The 24-year old actor James Dean was the iconic Rebel Without a Cause, the image of teenage angst, who already had three blockbuster movies under his belt before a misplaced 1950 Ford Tudor blocked the intersection on US Route 466 that would serve as a premature end to the meteoric rise of the young star. It is reported that “Humphrey Bogart, who also knew a thing or two about image making, once said: ‘Dean died at just the right time. He left behind a legend. If he had lived, he’d never have been able to live up to his publicity.’” Sometimes in the entertainment world death is a good career move.
And we tend to view buy-sell agreements the same way. The best “move” the participants can make in triggering its fulfillment is for one of the participants to die.
Fund the event with life insurance that provides tax-free dollars that are used to purchase the inherited interest from the estate (with a step-up in basis, no less) and everyone goes happily on their way to a new and more cash-flushed existence.
Consequently the death of an owner is the contingency on which we focus too exclusively when planning.
The fact is that a business owner usually doesn’t die. They often leave the business for one reason or another that initiates a buy-out that usually takes the form of a down payment (maybe) and an installment sale for an agreed number of years at an agreed interest rate.
Even then life insurance is important.
We recently assisted in a case similar to situation #2. We advised with regard to structuring the personally-owned coverage on the purchaser. We advised concerning the drafting of the collateral assignment. We laid a good predicate with the carrier to assure they understood the case – and then the selling owner placed the business through another agent and, consequently, another general agency. As my Mother used to say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” I say simply, “A pox on his house!”
Every business you represent should have in place an updated documented transition plan. If one doesn’t, then tell the owners they go to bed every night unsure of who they will be in business with the next morning! Then call us to assist you in all matters of their buy-sell planning and funding. Remember, we will get on the phone with you and talk directly to both your clients and their advisors if you think it beneficial.