Buy-sell agreement considerations

By Bea Wolper

Too many business owners fail to take important steps to ensure their business is handed down according to their wishes. Because of the changing American family, a proper buy-sell agreement is essential.

Here are some key planning considerations:

Talk with your family business legal counsel, but also with your estate attorney. It is important that both the professional and the personal attorneys be on the same page. Having each of these attorneys review relevant documents, such as your buy-sell agreement, helps ensure your plans are clearly understood and all parties are working toward the same goals.

Make sure your buy-sell agreement reflects the goals of the owner(s). Is it important to keep the family business in the bloodline? Are you willing to split stock into voting and non-voting shares? Having two classes of stock could enable disengaged family members to retain ownership without a say in the direction of the company.

• Include non-compete clauses into your buy-sell or shareholder agreement. If a family member joins a competitor or starts a competing business, stock should be forfeited or repurchased over time, depending on the situation. Typically, instead of fair market value, stock would be repurchased at a much lower share price.

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