Tips for Succession in Your Family-Owned Business

family owned business 2Although the goal of most family-owned businesses is to pass the business down to the next generation, only about 35 percent of them do so successfully. Just 20 percent make it on to the third generation. Even with these statistics, there is no reason to get discouraged if your goal is to pass down your business. There are actions you can take now that will put your family-owned business in the category of successful transitions to the future generation.

View transition as a process: Early planning for succession

Family-owned business succession is not successfully achieved simply by writing a will leaving your business to your children. It should be an ongoing process beginning even with your original business plan. It then needs to be reviewed periodically and updated when needed. There may be changes in the goals of the business. The addition of family members through marriage may affect the plan as will a change in the abilities or the health of family members involved in the plan.

Communication among potential successors

You have likely heard the three most important considerations in real estate are location, location, location. Apply this adage to business succession and the three most important considerations translate to communication, communication, communication. The following areas may become contentious unless discussed frequently among all involved while allowing for modification of the succession plan when necessary.

  • What is the vision for the company?
  • What are the specific goals for the future?
  • What are the expectations of each family member?
  • What role will each family member play after the transition?
  • How will the next leader of the business be identified?
  • Are there some family members who do not want to be involved?
  • Are there non-family member stockholders or employees who will be affected by the plan?
  • Who will be included in the most intricate parts of the planning process?
  • How will conflicts between successors or potential successors be resolved?
  • How will extended family members be involved or affected, for example, will there be a role for your children’s spouses?
  • Who should be members of a transition team?
  • What, if any, will be the role in the business of the person who is stepping down?

Formal family meetings should be held periodically where all involved feel free to express their views. If there is significant conflict, a communications expert may be called in to assist. If all involved understand the goals of the company, how the succession plan will be implemented and what each individual’s role will be after the succession plan is in place, the smoother and more successful the succession will be.

Put the succession plan in writing

When the questions have been answered and the goals determined, the specific succession plan must be put in writing.  But, as some experts have said, you do not shove the plan in a drawer somewhereand forget about it. It should be an evolving document that is updated as the business evolves and new challenges arise.

Social Security Benefits After Divorce

Social Security after divorceThe law does not allow a court to consider current or future Social Security benefits when approving a divorce settlement even in an equitable distribution state like Georgia. But, you may be able to collect Social Security benefits on your ex-spouses earnings record. Here are some things you should know.

The importance of timing

Either spouse may be eligible to collect benefits on his or her ex-spouse’s employment record if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Even if the marriage lasted for 9 years, 11 months and 27 days, neither of you will be eligible for benefits on the other’s record. The date the divorce becomes final is the date that determines the length of the marriage. This can be helpful when one spouse did not work, or worked very little, during the course of the marriage and the other one earned a significant amount of money. If the 10 year mark is not too far in the future, the couple may decide to put off the final dissolution date so the lower earning person may have the future benefit to look forward to.

Other relevant factors

  • If you do collect benefits on your ex-spouses record, it has no effect on what your ex or a current spouse can collect. Your ex will not even be notified that you are collecting.
  • You have to be at least 62 years of age to be eligible.
  • You have to have been divorced for at least two years.
  • You must be unmarried at the time you apply for benefits even if you remarried and that marriage also ended in divorce.
  • The benefit on your own record must be less than the benefit on your ex’s record.
  • You will receive half the amount of the full retirement amount your ex is eligible to receive.

Widow/Widower benefits for ex-spouses

If your ex-spouse dies, and you were married 10 years or more, you are entitled to receive 100 percent of your ex-spouses benefit. This has no effect on how much the current spouse or any children will receive. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) also applies to widower/widower’s benefits.

The GPO

According to the GPO, if you collect a government pension from a job like Civil Service where your employer did not pay into Social Security, two-thirds of the amount of your pension will be subtracted from the 50 percent of the ex-spouses benefits you are expecting if your ex is alive, or from the 100 percent you are expecting if your ex is deceased. The GPO may result in you receiving very little benefit money or none at all. For example, if you expected to receive $400 from your spouse’s record, but are receiving $600 from a government pension that did not pay Social Security taxes, $400 (two-thirds of $600) will be subtracted, or offset, from the $400 you are expecting to receive leaving you zero benefit.

Social Security law is complex. If you have questions about your divorce and Social Security benefits, call a family law attorney who will be able to help you understand.