Austin Texas Estate Planning Blog


What Should I Do Now for a Successful Business Succession?

July 13, 2023 • | Law Office of Zachary D Kamykowski, PLLC
If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s life’s uncertainty. While we all hope for the best, as a business owner, it’s important to be prepared for anything. Having an answer to life’s curveballs can help you stay in business, ensure that your legacy lives on, and that your business partners and family are taken care of.

Family businesses hold an integral role in the diverse landscape of American enterprise, contributing to a staggering 64% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as reported by the Conway Center for Family Business. It's an illuminating statistic that underlines the essential contribution of these businesses to our economy. Yet, despite their significance, it's alarming to note that 57% of these businesses have not formalized a succession plan. Here are some guidelines for a successful business succession.

As revealed in Twin Cities Business's insightful article "Don't Wait for the Future," many businesses are traditionally rooted in high personal trust and loyalty. It's not uncommon to find established businesses that continue to operate on a simple handshake agreement. While such informal arrangements might be a testament to the strong relationships between partners, they are insufficient safeguards against potential disagreements and damaged relationships that can jeopardize the business's longevity and financial health.

When we consider the potential risks that lack of formalized planning presents, two prominent factors are tax implications and business continuity.

  1. Tax Planning: The current legal framework allows for an estate tax exemption scheduled for sunset in 2025. This temporary provision presents a unique window for proactive business owners to leverage the exemption to protect their wealth and ensure a smooth transition of the business's reins. However, this window is rapidly closing. Failing to capitalize on this exemption can lead to substantial tax bills that could have been significantly reduced or eliminated with appropriate and timely estate planning.
  2. Business Continuity: Businesses inherently carry a level of uncertainty, particularly during the transition phase following an owner's incapacitation or death. Without a clearly delineated succession plan, these emotionally charged times can disrupt business and cause discord among surviving partners, employees, or family members. A formal succession plan, in contrast, serves as a roadmap that can guide operations and decision-making, ensuring that the business continues functioning efficiently.

These benefits are compelling reasons to venture into the often uncomfortable territory of succession planning. However, the process is often delayed or overlooked due to its potentially daunting nature and the misconception that initiating such conversations may signify disloyalty or indicate a lack of trust among partners.

Addressing these concerns head-on is the first step toward a successful succession plan. Despite being challenging initially, open discussions around succession planning among all involved parties can reinforce business partnerships. Such conversations provide a platform to voice concerns, clarify individual visions for the business's future, and understand the implications of unexpected events. Doing so allows the partners to focus on their core business operations without being hampered by the distraction of unspoken concerns.

The role of an experienced attorney in these discussions is invaluable. They can bring structure and legal insight to these conversations, guiding the partners through the labyrinth of formalizing contingency plans that adequately reflect their shared vision and protect their collective interests.

As the business grows, you may need to revisit and revise the succession plan. It's a dynamic document, a living testament to the business's evolution and the changing aspirations of its partners.

Moreover, a well-crafted succession plan is not solely about business continuity. It's an essential aspect of personal estate planning, a means to protect personal wealth from significant tax implications, and a mechanism to secure the future of families who rely on the business for their livelihood.

In conclusion, business succession planning is a non-negotiable aspect of a successful business. The process may present challenges, but with the proper guidance from an experienced Austin Estate Planning Attorney, and a commitment to open and respectful dialogue, the resulting stability, clarity, and peace of mind can prove invaluable for the business's long-term success. The journey towards a robust succession plan starts today – because the future of your enterprise shouldn't wait. Book a call, let's talk.

Reference:  Twin Cities Business (April 10, 2023) “Don’t Wait for the Future”

Law Office of Zachary D Kamykowski, PLLC

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Austin, TX 78738

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