tolerance. While a diversified investment portfolio may never match the returns generated by your business, it serves the essential purpose of preserving your wealth and providing a backstop for your family’s security.
Business Succession Planning
Business succession planning involves creating a plan to transfer your business ownership and management to the next generation or a successor. The preferred option for many family businesses is to keep the business in the family. As the family and the business mature, it is vital to create definitive ownership transfer plans that include clear objectives, expectations, roles, responsibilities, and timetables. The plan must specify how the transfer of management, control, and, ultimately, ownership will occur.
For many business owners, their business is their primary asset and predictable income source. However, following the sale of your business, your balance sheet suddenly changes, requiring the careful management of objectives where income and risk are critical considerations. This can present a challenge to families as they attempt to navigate the changes to sustain a desired lifestyle and sustain their wealth across generations.
To be prepared, a comprehensive plan should be developed before the sale of the business and include these elements:
- Clearly define your financial objectives using realistic values and growth assumptions based on risk factors
- Design an investment and cash flow strategy to support the family’s lifestyle while providing a safety net
- Establish aspirational goals and generational intentions that can be achieved within the plan’s framework
Don’t Go It Alone
Such comprehensive planning typically requires the input and coordination of advisors from multiple disciplines. It takes extensive preparation – financially and emotionally – with a goal to ensure the successful transition of wealth so that it can be preserved and used in pursuing new ambitions. There is no more critical time to have a team of trusted advisors with deep experience working with business owners to safeguard your assets and ensure your legacy continues for future generations.