Don’t Bet the Family Business on No Estate Plan

Don’t Bet the Family Business on No Estate Plan

Being the owner of a family business can complicate your personal estate planning, since no doubt much of the wealth you want to pass on to your heirs is tied up in the business.  Being able to do so in a tax-advantaged way – and in a way that won’t cause a family feud – is one of the best reasons you should be talking with a lawyer about a business succession or exit plan as part of your own estate plan.

Even if you don’t have to pass on as much as the Waltons (Walmart), the Fords or the Murdochs, you do need to plan for what you have.  Here are some things you should be considering:

  • How to handle not only the death of a family business owner, but also his or her possible disability, incapacity, bankruptcy or retirement.  The owner needs to not only think of the impact on the business for any of these events or circumstances but also on his/her family, both now and in the future.
  • Do your heirs want to continue to run the business without you?  If so, a business succession plan needs to be put into place.   If you transfer family business assets to the next generation before you die, you will be able to lower estate and gift taxes.  If not, then an exit strategy for selling the business and divvying up the proceeds would be a necessary task.

Remember not having a plan is a plan… just a really bad one.  Not taking steps to provide instruction and cover a variety of circumstances will in the best case result in unnecessary expense for the business you built and your loved ones, and in the worst case mean the end of your business.

If you’re a small business owner, call us today at 720-248-7621 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to ensure that your estate plan takes into account your business needs.

Estate Planning as a Rite of Passage

Why Every 18-year-old “Kid” Should Have An Estate Plan

We are fairly certain the last thing your 18-year-old kid is thinking about is an estate plan.  And you are probably not thinking about one for them either, but you should be.  Here’s why:  once your child turns 18, in Colorado they have reached the age of majority.

What exactly does this mean?   Individuals that are age 18 or older are treated as adults, with some exceptions, such as drinking alcoholic beverages, renting cars, and purchasing a hotel room. (More about acts allowed in Colorado upon age of majority).When an individual reaches the age of majority his or her parents are no longer liable for their child’s actions.   And transversely,  as parents you can no longer legally make many decisions for them, including decision about their medical treatment or even being entitled to know about their medical records.

Can you imagine your child needing medical treatment in some college town and you are not able to help in any way without a court saying you can?  It can, and does, happen.

What you need to do is have your adult child fill out a Medical Power of Attorney (also known as a health care proxy) with a HIPAA release (HIPAA refers to the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, the law that makes health records private for those over the age of 18).  On the form, your child can designate you as their agent, allowing you to have access to medical records and to make health care decisions for them in case they cannot do so themselves.  Your child can also execute a Declaration of Medical and Surgical Treatment (also known as a living will) that specifies their preferences surrounding life support, pain management and other medical treatment preferences.

While you’re at it, have your child complete a financial Durable Power of Attorney  as well, which will give you the right to oversee their finances.  This document can be drafted to be effective upon signing or only in case of your child’s incapacity.

Hopefully you will never need to use these three documents, but having these necessary protections in place will give you both peace of mind.

Be one of the first two families to mention this post  and I’ll create these three legal documents for your child before going off to college as my gift to you plus waive the regular Family Wealth Planning Session fee (a $750 value).   Call today:  720-248-7621.

Additionally, share this great guide, So You’re 18 Now – A Survival Guide for Young Adults, put together by the Colorado Bar Association with your child.

How to Ensure Your Life Insurance Benefits Go To Your Heir

 

Recently, 11 major life insurance companies agreed to pay $763 million to the heirs of deceased policyholders after it was discovered the companies continued billing customers for their policies even after they were dead.

This agreement is the second in the last two years to be reached with insurance companies, which had previously agreed to provide restitution and do a much better job of locating beneficiaries after being sued by the attorneys general of several states for not paying out benefits to the heirs of deceased policyholders.

This pattern seems to indicate that we all need to do a better job to ensure that the life insurance benefits we pay out come back to our heirs, or named beneficiaries, in the way we intend.  Here are 5 tips for making sure those you intended benefit from your life insurance:

Be truthful in your application.  If you have not been completely forthcoming about a major medical issue or your health habits (smoking, drinking, etc.) in your application for a life insurance policy, that policy could be declared null and void and your heirs or beneficiaries would be out of luck.

Don’t let it lapse.  If your family is counting on life insurance benefits to pay the bills if something should happen to you, and you have not been paying the bills for the policy, your family is left unprotected.  If you are having trouble paying a more expensive whole life policy, consider exploring a less expensive term policy.

Have a beneficiary bench.  Having a beneficiary on your policy who dies before you do is a recipe for disaster – and it happens much more than you think.  Designate a secondary as well as a final beneficiary for your life insurance benefits, and update them as the need arises. We recommend naming your trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance benefits, rather than naming an individual or even series of individuals.

Play it safe.  If you die because you engaged in risky behavior (not covered by the policy) – or you take your own life – your heirs or beneficiaries will likely receive back only what you paid in premiums, and not the full value of your policy.

Talk about it.  The primary reason that a vast majority of potential beneficiaries never see a dime in life insurance benefits is because policies were lost or misplaced and family members were never told of their existence in the first place.  So if you have a life insurance policy, let your family know.  And ask them if they have one, too.

If you do planning with our firm, we prepare a Family Wealth Inventory (and keep it updated annually) for all of our clients.  Give us a call at 720-248-7621 if you’d like us to help you with this too and ensure your family never loses track of any of your assets after you are gone.