What options does Buy-Sell Insurance give business owners?


When a co-owner/partner dies, the surviving business owners usually have five options in dealing with the deceased owner’s business interest:

1.   Buy-out the heirs of the partner with Life Insurance proceeds: This is usually the most preferred option. After all, the surviving owners/partners know how to run their business. It usually makes sense to buy out the heirs who are not engaged in or lack expertise in the business and carry on business from there.

2.  Keep the heirs in the business.  This would only be advisable if the heir was actually involved in the business for some time, or has skills that can advance the cause and profitability of the business.

3.  Take on an outsider who purchases the deceased’s business interest. A good buy-sell agreement can circumvent the need to have an outsider buy into your business if that arrangement would harm the current business partnership or the business. In some cases an outsider may already have an investment in, have expertise in, or a common business goal with your company that would mutually benefit everyone in the business. In this case, advance planning could allow such an individual to be part of buying side of the buy-sell agreement. The same individual may need to be a beneficiary on the insured lives of all the partners, in tandem with being written into the agreement.

4.  Selling to the heirs may be an option. This may be an option when some of the heirs are involved and successful in the same line of business with primary senior family members of the earlier generation who began your business. In this case the considered heirs, should receive funding from the proceeds of a well-planned fund to cover capital gains taxes, and fund operations, and pay for the owners shares.

5.  Liquidate the business or sell it to a third party. If this is the main goal, it is wise to involve discussions with the potential buyer long before one dies. If the business is large you may need to hire a firm that specializes in valuing and selling businesses. It is wise to estimate your capital gains exposure and cover any tax liabilities, as well as redeem business debts with the proceeds of life insurance which can be paid out tax-free.

In most cases, option #1 offers the business owners the best choice, with a small expenditure to buy life insurance that makes a payment to heirs with the use of a buy-sell agreement.

Why is succession planning integral for business owners?

Getting into business is a lot easier than getting out. Many successful family businesses have accrued capital gains in the millions. The tax payable is so high that the business cannot afford the liability once the owner dies at least without liquidating.

One way to cover the tax liability is to save for it. The problem arises if the owner dies too soon, or the money gets used for an emergency or a new opportunity, or if the savings goal is impossible for the company to achieve.

A business owner’s retirement may depend on an estate plan.

Many business owners base their personal financial stability on the future success of the company. When a business represents the major value of an estate, planning becomes necessary. Yet, many are not convinced that they need to plan their estate or the succession of their business.

Find out what your tax liability will be. Despite the financial importance of their business, most owners do not know what the tax liability would be if both spouses were to die. An estate plan can ensure that these taxes will be paid from one or a combination of the following sources:

· Life insurance.
· The business, from cash flow or liquid assets.
· RRSPs (also taxed when both spouses die).
· Non-registered investments.

Succession PlanningFrequently review your capital gains tax liability. In some cases, the payment of relatively small life insurance premiums can entirely solve the estate’s future capital gains tax problems, and/or generate capital to replace the tax that will be payable on your RRSPs when both spouses die.

When you buy life insurance it immediately covers the entire estimated liability risk, which is due. The benefit is paid upon the owner’s death (or the death of a surviving spouse).

Put succession planning on your agenda. Consider taking the time to do some succession training when you are active in the business, passing on what you know, while unifying current action with your estate plan. Sometimes successful business owners, while waiting for the perfect person to take over, run out of time.

Determine who will take over the company.  If you are a family member, an employee, or a competitor, you will need to begin negotiating with your successor(s). Income from a good succession plan may nicely increase your retirement income. Therefore, it is good to know where it will come from.

Keep your legal documents current. Revise or complete both your will and power of attorney. Review your personal and/or corporate-owned life insurance, and disability coverage.

Establish or update your buy-sell agreement. Make sure your buy-sell and key-person agreements and applicable life insurance, is current and sufficient to cover your succession plans.

Other uses of new business capital offered by life insurance. A sole owner may buy enough life insurance to add capital to offer additional financial stability where a wife, son, or daughter goes through the transition to actually run the business. Insurance can also eliminate company debt to give a succeeding son or daughter a fresh start. Finally, it can fairly equalize the division of your estate among all of your heirs.