Businesses and Estate Planning

By AnnMichelle G. Hart, Esq.

February 17, 2021

What do business and celebrities have in common? No, it’s not a trick question. Many of them have songs, art, books, and shows they have created.  You own some valuable assets you may not be aware are valuable – Assets that need to be considered as part of your estate plan / business succession plan.  What are these assets? It’s your businesses’ intellectual property. 

When you dreamed up your business you set in motion the creation of your intellectual property: Choosing your business name, your logo, your tagline or slogan, the colors you would use, the packaging, your website design, and the inside of your store – if you have one.  

There are some other kinds of intellectual property: your client list, email list, vendor list, and any software you may have created for your use or for your customer’s use. You may have designed a tool that no one else has. Perhaps you’ve created videos or podcasts, or a subscription for a series of services, or written a book. All of those assets are your intellectual property.

As a business owner, you have a lot to think about and need to make a lot of decisions every day. The one thing I see overlooked by most business owners is whether you have contemplated what would want to happen to the business in the event of your incapacity or, sadly, your death.  There are a multitude of reasons why this isn’t addressed, but you owe it yourself, your employees (if you have any), and your family to really think about and create a plan for your business. 

Do you want the business to continue after you’re gone? If yes, will family run it or will you have an employee run it with family ownership? Do you want to gift it or sell it to your employees? Do you want the business sold to a new owner outside the family? If you want the business closed, can family sell off the valuables from the company like the equipment, and the intellectual property?  

With small businesses, your business plan and your personal estate plan are likely sp tightly intertwined that one can’t really be completed without working on the other simultaneously.  Probating a personal estate including a business where there was no will and no estate plan is a difficult, costly, and time intensive process for your family. 

Let’s sit down and discuss how to make this transition as easy as possible for your family and your employees by designing an estate plan for both you AND your business.