Succession Planning for Business Owners

Business owners deal with a unique set of challenges. One of these challenges includes succession planning. A succession plan is the process of the transfer of ownership, management and interest of a business. When should a business owner have a succession plan? A succession plan is required through the survival, growth and maturity stage of a business. All business owners, partners and shareholders should have a plan in place during these business stages.

We created this infographic checklist to be used as a guideline highlighting main points to be addressed when starting to succession plan.

Needs:

  • Determine your objectives- what do you want? For you, your family and your business. (Business’ financial needs)

  • What are your shares of the business worth? (Business value)

  • What are your personal financial needs- ongoing income needs, need for capital (ex. pay off debts, capital gains, equitable estate etc.)

There are 2 sets of events that can trigger a succession plan: controllable and uncontrollable.

Controllable events

Sale: Who do you sell the business to?

  • Family member

  • Manager/Employees

  • Outside Party

  • There are advantages and disadvantages for each- it’s important to examine all channels.

Retirement: When do you want to retire?

  • What are the financial and psychological needs of the business owner?

  • Is there enough? Is there a need for capital to provide for retirement income, redeem or freeze shares?

  • Does this fit into personal/retirement plan? Check tax, timing, corporate structures, finances and family dynamics. (if applicable)

Uncontrollable Events

Divorce: A disgruntled spouse can obtain a significant interest in the business.

  • What portion of business shares are held by the spouse?

  • Will the divorced spouse consider selling their shares?

  • What if the divorced spouse continues to hold interest in the business without understanding or contributing to the business?

  • If you have other partners/shareholders- would they consider working with your divorced spouse?

Illness/Disability: If you were disabled or critically ill, would your business survive?

  • Determine your ongoing income needs for you, your spouse and family. Is there enough? If there is a shortfall, is there an insurance or savings program in place to make up for the shortfall amount?

  • Will the ownership interest be retained, liquidated or sold?

  • How will the business be affected? Does the business need capital to continue operating or hire a consultant or executive? Will debts be recalled? Does the business have a savings or insurance program in place to address this?

Death: In the case of your premature death, what would happen to your business?

  • Determine your ongoing income needs for your dependents. Is there enough? If there is a shortfall, is there an insurance or savings program in place to make up for the shortfall amount?

  • Will the ownership interest be retained, liquidated or sold by your estate? Does your will address this? Is your will consistent with your wishes? What about taxes?

  • How will the business be affected? Does the business need capital to continue operating or hire a consultant or executive? Will debts be recalled? How will this affect your employees? Does the business have a savings or insurance program in place to address this?

Execution: It’s good to go through this with but you need to get a succession plan done.  Besides having a succession plan, make sure you have an estate plan and buy-sell/shareholders’ agreement.

Because a succession plan is complex, we suggest that a business owner has a professional team to help. The team should include:

  • Financial Planner/Advisor (CFP)

  • Succession Planning Specialist

  • Insurance Specialist

  • Lawyer

  • Accountant/Tax Specialist

  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

Next steps…

  • Contact us about helping you get your succession planning in order so you can gain peace of mind that your business is taken care of.

Having a family is a blessing and can also bring a lot of worry. A lot of this worry can stem from not being prepared for a disaster like if something were to happen to you or your spouse.

We’ve put together an infographic checklist that can help you get started on this. We know this can be a difficult conversation so we’re here to help and provide guidance.

The Children

  • What will happen to the children if both parents were to pass away?

  • Who would take care of them and until what age?

  • What would happen if only parent were to pass away?

Make sure you have a will that:

  • Assigns a guardian for your children

  • If there’s an inheritance for the children, who will take care of this? Make sure you assign a trustee for the inheritance.

  • Always choose 2 qualified people for each position and communicate your intentions with them to ensure they’re up for the responsibility.

Assets and Liabilities

  • What are your assets? Create a detailed list of your assets such as: Home, Family Business Interest, Investments- Non registered, TFSA, RRSP, RDSP, RESP, Company Pension Plan, Insurance Policy, Property, Additional revenue sources, etc…

  • What are your liabilities? Create a detailed list of your liabilities such as: Mortgage, Loans (personal, student, car), Line of Credit, Credit card, Other loans (payday, store credit card, utility etc.)

  • Understand your assets-the ownership type (joint, tenants in common, sole etc.), list who are the beneficiaries are for your assets

  • Understand your liabilities- who’s on the hook for paying back the loan?

