VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Majority of business owners forego estate planning

Business owners in Florida may be leaving themselves and their families at risk due to a lack of basic estate planning. A survey by Bloomwell showed that a sizable number of entrepreneurs had not prepared one or more of the critical documents needed for an orderly succession plan. Owners are often careful to consider what can go wrong when it comes to regional markets, supply lines and the customer base, but what happens when the primary decision maker is unable to lead the company for some reason?

Succession is often thought of as a concern for the elderly entrepreneur. It could be a set of documents that direct liquidation and disbursement of business assets to heirs, or it could be complicated estate planning involving a living trust, financial power of attorney and other documents. At the least, it addresses what happens to the business in case the owner dies or is incapacitated for a length of time.

According to the survey, less than a quarter of respondents had a last will and testament in place. A majority had made no succession planning efforts at all. This can set heirs and others close to them up for negative tax implications, family disputes and business failure. If the owner were to temporarily and unexpectedly be unable to run the business, it and those depending on it could likewise suffer.

Business owners in Florida who wish to protect their hard work in case of disaster will want to consider an investment in core estate planning documents, such as the financial power of attorney, will and living trust. Depending on goals and perceived risks, these documents may be just the beginning of crafting a solid succession plan, or they could offer sufficient protection. An experienced attorney may be able to help match up estate plan strategies with the owner's financial situation and long-term goals.

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