Why Small Business Owners Need an Estate Plan

Running a small business can keep you busy, but it should not keep you from creating an estate plan. Not having a plan in place can cause problems for your business and your family after you are gone.  

While an estate plan is important for everyone, it is especially important for small business owners. Planning allows you to dictate what will happen with your business after you die or are no longer able to manage it. It can help you avoid excess taxes and debts and facilitate your business’s continued success. 

Before sitting down to start the estate planning process, you should think about your goals for the business. What do you want to have happen if you die or become incapacitated? Should the business continue with current partners or be sold to new owners? Should your family take over? Should the business be shut down? Consider your family dynamics when thinking about these questions. Once you have come up with your goals, you can create a plan to meet them. 

The basic building blocks of any estate plan include a will, power of attorney, and medical directives. The will allows you to direct who will receive your property at your death while the power of attorney and medical directives dictate who can act in your place for financial and health care purposes. 

Following are some additional things a small business owner should consider as part of an estate plan: 

  • Tax Planning. If your business is not a separate entity, you may want to consider ways to minimize estate taxes. The current estate tax exemption ($12.06 million in 2022) is so high that most estates do not pay any estate tax. However, a small business could put an estate over the limit. Also, the fact that the estate tax exemption is set to be cut in half in 2026 and that states have their own estate taxes means that tax planning is important. You may want to put your business assets into a trust or a separate business entity like a limited liability company to lower your estate tax burden. 
  • Trust. A trust can be useful not only to reduce estate taxes, but also to ensure the continued running of your business if you die or become incapacitated. Because a trust passes outside of probate, the assets in the trust can be transferred immediately to the person you want to run the business without waiting for the whole estate to go through probate. In addition, if you become incapacitated, the trustee can continue to run your business without court involvement. 
  • Buy-Sell Agreement. If you own your business with others, a buy-sell agreement can be very useful. Buy-sell agreements are used if one of the owners dies, leaves the company, or becomes incapacitated. It specifies who can buy an owner’s share of the business, under what conditions, and for what price. 
  • Life Insurance. When you own a business, life insurance takes on new importance. A life insurance policy can ensure that your family continues to receive an income in the event of your death. It can also provide funds to keep the business running and be used to fund a buy-sell agreement.

At Wenzel Bennett & Harris, we help many successful small business owners plan for the succession of their business by creating and following through on estate planning strategies. Call us for an estate planning consultation to discuss your unique situation.

If you have specific questions about your situation or would like to learn more, reach out to the team at WBH here.

Read more articles:

Take These Three Steps When Your Child Turns 18

If your child has reached the teenage years, you may already feel as though you are losing control of her life. This is legally true once your child reaches the age of 18 because then the state considers your child to be an adult with the legal right to govern his or...

Social Security Recipients to Get Another Increase in 2023

The Social Security Administration has announced that its beneficiaries will see a significant increase – totaling nearly 9 percent – in their monthly Social Security checks come January 2023. This cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is the largest boost to Social...

Claiming Social Security Benefits at Age 70

If you are about to turn 70, congratulations on reaching a big milestone.  And if you also have delayed claiming Social Security retirement benefits up till now, you are joining a select group -- only 6.5 percent of Social Security recipients put off collecting their...

You Can Just Say No: Declining to Act as an Agent Under a Power of Attorney

Acting as an agent under a power of attorney is a big responsibility and it isn’t something everyone can take on. It is possible to resign or refuse the position. There are two main types of powers of attorney – financial and medical. As the agent under a power of...

How Much Should a Trustee Be Compensated?

Serving as a trustee of a trust can be a huge responsibility, so trustees are entitled to compensation for their work. The amount of compensation depends on the type of trustee and the complexity of the trust.  Depending on the trust, a trustee’s duties can include...

When Can Someone Be Declared Legally Incompetent?

If a loved one is experiencing memory loss or suddenly making poor decisions, you may be in a situation where it becomes necessary to ask the probate court to appoint a guardian and/or a conservator for them. This is a complicated process, so we strongly encourage our...

You Can ‘Cure’ a Medicaid Penalty Period by Returning a Gift

Anyone who gifted assets within five years of applying for Medicaid may be subject to a penalty period, but that penalty can be reduced or eliminated if the assets are returned.  In order to be eligible for Medicaid, you cannot have recently transferred assets....

The Tax Consequences of Selling a House After the Death of a Spouse

If your spouse dies, you may have to decide whether or when to sell your house. There are some tax considerations that go into that decision.  The biggest concern when selling property is capital gains taxes.  A capital gain is the difference between the "basis" in...

Should You Prepare a Medicaid Application Yourself?

Navigating the Medicaid application process can be complicated, especially if you are applying for long-term care benefits. Hiring an attorney to help you through the process can be extremely helpful. Whether you should prepare and file a Medicaid application by...

Why You May Need a Trust in Addition to a Power of Attorney

While everyone should have a durable power of attorney that appoints someone to act for them if they become incapacitated, in some circumstances, it is not enough. In these cases, a revocable trust can help.  A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone...