Asset protection is among the most critical strategies business owners should consider maximizing long-term success. Asset protection aims to limit liability, protect accumulated wealth, and ensure that family estate planning goals are achieved.
This guide will give business owners an overview of asset protection strategies and estate planning needs.
Overview of Asset Protection and Estate Planning
Asset protection and estate planning are essential for business owners who wish to adequately protect their assets and ensure that their wishes regarding the future distribution of those assets are carried out. Asset Protection planning allows business owners to protect their assets from liabilities and provide for their loved ones after passing. Estate Planning involves drafting documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and medical directives to give individuals control or protection of their assets after death or incapacitation. It also ensures that their wishes are stated clearly.
Asset Protection protects the owner’s wealth from potential creditors or claimants through legal techniques, such as forming trusts, utilizing corporations, managing investments, and other complex strategies. Estate Planning focuses on protecting one’s wealth during his/her lifetime while minimizing taxes on the transfer of that wealth upon death through the use of wills, trusts, life insurance policies, and charitable giving.
This guide will provide an overview of important areas related to asset protection and estate planning, such as:
- Types of estate ownership
- Legal entities
- Asset protection strategies
- Generational planning
- Powers of attorney
- Wills & trusts
- Insurance policies
- Special needs individuals
- Charitable giving considerations
- Probate process overviews
Armed with this information, a business owner can make an informed assessment about how best to secure his/her current asset base and have peace of mind about how those assets will be handled for himself/herself and family members by his/her/her wishes.
Asset protection is a crucial part of any business owner’s estate plan. Asset protection strategies help owners protect their businesses, investments, assets, and property from creditors, lawsuits, and other potential legal liabilities. A vital asset protection plan can provide business owners additional protection and peace of mind.
This guide will discuss the importance of asset protection and explore the various asset protection strategies available for business owners.
Establish a Limited Liability Company (LLC)
One of the primary forms of asset protection is establishing a Limited Liability Company (LLC). An LLC is a legal entity separate from the business owner that provides liability protection and offers additional advantages in estate planning. Here is an overview of what an LLC can do for you:
- Asset protection – An LLC limits the potential personal liability of the owner and other business members by providing limited liability protection. It helps to separate personal assets from those owned by the business, allowing additional protection against creditors and claimants.
- Tax benefits – Taxes are incurred on income earned by an LLC, but profits generated may be distributed directly to members in a manner that avoids double taxation (known as “pass-through” taxation). Members can also limit their level of responsibility for any tax debt incurred using this type of entity.
- Estate planning advantages – When transferring ownership or adding co-owners, an LLC can help facilitate these transitions more efficiently than other corporate structures, making it easier for deceased owners’ estates to manage. Taking preventive measures such as establishing proper creditor protections early on ensures that operations will continue without interruption should you become ill or pass away.
An LLC serves many purposes beyond asset and estate planning; however, this entity requires many complex processes, such as filing documents with your state or drafting operating agreements or articles of organization. Therefore, consulting with a qualified attorney should be done before setting up any business structure to ensure your legal needs are adequately addressed.
Establish a Trust
A trust is an essential tool in asset protection. It is a legal document that gives a trustee the right to hold, manage and distribute assets for your benefit or to someone else’s benefit on your behalf. The trustee is the legal representative of the trust and holds legal title to the assets contained within it.
Creating a trust offers protection from creditors and other financial obligations because it shifts control of the assets from you to a third-party trustee. For example, if you create a living trust, all of your assets will be held in the name of the trust and not in your name. That means that even if there is a lawsuit against you, creditors cannot pursue them or force their liquidation for payment.
Establishing a trust also can have favorable tax consequences for you and allow estate planning to pass on more wealth with fewer taxes. Various types of trusts exist with different features, including:
- Special needs (supplemental needs) trusts.
- Irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs).
- Dynasty trusts are designed specifically for business owners.
An experienced attorney should be consulted when considering these complex estate planning tools.
Insurance is an invaluable tool when it comes to asset protection planning. Ultimately, insurance serves as a safety net in the event of a catastrophic loss due to death, disability, or other calamities. Generally speaking, the types of insurance you will want to consider include the following:
- Life insurance: Insurance that pays out upon the death of a policyholder or covered family member. Benefits are typically allocated for business continuation, estate taxes, and personal liquidity needs.
- Disability insurance: A form of insurance that can provide financial compensation for lost wages if an individual cannot work due to illness or injury.
- Health care/long-term care insurance covers medical costs insured individuals incur. In contrast, long-term care policies pay for assistance with routine activities such as bathing and food preparation if an individual becomes elderly or disabled and can no longer provide those services independently.
- Key person life and disability Insurance: Life and disability insurance is used by businesses to insure the lives and health of executive staff or other employees whose contributions have a critical impact on the operation or value of the business. This type of coverage is protective of valuable IP in employees’ heads.
You must consult professionals when selecting which types, and coverage amounts best suit your needs – one-size-fits-all policies don’t exist! Furthermore, having these plans in place will also aid in succession planning should anything arise that prevents you from being able to lead your business actively.
Estate planning is an essential part of asset protection for business owners. Estate planning involves creating a plan to preserve your assets, reduce estate taxes, and shield your property from creditors. In addition, proper planning for the future ensures that your business will remain in good hands for many years.
This guide will provide you with an overview of estate planning and discuss the primary considerations business owners must take into account when planning for the future:
- Preserving assets
- Reducing estate taxes
- Protecting property from creditors
Draft a Will
Drafting a will is an integral part of estate planning for business owners. A choice is a legal document that declares a person’s wishes regarding their assets and who they want to receive them upon their passing. It is also an important document to use to ensure that property, wealth, and other assets are divided according to the business owner’s wishes.
When drafting a will for business owners, it is crucial to be thorough and detailed about the wishes you want to be carried out with your estate. The more details the document includes, the less likely disputes may arise from family members or beneficiaries, which can create costly legal proceedings.
Common factors to include when drafting a will are:
- Financial accounts
- Real estate investments
- Business holdings/interests
- Life insurance policies
Double-check your will with an attorney or estate planning professional before signing documents so that all items are accounted for and included clearly in black and white.
Draft a Power of Attorney
Creating a power of attorney is essential to asset protection and estate planning for business owners. This legal document will ensure that your attorney-in-fact makes decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to act on your behalf. In addition, a power of attorney will typically give someone broad powers over finance and can be used to grant authority over business decisions, real estate transactions, and financial accounts.
A power of attorney should name an individual or organization designated as the attorney-in-fact and any specified powers they’re granted regarding managing your estate. Choosing someone reputable who can be trusted to make good decisions is essential. Potential attorneys-in-fact include:
- Members of a local financial institution
- A close family member
- A lawyer or accountant
- Any other qualified professional you trust
In addition to drafting an initial power of attorney while you can still do so, creating standbys is important. A standby power of attorney only becomes effective if the primary holder cannot act on their behalf and can be used when necessary.
Once drafted and signed by all relevant parties, the Power of Attorney must be filed with the corresponding government entity for it to become legally binding. Therefore, you will usually need an original copy and some certified copies depending on state laws and regulations where you live.
Draft a Living Will
A living will, or advance directive, is a critical component in any asset protection and estate planning strategy. Often neglected by many business owners, drafting a living will allows you to express your wishes if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions.
A living will give insight into the kind of medical treatments and other end-of-life decisions you generally approve or disapprove of, should you become terminally ill or suffer from a physical or mental handicap. This document can ensure that your wishes are not disregarded if these situations arise and clarify your desired treatment course for family members.
When drafting a living will, it’s crucial to seek assistance from an estate planning attorney to account for all necessary details. Your attorney can help draft a document tailored to your goals and desires while protecting you from potential legal liabilities. In addition, it’s often beneficial to name one or more people who would act as guardians of minor children and carry out other decisions on your behalf should the need arise.
