No company can survive without an able owner or manager at the helm. In the event of a key person’s sudden death, illness, or retirement, businesses are often left scrambling to find a suitable replacement. Large corporations and small businesses alike can avoid a tumultuous transition by establishing a succession plan with a knowledgeable attorney.
If an owner or shareholder does not have a succession plan in place, his or her stake in the company is either passed on to relatives as part of the estate, absorbed by other shareholders, or a combination of the two. In family-owned businesses, this often leads to disputes between siblings and other relatives. Those more active in the day-to-day operations of the business may feel entitled to larger shares than others who are less involved.
In larger corporations, employees and clients may leave the company for fear of instability. Additionally, without prior planning, remaining shareholders may not have sufficient resources needed to purchase the shares of the exiting or deceased shareholder. This can lead to a situation where a spouse or child of a deceased shareholder attains an ownership stake in the company which can result in disputes, stalling progress and possibly leading to a loss of assets. Furthermore, if the exiting shareholder had a management duty, her replacement may not be equipped to take over her role through such a delicate transition time.
An attorney with expertise in business and estate planning can help owners and shareholders put together a plan that facilitates a smooth transition. Plans are customarily created after employees, coworkers, shareholders and family members have been consulted and goals for the future of the company have been outlined.
Succession planning can be tailor-made to fit any business model and should address the following issues:
Other arrangements can be made that would transfer the owner or executive’s interest into trusts to be paid out to family members. Assets may also be divided among employees or in other cases, it may be best to sell the company. With so many factors to consider, it is important that you consult an experienced business planning attorney who can understand all of the interests at stake and work with you to protect them.
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