Make sure you have a will that:

  • Assigns an executor

  • Provide specific instructions for distribution of assets

  • Always choose 2 qualified people for each position and communicate your intentions with them to ensure they’re up for the responsibility. 

Ongoing Needs

What are your family’s ongoing needs?

  • List out the living expenses

  • List out income needs

  • Do you still need to pay for school?

  • Determine if you have enough (assets minus liabilities) to take care of the family.

Make sure you review your insurance.

  • Once you determine how much need there is, review your life insurance coverage to see if it meets your needs or if there’s a shortfall.

Execution: It’s good to go through this but you need to do this. Besides doing it yourself, here’s a list of the individuals that can help:

  • Financial Planner/Advisor (CFP)

  • Estate Planning Specialist

  • Insurance Specialist

  • Lawyer

  • Accountant/Tax Specialist

  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

  • Certified Executor Advisor (CEA)

There are definitely unique situations in many families and things can get complicated so please use this when you feel it’s applicable.

Next steps…

  • Contact us about helping you get your estate planning in order so you can gain peace of mind that your family is taken care of.

In 2015, CIBC conducted a poll to see how many Canadian business owners had a business transition plan. Almost half of them didn’t have one.

No one likes to think about having to hand over the business they’ve built from the ground up. But the fact of the matter is, you’ll have to do it eventually. And the last thing you want to do is decide in a hurry if you become ill or otherwise incapacitated.

Your two main choices for passing on your business are:

  • Selling it

  • Transferring ownership to a successor of your choice (this can either be a family member or a non-family member such as a key employee)

When you die, all your capital property is deemed to have been sold immediately before your death. This includes your business. This means that capital gains taxes will be charged on whatever the fair market value (FMV) of your business is considered to be at the time of your death.

The higher the FMV of your business, the higher the capital gains taxes that will be charged on it. Your successors may not be able to afford these taxes – causing them not to reap the benefits of all your hard work properly. 

The good news is that there’s a way to protect your business by doing an estate freeze.

What is an estate freeze?

An estate freeze can be an integral part of your estate planning strategy. The purpose of an estate freeze is to transfer any future increase in your business’s value (generally shares) that you own to someone else.

This is how an estate freeze works:

  1. As a business owner, you can lock in or “freeze” the value of an asset as it stands today. Your successors will still have to pay taxes on your business when they inherit it – but not as much as if you hadn’t “frozen” your business and your company had increased in FMV.

  2. You continue to maintain control of your business. As well, you can receive income from your business while it is frozen.

  3. Your successor now benefits from the business’ future growth, but they won’t have to pay for any tax increases that occur before they inherit the business.

Freezing the value of your business can help you plan your tax spending properly. Selecting to “freeze” your business can help give you peace of mind that your successors won’t have to spend a considerable part of their inheritance on excessive taxes.

What happens when you freeze your estate?

  1.  When you execute an estate freeze, the first thing you need to do is exchange your common shares for preferred shares.  Your new preferred shares will have a fixed (a.k.a. “frozen”) value equal to the company’s present fair market value. Make sure you have everything in place to properly determine the fair market value before you start changing your shares. 

  2. Your company will then issue common shares, which your successors subscribe to for a nominal price (for example, 1 dollar). Note that your successors don’t own the stock yet – subscribing to the stocks means they will take ownership of the stocks at a future date.

You must have a shareholders’ agreement ready to bring in new shareholders as part of your estate freeze. This agreement should list any terms and conditions related to the purchase, redemption, or transfer of your company’s common shares. 

  1. You can choose to receive some retirement income from your preferred shares by cashing in a fixed amount gradually. This action will reduce your preferred shares’ total value, reducing income tax liability upon death. For example:

    • Your shares are worth $10,000,000, and you need $100,000 annually. You can then redeem $100,000 worth of shares.

    • If you live for 30 more after you freeze your estate, you will have withdrawn $3,000,000 of your shares. This reduces the value of your shares to $7,000,000. 

    • At your death, your tax liability is lower than it would have been had your shares remained at the original value of $10,000,000. 

  2. You can opt to maintain voting control in your company. This can be complicated (so you should consult a licensed professional), but you can set up your estate freeze so that you still have voting control in your business with your preferred stock. 

How you can benefit from an estate freeze

  1. You get peace of mind. The most important benefit to a tax freeze is that you know that whoever your successors are will receive what they are entitled to and no have to deal with any unpredictable tax burdens. Since an estate freeze fixes the maximum amount of taxes to be paid, you can properly plan how much money to set aside for this. One option to have a life insurance policy in the amount of the taxes, with your successor as the beneficiary, so you know they will have enough money to pay for these taxes.

  2. You encourage participation in growing your business. Your chosen successors will be motivated to help the company grow, as they know they will benefit in the future.

  3. Further tax reductions. If your shares qualify for lifetime capital gains exemption, then an estate freeze also helps further reduce your successor’s tax liability.

Is an estate freeze the right strategy for you?

There are a few things you need to consider when deciding if an estate freeze is right for you or not. 

  1. Retirement funding. What kind of retirement savings, if any, do you have? If you have money put aside in RRSPs, TFSAs, or even have a pension from a previous job, then an estate freeze may be the right choice for you. If you were planning to sell your company and live off the proceeds in retirement, then it likely is not the right choice for you.

  2. Succession plans. Do you have someone in mind who would be a suitable successor? Just because you think your child, spouse, or best employee may want to take over your business doesn’t mean they do. Talk to anyone you are considering making a successor and see if they are both interested in and able to keep your business going. 

  3. Family relationships. Trying to figure out how to select a successor if you have several children may be challenging. It can cause a lot of strain amongst your children if they are all named successors if only some of them are actively interested in running the business. You may want to consider only making one child a successor and providing for your other children in different ways, such as making them a life insurance beneficiary. 

If you select to pursue an estate freeze for your business, you are helping plan for your heirs’ future and cutting down on the amount of taxes that will eventually have to be paid.  That being said – an estate freeze can be complicated, and all the steps must be performed correctly. Be sure to consult an experienced professional be taking any steps to freeze your estate.

What happens when the children grow up and they are no longer dependent on their parents? Estate planning for mature families and retirees can bring up a number of issues including family dynamics and harmony. One of the most difficult conversations is around fair or equal distribution of assets. Before you begin putting a plan in place, we always encourage open conversation and a family meeting between the parents and children to provide context behind decisions and therefore it minimizes the surprises and provides an opportunity for children to express their concerns.

We’ve put together an infographic checklist that can help you get started on this. We know this can be a difficult conversation so we’re here to help and provide guidance.

Adult Children

  • Fair vs Equal (also known as Equitable vs Equal) – like what’s considered to be fair may not necessarily be equal. ex. Should the daughter that’s been working in the family business for 10 years receive the same shares as the son who hasn’t worked in the family business at all?

  • Are the adult children responsible enough to handle the inheritance? Or would they spend it all?

Family Meeting

  • Encourage open conversation with parents and kids so context can be provided behind the decisions, there are no surprises and allows the kids to express their interests and concerns.

  • Facilitate a family meeting with both generations, this will help promote ongoing family unity after death and decrease the chances of resentment later.

Assets/Liabilities

  • What are your assets? Create a detailed list of your assets such as:

  • Home, Family Business Interest, Real Estate, Investments- Non registered, TFSA, RRSP, RDSP, RESP, Company Pension Plan, Insurance Policy, Property, Additional revenue sources, etc…

  • What are your liabilities? Create a detailed list of your liabilities such as:

  • Mortgage, Loans (personal, student, car), Line of Credit, Credit card, Other loans (payday, store credit card, utility etc.)

  • Understand your assets-the ownership type (joint, tenants in common, sole etc.), list who are the beneficiaries are for your assets

  • Understand your liabilities- are there any cosigners?

Make sure you have a will that:

  • Assigns an executor

  • Provide specific instructions for distribution of assets

  • Always choose 2 qualified people for each position and communicate your intentions with them to ensure they’re up for the responsibility.

Taxes and Probate

  • How much are probate and taxes? (Income tax earned from Jan 1 to date of death + Taxes on Non Registered Assets + Taxes on Registered Assets)

  • Are there any outstanding debts to be paid?

  • You’ve worked your whole life- how much of your hard earned money do you want to give to CRA?

  • How much money do you want to to give to your kids while you’re living?

Consider the following:

  • The use of trusts.

  • The use of an estate freeze if you wish to gift while you’re living.

  • Once you determine the amount of taxes, probate, debt, final expenses and gifts required, review your life insurance coverage to see if it meets your needs or if there’s a shortfall.

