Insurance, savings, and fingers crossed: These are the three elements business owners use to protect their business. Insurance and savings can keep many of your worries at bay, but even the most well-protected businesses can be exposed to risk if you don’t prepare core personal documents.
These documents — your will, living trust, power of attorney and others — get ignored if business owners fail to see the value they represent. As time goes by and your business grows, having these pieces in place becomes more than just important. It becomes critical.
What most business owners ignore.
Here are some startling facts based on a survey of more than 500 business owners:
• 80% didn’t have a power of attorney in place.
• Just 24% had a last will and testament.
• Only 13% had a living trust.
• And 65% of business owners had nothing at all.
The solution: ESTATE PLANNING.
While insurance can cover you for unforeseen events like medical emergencies, only estate planning prepares your company for the absolute worst-case scenarios.
At the core of success is a simple question: What happens when you’re no longer around, whether that’s through early retirement, incapacitation, or death? You need your CRITICAL PLAN B – YOUR SUCCESSION PLAN. Have you thought about what you would do if you encounter a financial hardship or transfer your ownership to someone else?
It might not be pleasant to think about, but succession planning doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process, either. It can be as simple as you want to make it. The most important issue here is putting a plan to paper and defining “succession” as you see it.
What you need.
As a business owner, you also have something else to think about: What happens if you have unpredictable medical events that hurt your ability to do business? That becomes more than just a financial question. It becomes a question of your company’s survival. That’s something the consumer electronics giant, Apple Inc., doesn’t have to worry about, which has a reported $250 Billion in cash reserves. But guess what? You do.
Here are the three essential legal documents business owners should consider when drafting an estate plan.
1. Power of attorney.
You’re the person in charge. All decisions in your company must be run by you – until you need surgery that puts you out of commission for a few months.
The questions start piling up. Who pays the rent? Who does business with your clients? Who accesses your bank accounts, and how?
Power of attorney allows you to transfer authority to another. The power of attorney will assign an “agent” to oversee your funds and make financial decisions on your behalf. This includes business operations, tax issues, stock transactions, insurance and even claims and litigation.
2. Living trust.
You put your life’s sweat into your business. Then you die unexpectedly. What happens next? No one knows, because you didn’t plan. Your property and other assets go through probate and someone else makes decisions about what you worked so hard to build.
A living trust is the main tool in your estate-planning arsenal. Holding property in a trust ensures it will go to a trustee rather than through the court system.
3. Last will and testament.
This simple document describes your intentions for your property and debt (and perhaps even your burial wishes). Essentially, it’s the last “say” you’ll have in any decisions regarding your property and your life.
Through a will, you can designate an executor to ensure your will’s terms are carried out. This should be someone you trust implicitly. Business owners are entrusting their executors with not only their family’s well-being but their livelihood, too. It’s an important decision that requires someone very close to you.
Update your CRITICAL PLAN B today.
Tomorrow never is guaranteed. Drafting a will, a power of attorney and a living trust can feel uncomfortable. But the rewards are significant. For the hour or two you’ll spend, you’ll gain a sense of security that goes beyond even insurance and savings accounts. You’ll have tackled what you want to happen if worst comes to worst.
Business owners (and their families) simply are happier once this basic task is done. You can’t buy this peace of mind. But you can earn it by acting for yourself and those you love.