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Wealth Transfer & Estate Planning

Business Succession PlanningThroughout my long career, I have specialized in working with family-owned businesses in several states. I have helped hundreds of family business successfully transfer their wealth to the next generation. In the process, I worked with all family members and collaborated with their trusted advisors.

This has been a passion of mine for many years. We all have a story, and I would like to share mine.

My father was the sole owner of a long time successful business that included family members and in-laws. Many years ago just before Thanksgiving I received an urgent message from my father. He wanted to have a meeting with me. Did he want to talk about the future of the business? Did he want to talk about his estate? Where their other issues he wanted to discuss?

Unfortunately, I will never know. That meeting never happened, he passed away before I was able to return home from a distant state. This circumstance is a regret that has stayed with me my entire life. I will never know what he wanted to visit with me about. What was so urgent? I will never know why it was such a priority.

For the past 25 years, it has become my passion to assist other family businesses. I help my clients to better understand the value of business succession and estate planning. I want them to know how and why it is most important to establish open family communication to enhance the quality of family life, in hopes that they will never have to live with regret as my family did. You have the opportunity to avoid having a similar experience by changing the future directions of both your family and your business by learning to include all family members in developing open and honest communication now rather than later when it may be too late.

My work experience is consulting with business owners and family members who often have difficulty in opening up thoughtful discussions regarding business succession and estate planning issues. They struggle with how, when and to whom will the business transfer affect the next generation and realizing that not all family members may be interested in continuing the business, some would rather have the cash. However, you and your family members now have a chance to change and improve the present and future of your family relationships, and your business by reducing transfer costs, and increasing business profitability.

The tragic statistics and my extensive experience make a firm case that there are all too many business owners who have waited too long and have been too secretive about their plans for transferring their business to the next generation. Or worse yet, do not even have a plan.

Let me first state that the difficulty of the owner in transferring business wealth requires very different skills and talents than creating wealth. I state these differences in my book, website and published articles.

Did you know that without a plan the government will decide one for you? There are many important considerations when planning for the future succession of your business and addressing your estate planning issues. Do you know what these considerations are for your own family business?

For your consideration, the following are some common questions before a new business wealth transfer plan can be established.

  • Does the business owner want to maintain total control, or is owner truly willing to share control?
  • How does one determine if active family members have both the ability and interest in continuing the business?
  • Do some family members really just want to cash out?
  • Does the business have the resources to make that happen?
  • Assuming owner makes a bequest of a business interest to all heirs; how does the business compensate the inactive family heirs in terms of acquiring their interest in the business following the death of the business owner?
  • How do you determine the business value now or in the future to be fair to all heirs?
  • Have you determined the amount of liquidity needed to buy out passive family members and securing necessary funds to purchase their business interests?
  • Many owners like my own father waited too long to have important conversations with family members. Might you also be one of them?

Because of my personal experience I wanted to help business owners from making similar mistakes which includes avoiding open communication with family members, discussing difficult personal issues. Most often trusted advisors see only the business owner as their client as I did for the first 25 years of my practice and I am not proud of that reality.

It was not until I retained a third party to do a survey of my business clients that helped me change my thinking. It was my clients that recommended I needed to redefine the client to include all family members rather than only the majority business owner.

I soon determined that consulting with as many as three generations as in one case, which included 31 family members, the traditional transaction approach was not effective. In 1969, I developed the Family Business Renewal (FBR) System, a nine-step and 3 phase consulting fee-based model.

I have since authored two books. My first book, “Planning a Family & Business Legacy” defines a holistic approach to wealth transfer planning for entrepreneurs, business owners, and family members. This book describes my years of experiences consulting with successful closely held businesses. So others might benefit from these experiences.