Execution:It’s good to go through this but you need to do this. Besides doing it yourself, here’s a list of the individuals that can help:

  • Financial Planner/Advisor (CFP)

  • Estate Planning Specialist

  • Insurance Specialist

  • Lawyer

  • Accountant/Tax Specialist

  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

  • Certified Executor Advisor (CEA)

There are definitely unique situations in many families and things can get complicated so please use this when you feel it’s applicable.

Next steps…

  • Contact us about helping you get your estate planning in order so you can gain peace of mind that your family is taken care of.

Blended families – where two people get married but have children from previous relationships – are becoming more common. It can be challenging enough to take care of the everyday logistics; from where to live to making sure everyone gets along. So trying to make sure you properly take of estate planning often doesn’t get taken care of.

In most families – blended or not – spouses leave everything to each other. Then, when the surviving spouse dies, the remainder is divided amongst all of the children. The problem with this setup is that there is no guarantee that the surviving spouse will not remarry and inadvertently disinherit the deceased’s children.

To make sure that everyone is treated fairly, it’s essential to consider how to handle each of the following estate planning issues for blended families:

  • Sharing the Family Home

  • Make the Most of a Registered Retirement Savings Plan

  • How to Share Non-Registered Investments and Other Assets

  • Why It’s Important to Select a Good Trustee

  • The Advantages of Life Insurance for Blended Family Estate Planning

It’s essential to have a full discussion with your spouse and children to avoid misunderstandings and reduce uncertainty. But you don’t have to do it alone! We can provide you with tailored solutions to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Sharing The Family Home

This can be challenging, depending on whether the blended family moves into a new home or into a house one spouse already owns. An option to consider is that the spouse who is moving into the home already owned by the other spouse can then purchase an interest in the family home. If this occurs, each spouse can own the home as tenants-in-common, enabling them to manage their interest in the house separately.

When it comes time for each spouse to draw up a will, provisions can be made for the surviving spouse to remain in the home until the time of their choosing (or death) before passing on the interest to their respective children.

Make the Most of a Registered Retirement Savings Plans

The best way to take advantage of the tax-free rollover from an RRSP is for each spouse to name each other the beneficiary. While it may be tempting to leave your RRSP to your estate or one or more of your children, this can have ramifications. If you leave it to your estate, it will have to go through probate and also be taxed. If you leave it an adult child, the RRSP won’t have to go through probate, but the entire RRSP will be considered taxable to the deceased in the year of death.

How to Share Non-Registered Investments and Other Assets

You can set up your estate planning so that your spouse can benefit from income-producing assets during their lifetime, without necessarily impacting the capital in those assets. Your children can then benefit from them after your spouse dies.

Each spouse can set up a spousal testamentary trust to contain their income-producing investments and assets. The surviving spouse will then receive all the income from the trust and the option to access the capital for specific needs (if specified in the trust). After the surviving spouse dies, the assets will pass to whoever was identified as the trust’s inheritors. You can make the inheritors your children. This ensures that both your spouse and your children are taken care of.

Why It’s Important to Select a Good Trustee

Trusts are a vital part of effective estate planning for blended families. This means that it’s critical to pick the right trustee – as they will control and manage the assets of the deceased’s estate as outlined in the deceased’s will. You may even want to consider multiple trustees or the services of a trust company. A strong but neutral trustee will help ensure that your wishes are followed without causing fighting amongst family members.

Advantages of Life Insurance for Blended Family Estate Planning

There are several advantages to using life insurance policies as part of your estate planning for blended families:

  • The death benefit is tax-free. You can have it paid out in cash directly or create trusts, so the capital goes to your spouse while they live and your children after your spouse dies.

  • Since you can name the beneficiary, you can control who inherits the proceeds. It’s not considered part of the will, so it cannot be included in any wills variation action (more commonly known as challenging the will).

  • If one spouse enters the marriage with significantly more wealth than the other, life insurance can help create a fair division of assets.

The Takeaway

No matter what choices you make about estate planning for your blended family, you must communicate openly and honestly with everyone in the family. This will help ensure that everyone is aware of the state of affairs and reduces misunderstandings and uncertainty about what the future may hold for everyone in the family.

Using professional advice while you are estate planning for blended families can help you create a solution that satisfies both spouses and their respective children’s objectives. Reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about your estate planning – I’m here to help!