Cleveland, Ohio Attorney

What is Business Succession?

Whether you’re planning for retirement or the life of your business after your death, it’s imperative to develop a business succession plan to sooner rather than later.   There is no “one plan fits all” when it comes to developing a succession plan for your business.  And given that the economy is constantly changing, it isn’t surprising small business owners focus their energies on business survival, future growth, and even remaining active in business after retirement.

Business succession is about three things (1) Estate planning; (2) Retirement; and (3) Risk Management.

Estate Planning

Your estate plan should be incorporated into your business succession plan.  What will happen to your company assets after you die?  Who will run your business?  If you want to provide for your family using your business assets, you should consider at the very least having a last will and testament.  Carefully drafting your will allows you to select desired beneficiaries, elect an executor, and transfer your assets through probate.  Your family will be going through a difficult time.  Setting up a last will and testament in advance helps your family during that difficult time.


When thinking about retirement, it’s important to consider your options when selling your business.  Will you sell with a lump sum, installments, mix, employee buy-out, or merger?  There are numerous options when planning for your retirement and taking advantage of the business you built.  Thus, business succession is about planning for your exit strategy.  To learn more about your options, visit this article.

Risk Management

Business succession is about limiting your risk.  If you have partners within your company, you should be aware of the risks involved.  For example, if your partner gets divorced, their spouse is entitled to the partner’s share in the business through the divorce proceedings.  If your partner dies, you can now be partners with their spouse or estate.  One option to avoid this potential risk is to create a buy-sell agreement through a cross purchase agreement or entity purchase agreement.

Business succession is an important idea that every business owner should consider.  Contact your Cleveland, Ohio business succession and estate planning attorney for more information on how to set up your plan.  You may also consider contacting Cleveland, Ohio law firm Baron Law LLC at 216-573-3723.


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Business Succession Options

Cleveland, Ohio business succession attorney Dan Baron offers the following on estate planning and business succession:

You’ve spent a lifetime building your business and now its time for retirement.  Where do you start?  When developing your business succession plan, it’s important to consider all of your options.   Selling and/or transferring your business will have significant implications on your estate plan, taxes, family, and financial well-being.  Here are a few suggested options with a discussion on these implications.


Regardless of whether you sell to your family, third-party, or friend, you will need a complete evaluation of your business.  Many business owners overvalue their business because they’re place an emotional value on the blood, sweat, and tears they’ve spent growing their business over the years.  It’s imperative to get a third-party evaluation on your business to better understand what your company is worth, and who is willing to buy.

When evaluating, your business attorney and/or financial advisor will consider several approaches to your company’s worth:

  • Market Approach – Revenue growth, profitability, company size, liquidity
  • Income Approach –Revenue growth, profitability, cost of capital, leverage; Working capital efficiency; Low capital expenditures
  • Asset Approach –Asset intensive, leverage, scarcity, time

Now that you have a value, how should you sell your business in an effective way to provide a secure retirement while considering tax consequences? Let’s consider the following options.

Lump Sum

Selling your business for millions of dollars is every business owners dream.  However, this may not be a viable option for several reasons.  First, if selling to employees or family, these buyers may not have enough capital or credit to purchase your business’ worth.  Next, selling your business outright will result in a large capital gain and tax consequence compared to taking payments over timer.  It could also place you in a different tax bracket entirely.   Thus, when considering selling for a lump sum, you should consult with your estate planning and business attorney to consider all the tax consequences and other planning tools available

Lump Sum + Installments

If a lump sum will create an unfavorable tax consequence, then you can structure the deal so that you take a smaller lump sum up-front and payments over time.  Your business attorney will suggest taking a lump sum that is just under the threshold of a tax bracket.

Installments Only

If selling to family or employees, installment payments are an affordable way to sell your business. However, many times the business owner will still be involved when selling to employees and moreover, the business needs to be sustainable in order to receive the payments over time.  In other words, you can’t get paid if they business fails over time.

Self – Cancelling Installment Note

Here the business owner gives his employees the business in exchange for a promissory note – usually purchased by employees.  The promissory note is usually coupled with a personal guarantee from the employees.  Payments are then made over time but cease when the business owner passes away.  This option reduces capital gains and estate taxes.  However, the payments made will be set at a premium set by the IRS mortality tables to account for the business owners lifetime.  If the business owner lives past this time, the payments cease.  If the owner dies before this timeline, the payments cease.

There are several other options business owners have when selling their business.  For more information, or to request a free consultation with a Cleveland, Ohio business and estate planning attorney, contact Baron Law LLC today at 216-573-3723.

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Revocable Living Trusts

Cleveland Estate Planning and Trust Attorney Dan A. Baron Offers the Following on Revocable Living Trusts:

Revocable living trusts are used to control assets left to beneficiaries after the death of the creator.  Unlike testamentary trusts which are funded after the death of the testator, revocable living trusts are funded during the trustmaker’s lifetime.   Because living trusts are revocable, they do not offer creditor or litigation protection for the trustmaker.  Instead, just like with a testamentary trust, the assets held in trust are protected for the trustmaker’s beneficiaries.

For example, let’s say Mom and Dad have children from a previous marriage.  Dad dies leaving his two kids who are attending college.  Before his death he set up a revocable living trust leaving the majority of the money to his current spouse but in addition left $100,000 for his children IF they attain a college degree.  Here Dad is able to monetarily encourage his children to finish school even after he passes away.

The benefit of having the revocable living trust is that money left to beneficiaries is protected from creditors and litigation.  Once the creator dies, the trust then becomes irrevocable and the wishes of the trustmaker can no longer be changed.  In addition, because the trust is now irrevocable, the assets contained within the trust avoid probate and can be transferred immediately or at the discretion of the Trustee.

One disadvantage to revocable living trusts is that there is limited protection for the trustmaker.  Because the trust is revocable before death, the trustmaker does not enjoy the same protections as his beneficiaries.  For larger estates, the trustmaker might consider an Ohio Legacy Trust instead.

To learn more about revocable living trusts call Baron Law LLC today.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can help answer your questions.  Call today at 216-276-4282.