Entrepreneurs and business owners invest substantial time, effort, and resources into building their businesses. Naturally they want to ensure that their hard work and legacy continue, even after they are no longer around. While a Wisconsin last will and testament is an essential estate planning tool, it may not be enough to fully safeguard your business interests. Let us provide insight into the limitations of relying solely on a will to protect your business and discuss alternative strategies to secure its future.

One of the primary reasons why a will may fall short in protecting your business is its inability to address the complexities of business succession. Unlike personal assets, a business is an ongoing entity with intricate dynamics that extend beyond the distribution of tangible property. There are multiple factors that contribute to the limitations of using a will for business succession including, but not limited to, the following:

Probate Delays. Similar to personal assets, a business held solely in a will may be subject to probate, resulting in time-consuming delays and potentially hampering its operations and continuity.

Business Valuation. Determining the value of your business is crucial for equitable distribution among heirs. However, this process can be complex and contentious, potentially leading to disputes among beneficiaries.

Ensuring Competent Management. If your business relies heavily on your expertise and vision, a will alone may not guarantee that competent management will take over and maintain the company’s success.

To overcome the limitations of a last will and testament in business succession, business owners often turn to buy-sell agreements. A buy-sell agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines what happens to a business in the event of specific triggers, such as the owner’s death or incapacitation. Some key advantages of buy-sell agreements include:

Continuity. A buy-sell agreement ensures a smooth transition of ownership and management, preventing any disruptions to the operation of the business.

Fair Valuation. The agreement can pre-establish the value of the business, eliminating valuation disputes and providing a fair and accurate assessment of its worth.

Funding Mechanisms. Buy-sell agreements can include funding mechanisms, such as life insurance policies or installment payments, to ensure that the surviving family members or partners receive fair compensation for their interest in the business.

In addition to buy-sell agreements, business owners can utilize trusts specifically designed to protect business assets. For example, irrevocable trusts can shield the business from creditors and potential legal claims, providing added security and preserving its assets for the intended beneficiaries. This is just one of the strategies your experienced Wisconsin estate planning attorney will discuss with you to ensure the comprehensive protection of your business.  Remember, proactive planning and careful consideration of all available options are essential to secure your business’s legacy and the prosperity of your loved ones.

We know this blog may raise more questions than it answers. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.