Article 65-Estate Planning Series: How Can the Structure of Your Family Business Help Your Estate Plan?

Written by Wright Law on . Posted in Estate Planning

At some point, every family business owner considers what will happen when they are no longer able to run the business.  Will they be able to retire – when they are ready -- and successfully pass on the business? 

To minimize the chance of failure, family business owners must be willing to explore all their options.  This cannot be done passively.  Owners who commit to this step will open up many possibilities. 

Next, family business owners must identify the result they want.  Most parents want to be fair to their kids.  Contrary to popular belief, “fair” does not necessarily mean “equal.”  Perhaps more on this later.

Last column, I gave the example of a “land rich but cash poor” ranch where one child wants to continue the ranch but the other children have no interest.   The situation could just as easily have been that all the kids want to continue the ranch, or some number in between.

Once I know the parents desired result, I look to see if the business (i.e. ranch) is operated as a business entity such as a corporation, a limited liability company, or partnership.   The answer to this question will help us to identify options. 

For example, if the ranch operates as a limited liability company, there is a way in which one child can be given the control to run the ranch; but all of the children can share in the profits. 

This is just one of many ways in which we can use the operation of a family business to accomplish family estate planning goals.  When used in conjunction with a will or trust, remarkable estate planning solutions are available. 

Better yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Next week, I will throw a complication into my example and show you how even more options can be available.   

© 2016 Steven J Wright  

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