How Can I Successfully Transfer My Business to My Children?

Whether planning as the predecessor or the next generation, having the right processes — and partners — in place will set up the transition for success.

According to ITR Economics, out of the 77 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., an estimated 12 million are privately held business owners.

As ownership of businesses for those born between 1946-1964 is transferred to the next generation, an estimated $10 trillion worth of business assets is expected to be transferred in the coming years.

AZ Big Media’s recent article, “Passing the torch: Considerations for a successful generational business transfer,” explains the best way to have a successful business transfer.

Develop a Strategic Plan.  A successful generational business transfer takes time and planning. You should begin the planning process way in advance of the change in leadership. This can give a family time to define what the future of the company looks like. Determine what technology, human resources, and capital requirements the company needs to be successful in the short and long term. Ensure that the current and future owner’s visions are communicated. If both visions aren’t in alignment, discuss what the future for the business may look like. Balancing long-standing business practices with new changes can mean a sustainable and successful business. Begin integrating the future leader into day-to-day business operations before transitioning. Establishing a clear transfer of duties and mapping out a timeline can help with a smooth transfer process.

Get Finances in Order. Preparing business finances in advance of a generational transfer is critical. The current business owner may consider setting up a grantor-retained annuity trust for their successor. An experienced estate planning attorney can help to create this trust, which earns annual income for the beneficiary receiving the funds with minimal or no gift tax liability upon expiration. Family members may also consider transferring their business to the successor through an installment sale, which is a sale of property where at least one payment is received after the tax year in which the sale occurs. Note that an installment sale could mean a tax benefit for the seller because the overall tax liability is spread out over time rather than all at once during the business transfer. Once you decide on the preferred financial path to conduct the transfer, look at the company’s cash flow and other financial projections. List the projected expenses, liabilities and potential taxes owed, and then identify sources of liquidity to pay them.

Work With Financial Partners. If not already in place, look to assemble a team of trusted advisors, including a CPA, attorney, banker, and wealth advisor. This team can work through the financial aspects of any generational business transfer.

Transferring a business is a major family event involving potentially tough conversations and decisions. This can be a complex process. However, with proper planning, it also has the potential to be an opportunity to achieve new growth and elevate long-standing family business goals.

Reference: AZ Big Media (June 8, 2023) “Passing the torch: Considerations for a successful generational business transfer”

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