Moreover, it’s wise to update your living will at least every 5-7 years due to changes in marital status, tax codes, legislative laws, and more so as not to fall out of compliance with existing law. Finally, owning businesses in multiple states is especially important – each state may have its own asset protection and estate planning rules.
Tax planning is an important part of asset protection and estate planning for business owners. Tax planning strategies can provide an avenue to minimize the amount of taxes due and even offer deductions to reduce the taxes that must be paid. With tax planning, it is important to understand the tax implications of business decisions and the benefits of utilizing tax deductions.
Let’s take a deeper look into the role of tax planning for asset protection and estate planning for business owners:
Utilize Tax Credits and Deductions
Tax credits and deductions can help reduce the taxes that must be paid, resulting in significant cost savings. However, if you do not prepare ahead of time and properly document your taxes, you might miss out on considerable savings. Knowing which types of credits and deductions fit your situation is the first step in successfully utilizing them to save on tax payments.
At the federal level, there are dozens of deductions that are available to individuals as well as businesses. Common tax credits include the Child Tax Credit (CTC), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), American Opportunity Credit (AOC), and Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). Depending on their situation, these payments can help offset some or all of a taxpayer’s income tax liability. In addition to these federal credits, many states offer deductions and credits.
Individuals may also benefit from deductions related to business expenses such as travel, commuting costs like parking fees or tolls, insurance premiums for small companies or self-employed individuals, and more. In addition, businesses may be able to deduct various expenses from salaries paid to employees to costs associated with goods purchased for resale. Exploring these options can help taxpayers determine their eligibility for particular deductions and determine what records must be maintained for various qualifications to apply.
It’s important for businesses and individuals alike to review any possible tax credits or deductions before filing returns so that they take full advantage of them when available — and secure significant savings on taxes owed each year.
Establish Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts
Establishing tax-deferred retirement accounts is essential to asset protection and estate planning for business owners. These accounts allow you to set aside money that will grow tax-free over time and can be used at retirement to help fund your lifestyle or, if you cannot use it, passed on to your heirs.
Several types of tax-deferred retirement accounts are available, depending on your business type. Examples of these include employer-sponsored 401(k) plans, SEP-IRAs (Simplified Employee Pension-Individual Retirement Accounts), SIMPLE IRAs (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees – Individual Retirement Accounts), and Keoghs (Profit Sharing Plans). Regardless of the type, each offers the same essential benefits:
- Contributions made to these accounts are made pre-tax to reduce your annual taxable income;
- Investment earnings within these accounts compound without taxation until funds are withdrawn;
- Contributions made by employers generally enjoy more generous rules than those allowed when contributing as an individual; and
- Withdrawals can be taken as periodic payments or a lump sum at retirement.
When deciding what type of plan is right for you and your business, there are several factors to consider, such as eligibility requirements, employer matching contributions, vesting rules, and acceptable investment options allowed under the plan. Depending on the type of business structure involved, consult with a qualified professional such as a financial planner or CPA before establishing an account to gain insight into potential deductions available or strategies that may benefit your particular situation.
Establishing a tax-deferred retirement account is an important part of asset protection and estate planning for any business owner—be sure you get the advice necessary to make informed decisions now and in the future.
Utilize Tax-Advantaged Investments
Tax-advantaged investments are generally used for asset protection and estate planning to help business owners accomplish their financial goals. These investments offer tax benefits such as lower income taxes or higher returns than traditional investments. While some risk is involved in this investment, it can also provide substantial rewards.
Tax-advantaged investments typically fall into two categories–qualifying dividends and capital gains. Qualifying dividends are taxed at the investor’s normal income tax rates. At the same time, capital gains may be eligible for preferential tax treatment, such as long-term capital gains tax rates instead of higher ordinary income tax rates. In addition, certain types of investments may also be eligible for other federal or state incentives.
