Kevin Davidson, Founder, Chief Legal Counsel and Life & Legacy Planning Attorney at The Estate Planning Group, discusses how business owners should best tackle estate planning.
Estate planning for business owners: Where should they begin?
We really recommend an entirely different approach, and call what we do Life & Legacy Planning, rather than “estate planning.” As it turns out, most business owners and the attorneys they work with focus entirely on the business. They typically address succession as an afterthought, if at all, and they never really address the core reason the plan is so important in the first place – the business owners’ legacy. That legacy is more than just the business and the dollars and cents left behind. It is the very process those left to deal with the aftermath will go through. Will that be a smooth transition with family harmony preserved, the wealth and business protected, and everyone properly taken care of? Or will it be a legacy of turmoil, frustration, court proceedings, family destruction and wasted wealth?
A properly crafted Life & Legacy Plan for the family and for the business addresses all of the variables to ensure the best possible outcome under any circumstances, and this really should start with the owner and the owner’s immediate family.
There is a lot of misinformation out there, and it is difficult for people to know what is true and what is not. Rather than relying on generic advice such as “everyone should have a will,” our process is unique, simple and incredibly empowering. We start with a ground-zero educational approach so that clients know what they want to do and exactly why.
Before anyone begins to determine what their estate or succession plan should incorporate, they need to answer this one questions: “What would happen to my family and my business if I didn’t make it home today?” When we sit down with new clients, we answer their questions and show them how things would play out given their unique family circumstances, their holdings, and the planning they do (or do not) have in place. Once we know what that looks like, then we know what we are planning for, and we can identify the specific ways to ensure all of the details are covered. We call this a Life & Legacy Planning Session, and most people are blown away by what they learn in that meeting.
Business owners are busy, how much time should be invested in this planning?
This is a little bit difficult to say, but you’ve got to invest whatever time is needed to ensure it is done right – if you don’t, your family will pay the price. Of course we are aware that everyone is busy, and that budgets are tight, and that people don’t like to think about this kind of thing. The reality is that every one of us has an expiration date, and none of us knows when that is. We invest time and resources to plan our businesses, to plan our vacations, to plan our kids’ sports activities. We just have to recognize this is a priority – it is an obligation of a responsible business owner to take care of how the transition will take place and how her or his family will be protected in the transition.
We have also recently launched an awesome new tool to allow for remote face-to-face client meetings, or “virtual meetings”, where we can get down to all of the details we need, without the need to travel to our office. This not only provides for more flexibility for those busy clients, but extends our reach to a much broader geographic area.
Life & Legacy Planning is about ensuring your family, your wealth and your business are protected, no matter what happens, so we are excited to be able to help protect even more people.
T: 920 558 9300