Advantages Of A Buy Sell Agreement And Some Dynamics Of The Agreement!

It’s important to understand that every Buy and Sell Agreement (BSA) is different and has a separate purpose when put together and implemented. Because of the vast differences in BSA’s, using a standard form of BSA rarely accomplishes the needs and wants of the parties involved.

Each participant in the agreement has different purposes and objectives and looks at the transactions very differently. Neither party knows when the agreement will actually be needed, and what the triggering event will be. A triggering event could be death, disability, divorce, termination,  bankruptcy, and other defined events.   One thing that can is consistent in most cases is that when a triggering event happens, then each party becomes visionless to the other parties’ best interests, and only focuses on their own and best interests.

The two participants in a BSA are a seller and a buyer. They come in different forms, as individuals, trusts, or estates. Usually their purposes and objectives are very different, and there usually is a conflict between the parties.

While creating the BSA  the parties tend to be very fair before a triggering event. This is because everybody is in the same position and no one knows who will suffer the future triggering event. This is a positive viewpoint, as the parties are reasonable and objective about the possible and various scenarios. Everyone’s objectives are personal, and range from financial, tax, to personal protection for their families.  Having a designed BSA can offer the owners some satisfaction that their needs are documented and witnessed.

Objectives of BSA

  • To provide a predetermined roadmap for the business based on a triggering event which may call for the sale of a participant’s ownership interest.
  • To provide a guaranteed buyer for the owner’s business interest and to create a market for that interest.
  • If funded through life insurance or some other means, the BSA will provide liquidity for the payment of the business interest and help the estate pay for the estate taxes and other settlement costs of the deceased owner’s estate.
  • Can avoid an impasse between the parties in the event of a triggering event.
  • To protect the company and surviving shareholder from subsequent competition, should a terminated owner wish to sell to a 3rd
  • To avoid potential conflicts between the surviving owners and the deceased owners’ heirs, by creating a roadmap through the agreement at the owner’s death.
  • Can level the playing field for the estate or deceased owner’s as the agreement gives the deceased owner a say on how settlement of their interest will be to their heirs and estate. Especially, when the surviving family have little knowledge of the business entity.
  • Establishing the price and method of valuing the interest, establishing the terms of payments, and providing a method of funding for the payment of that purchase price.
  • Can create job stability for minority owners and key non-owner employees.
  • Can establish the value of the entity for tax purposes.
  • Can preclude owners from selling their interest without the consent of others thus avoiding the third-party ownership or voting percentages.
  • The agreement can restrict ownership to people who are actively engaged with the entity of full-time basis.
  • Can improve the credit worthiness of the entity.
  • Can avoid transfer violations/Licensing requirements.
  • Avoid transfers to individuals that would terminate the S corporation status.
  • Can dictate discounts for lack of marketability (minority interest discounts).
  • Can provide for voting agreements where necessary.
  • Can dictate what happens to in force life insurance policies on the terminated or surviving owners.

These are only a few of the many reasons for a buy and sell agreement, and the advantages of funding the agreement.

 

What If I Want A No-Sell Buy / Sell!

There are business partners who at their death, want their family to continue to own their shares even though the family member will not be actively involved with the business.   We see this with businesses that are expected to grow significantly. Each owner wants their family to share in the future growth even if they should die prematurely.

A no-sell buy/sell agreement has a fairly simple structure. The management and the voting stock all remain with the surviving owner. The deceased’s ownership interest remains with his family. We take each owner’s interest in the business and divide into voting and nonvoting stock. Upon the death of one of the owners, the deceased’s voting interest is bought by the surviving owner per the terms of the buy/sell agreement. The non-voting interest of the deceased owner remains with his family. This way, if the business does grow significantly, the family of the deceased will share in the growth. The control of the business remains in the hands of the surviving owner. The family of the deceased owner has non-voting interest in the business only and cannot expect to see any money out of the deal unless, and until, the business is sold. Continue reading “What If I Want A No-Sell Buy / Sell!”

Characteristics Of An Effective Buy –Sell Agreement!

Creating a buy-sell agreement requires foresight about what could, might and will happen to the business if certain situations occur to the equity owner’s/stock holders of the company. This article looks at some of the important elements of the buy-sell agreement (BSA).

First of all, what is the purpose of the BSA?  Simply, an agreement between, interest holders, and the corporation as to what will happen to the company and interest holders should there be a disruptive and harmful occurrence in the future.  These are called triggers; death, disability, divorce, departure (voluntary and non-voluntary), bankruptcy, retirement, and others.

It is important that the agreement be entered into when parties are aligned and before triggers events occur.  It usually is a time when the relationship is aligned for the good of the interest holders and the company.  In short, they usually are of the same mindset that any of the triggering events could happen to them in the future,

This is a time where advisors should encourage interest owners to complete and sign the BSA, as it is the best time when their attitudes are in synch concerning future event happenings.

Interest owners know that when there is a trigger event, each party will have a different perspective as to outcomes for each person.   Terms and pricing transactions can become difficult or impossible to achieve if the issue was dealt with without an agreement in advance.

 Some of the characteristics required in the agreement;

  1. It should be in writing and signed by all parties. (good time to have spouses sign as to their witnessing and understanding of the agreements, although they are not signing as a party to the agreement)
  2. Trigger events should be defined and funding and price adjustment; Each event should be discussed as to what will happen as to the price, and the terms. Also, the definition of the trigger event should be in the agreement.  Example: definition of disability? What happens if a person is fired? What happens if a person decides just to leave?  What happens upon a divorce, or bankruptcy, retirement, or death?
  3. Determine the conditions that cause the triggering events.
  4. Determine the price (price per share) at the time of the triggering event.
  5. Methods of Valuation
    1. Fixed price; usually never updated with changing markets, and company condition.
    2. Formula: with all the variables of economic conditions, company conditions and market conditions, it is hard to find an accurate formula for any given company or industry.
    3. Single Annual appraisal (updated annually or bi annually); Suggest the initial pricing of the company by a single appraiser, and then update yearly or every other year.
  6. Define how the triggering event will be funded.
  7. Creating a buy-sell agreement takes future thinking by all the interest owners. There is always the “what if’s” of the future, but owners need to be aware of them and protect themselves.

The BSA is the most important document owners of a business can have.  They must have one.  Without it, there are no instructions as to what will happen, how much they will pay, and how to fund it.  There ends up being chaos, arguing, and lawsuits, not to mention the costs of fighting in the courts.

(Some great resources:  Buy-Sell Agreements for Closely Held and Family Business Owners by Z. Chris Mercer, and Buy and Sell Agreements, Paul Hood)