Writing an estate plan is important if you own personal assets but is all the more crucial if you also own your own business. This is due to the additional business complexities that need to be addressed, including tax issues, business succession and how to handle bigger and more complex estates. Seeking professional help from an accountant, lawyer or financial advisor is an effective way of dealing with such complexities. As a starting point, ask yourself these seven key questions and, if you answer “no” to any of them, it may highlight an area that you need to take remedial action towards.
- Have you made a contingency plan for what will happen to your business if you are incapacitated or die unexpectedly?
- Have you and any co-owners of your business made a buy-sell agreement?
- If so, is the buy-sell agreement funded by life insurance?
- If you have decided that a family member will inherit your business when you die, have you provided other family members with assets of an equal value?
- Have you appointed a successor to your business?
- Are you making the most of the lifetime capital gains exemption ($835,714 in 2017) on your shares of the business, if you are a qualified small business?
- Are you taking care to minimize any possible tax liability that may be payable by your estate in the event of your death?
The process of freezing the value of your business at a particular date is an increasingly common way of protecting your estate from a large capital gains tax bill if your business increases in value. To achieve this, usually the shares in the business that have the highest growth potential are redistributed to others, often your children, meaning that they will be liable for the tax on any increase in their value in the future. In exchange, you will receive new shares allowing you to maintain control of the business with a key difference – the value of the shares is frozen so that your tax liability is lower and that of your estate when you die will also be reduced.
These 4 reasons will compel you to revisit your estate planning
For most of the people, a watertight estate planning means finding the best ways to equip themselves for contingencies, reduce the tax liability for their estate, and signing up for investment plans to ensure that their money continues to earn money for them. Undeniably, the components mentioned above underlie at the core of estate planning. However, there are a couple of crucial aspects at the periphery; which, when addressed effectively will provide a layer of protection to your estate planning. Unfortunately, most of the times they either get ignored or else are dealt rather inefficiently.
Here are the four key components that will fortify your estate planning:
Make a Will
You never know what tomorrow has in store for you. Therefore, irrespective of your age get a will done first thing first. A survey done by CIBC last year revealed that almost 50% of Canadians do not have a will. It’s a fact that shouts out widespread ignorance prevailing in the arena of estate planning concerning the significance of making a will. Another prominent rationale behind creating a will is that if the deceased one leaves no will behind him/her, the government becomes the ultimate authority to decide how the execution of the estate will take place. In such a scenario, the chances are that your assets never reaches your loved ones for whom you had created it and may go to the wrong people indeed. Creating a will is one of the most emotional decisions of your life. However, they come out best when approached pragmatically. Take some time out of your busy schedule to safeguard the interest of your people.
Reassess your estate plan when encountered with a sudden life event
Life is a zigzag graph and never a straight line. Major occurrences might just come across you path in the most unexpected ways and at the most unanticipated times. It could be marriage or divorce. It could be the second marriage. Or else, it could be a sudden financial upheaval or abrupt gains. In such a situation, never forget to reassess your estate plan and make the necessary adjustments that suit your existing situation best. Otherwise also, doing a periodic reassessment of your estate plan keeps you future-ready.
Share your estate plan
Talk about your estate plan to your loved ones. Share the details of your estate planning with your family. Agreed that managing expectations of one and all and gratifying every member’s desire is a task, which is so hard to accomplish that it never happens. Still, let your kin sneak a peek into your estate planning. You can always reason with your family about your decision and your motive behind it. Besides, they also get a chance to present their opinion to you about your verdict when you are still alive and eating dinner with them.
While planning your estate rather choose your heart than the brains
However, in your quest to create a mastermind estate plan, do not lose your focus. So many times just to save on paying taxes; you may end up taking decisions that may make you regret later. Let your heart rule when it comes to matters of succession and transfer of your estate.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a review of your estate plan.
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About Gordon Malic
Gordon Malic has been offering clients financial advice since 1987. He is a certified financial planner, investment advisor and vice president/private client division at Mackie Research Capital. He is also the founder of Charter Wealth Management Inc., which is a company focused on providing risk management and investment strategies to owners and managers of private and public companies.