These are questions I believe everyone should be asking themselves when you start their planning. Not all the questions may relate to your situation, however, many of them will. It is important that you take time in evaluating your outcome in your planning as it relates to theses questions!
1. Have your wills and associated trust documents been updated in the past three years, if not, why not?
2. Do you have the following: declaration for desire of natural death, power of attorney, and health care power of attorney? If not, why not?
3. Does your testamentary documents make sure your family’s business and estate is private after your death?
4. Are your assets titled properly between you and your spouse in order to take maximum advantage of the estate tax laws?
5. Do your testamentary documents specifically address the disposition of your family business/family assets?
6. Do your testamentary documents agree with other business arrangements such as buy and sell agreements?
7. Do you pass ownership of the family company/estate assets to your spouse in your testamentary documents as a tax avoidance measure? If so, is will that;
Make practical sense, and is that consistent with your wishes of your spouse? If the business ownership does go to your spouse, is there a potential for your children to inflate his/her estate thereby increasing their estate tax burden during his/her surviving lifetime?
8. What are your testamentary provisions for treating your employee and non-employee children fairly and equitably?
9. In your “drop dead” planning, do you have insurance proceeds includable in your taxable estate? If so, why?
10. For your real estate; do you use family limited partnerships or limited liability companies? If not, why not?
11. If there is more than one shareholder in your family enterprise, do you have a binding, modern buy sell agreement? If not, why not?
12. Does your agreement cover typical items such as disability, “bad boy” behavior, windfall sale, non–compete provisions, etc.?
13. Do you have a written plan for when your family members get home from your funeral to lessen the burden on them? If not, why not? In the future will your business go to family members some of whom are employed in the company and some of whom are not? If so, what provisions will you make to balance the interests of employees’ shareholders versus non-employee shareholders?
14. Your CPA, attorney, and other advisors have probably been after you for some time to address the issues of your exit, future management of the company, your estate planning, etc. What are the barriers that prevent you from tackling these tough family business and estate issues?
15. Children inherit too much in the way of assets too soon? What do you see as the downside of “affluenza”?
16. Will your children inherit the business/estate assets in equal proportions, or would one child be designated the prize, and take and receive a larger portion. What are the pros and cons of each course of action?
17. What do you have too much of in your business?
18. What do you have too little of in your business?
19. What do you have too much of in your family?
20. What you have too little of in your family?
21. If you had a magic wand, what will be the one thing you would change about your family or business?