For business owners, there are a few options available when it comes to tax-advantaged investing:
- Retirement funds: Retirement accounts offer deductions from taxable income and potential deferral of taxes until withdrawals begin during retirement years. Corporate retirement plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs allow for pre-tax contributions that benefit the employer and employee. In contrast, Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) accounts provide post-tax gifts with the potential for future growth potential and potential reduction in estate taxes upon death.
- Dividend-producing stocks: Dividends are partially or fully taxable depending on the company issuing the distributions and whether they meet certain IRS criteria. However, when you dispose of your investment position, most stocks qualify as qualified dividend income to take advantage of long-term capital gains rates, resulting in lower overall taxation liability in the current or future years.
- Tax credits/incentives: Business owners can also benefit from certain federal or state credits and incentives when investing in certain projects or activities that meet requirements specified by law or regulation (such as energy efficiency upgrades or development/urban renewal projects). Additionally, certain entities may receive tax properties like accelerated depreciation benefits which may reduce their overall taxation burden on cash flows generated by their business operations over time while helping them conserve cash on hand throughout any given year’s operating cycle.
Now that you have learned about the basics of asset protection and estate planning for business owners, you should better understand how to develop an effective plan to protect yourself, your business, and your legacy. In this guide, you have learned the importance of estate planning, the different types of tools and techniques available to business owners, and how and when to use them. These strategies can help you protect your assets and manage your estate more effectively.
Summary of Asset Protection and Estate Planning Strategies
Protecting your assets and estate planning can be complex, so working with a qualified professional is important to make the best business decisions. Business owners should consider several key considerations and strategies when creating a comprehensive asset protection and estate plan.
- Timing: Consider the timing of when you go through asset protection planning. It is best to start this process well in advance of any lawsuits or other potential legal issues which may arise. By setting up an asset protection plan ahead of time, you will be best prepared for any risk-related incidents that occur.
- Legal Structuring: Take advantage of legal structuring options specifically designed for small businesses. Many states have LLCs or other corporate entities that provide financial support through reduced liability and taxation benefits. Taking advantage of these entities can help protect your assets while providing tax advantages.
- Insurance Coverage: Consider mapping out life or disability insurance coverage for individuals beyond ownership in a business entity. This coverage can help protect profits when an owner passes away, as it will generate income that can be used to pay debts or buy out deceased owners’ shares in the company.
- Succession Plan: Any comprehensive asset protection plan should include a detailed succession plan which accounts for death, retirement, or termination from business operations at any point during ownership tenure with a company1. Creating this detailed succession plan will ensure that should certain events occur throughout owning a company – it will survive without you!
With all these components considered, you will have created a successful asset protection and estate plan for your small business!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is asset protection planning for business owners?
A: Asset protection planning identifies and implements strategies to safeguard your assets against potential legal claims, creditor attacks, and other financial risks. Business owners often have more significant risks of legal exposure, so asset protection planning helps to protect their family and business legacy.
Q: What is estate planning, and why is it essential for business owners?
A: Estate planning involves creating a plan for managing and distributing your assets upon death. It is important for business owners because it ensures that their family and business legacy is protected and their wishes for the future of their business are documented.
Q: What can business owners do to protect their assets?
A: There are several strategies that business owners can use to protect their assets, including establishing trust structures, maintaining business and personal finances separately, and implementing insurance coverage to protect against potential liabilities.
Q: Why should business owners consider hiring an asset protection and estate planning attorney?
A: Attorneys specializing in asset protection and estate planning are well-versed in the legal tools and strategies necessary to protect assets and ensure that a business owner’s wishes are documented and followed. Additionally, they can provide guidance and advice tailored to the business owner’s specific needs.
Q: What legal documents are necessary for effective estate planning?
A: Effective estate planning requires establishing legal documents, including a will, trust, and power of attorney, among others. These documents help to ensure that assets are distributed following the business owner’s wishes and that their estate is protected.
Q: How often should a business owner review and update their estate plan?
A: A business owner should review and update their estate plan regularly to ensure that it reflects any changes in their family or business situation and in tax or estate planning laws. A general rule of thumb is to review your plan every three to five years or after significant life events, such as marriage or the birth of a child.