Family businesses, also known as closely-held businesses, are owned, controlled, and often operated by a single family, whether it be siblings or parents and their children. It is common for these businesses to eventually be passed down to the next generation in the family.
When done correctly, transferring business ownership to your children can ensure security and income. When transferred incorrectly, it can jeopardize both the business and family relationships. The successful transfer of the ownership of your business to your child is complex and requires careful planning. The reality is, there are nearly as many ways to transfer a family business as there are types of businesses. It is important to have a thorough discussion with an experienced business lawyer who knows how to accomplish your goals with regard to your family and complete financial picture.
What Are Some Ways Businesses Can Be Transferred to Children?
There is no question that handling a family business is an essential part of planning your estate. The following are some ways a business can be transferred to your children:
- Include it in your will: You can simply put your interest in the business to your children in your will. This allows you to maintain complete control of the business for as long as you live, and your children to benefit from future ownership as they learn to manage the business. The downside to this route is the concern that as owners get older, they may not be able to fully run the company’s affairs. There are often tax advances to transferring all or part of the business while you are alive.
- Gift it now: You can give your children part or all of the business now. You may have to pay a gift tax, but the lifetime exclusion is large, so there may be little or no gift tax to pay, at least through the end of the year. A major advantage of gifting is that any future appreciation in the value of the business will be excluded from your estate, and not subject to estate tax when you die. A disadvantage is that your children’s tax basis in the business will be the same as yours today, rather than a “stepped up” basis, which would be equal to the value at the date of death if they inherited ownership.
- Sell to your children: Owners often want to transfer ownership while they are still living, but continue to receive income from the business. In these cases, a good option for owners is to sell the business to their children.
- Transfer the business to a trust: You may also sell or give an interest in the business to a trust for the benefit of your children. This is advantageous because it protects the children’s interest from creditors and ex-spouses. Other advantages to trusts are that they can help avoid capital gains tax on the sale of the trust assets, and avoid income tax on interest payments from the trust to the owner.
Many of the above options could be combined to meet your family business needs. If you have only one child, and that child is qualified and also wants to run the business, the transferring process is fairly straightforward. When none of these three things are the case, transferring family business ownership can become much more complicated. For these reasons, it is strongly recommended to work with a skilled business lawyer to ensure that your specific goals are met.
The Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Help Clients With Family Business Matters
If you are looking to transfer the ownership of your business to your children, the knowledgeable Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green are here to assist you. Call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania.