Vincent Bonazzoli, founder and attorney at The Family Estate Planning Law Group joined Kerri Salls on Exit This Way sounding more like an entrepreneur than an attorney.
Vincent E. Bonazzoli is the principal and sole owner of the Family Estate Planning Law Group. The firm provides over 300 families with Advanced and General Estate Planning, Retirement and Business Planning, Wealth Strategies & Planning, Trust and Estate Administration, Probate Administration and Medicaid Planning.
He started the discussion of ‘What Business Owners Need to Know about Estate & Business Succession Planning” emphasizing that to make your business succession plan work you have to build the business and your succession plan at the same time.
He recommended that business owners and entrepreneurs have a goal date for that transition and to give a key advisor the accountability to check in on progress. He said you have to give yourself time to process it and who to tell first and who to have on your exit team.
When it comes to a team approach, Vinnie’s advice is based on his own example in his law firm where they hold a weekly internal team meeting to review and stay on track achieving their 90 day goals for the law firm as a business. Those 90 day goals are tied to his 12 month goals, his 10 year goals and his exit.
In addition, he recommends holding a quarterly meeting with your outside team. You have to think about the business as an asset. For long-term planning, you need to surround yourself with trusted advisors working in the background, start succession planning at least five years before you want to get out and script that succession process; and be sure you as the investor in your business will get a good return. He also recommended having offsite retreats with your advisors where you delegate tasks to be done by them over the next 90 days. Getting together and explaining your ideas to your advisors is often the first time owners share those ideas with many of the advisors they gather around the table. He explained, that only when we verbalize do we process those ideas ourselves.
On the legal side, Vinnie is adamant you keep your corporate records up to date and more importantly filed with the state in order to get the asset protection from the State. That includes your books, stock certificates, minutes, etc. He said 85% of business owners don’t have anything that spells out who owns the stock detailed. This imperative if you want the business transition to occur outside of probate.
Vinnie shared a great question he asks clients: If we were sitting here five years from now, what would have had to happen in those five years so we are in perfect position now to sell our business?
He recommends getting out for cash is best. If you can’t take it all in cash up front, be sure you take profits off the top over time.
He reiterated, that the way you operate the business should be the same as your succession. That everything you do in the business should be to build for value, and that you need to do both at the same time. Some questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Will your business succession plan work the way you want it to work?
2. Will your business continue if you are disabled?
3. Will your family get the value of your business if you die?
4. Who will control your business if you die or become
5. Are your personal assets protected from lawsuits involving your business?
6. Are your corporate records up to date?
7. Who has authority over your business at death or during your incapacity?
8. What happens if your partner dies?
9. Do you need court approval to continue the business?
10. Will your business have to be liquidated to pay estate tax?