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Estate planning for entrepreneurs

Ohio entrepreneurs may want to take steps to protect their business and loved ones in case of their own death. A survey of 500 entrepreneurs found that only 20 percent had a financial power of attorney and over two-thirds did not have a will. Only 13 percent had created a living trust, and nearly two-thirds of entrepreneurs said they had done no estate planning work at all.

An estate plan is in many ways a succession plan. It can set forth what will happen to a person's business and personal assets when the person dies or if the person becomes incapacitated. A financial power of attorney is important in case the latter occurs. It chooses someone who can make financial decisions including decisions about insurance, business operations, and tax issues.

The last will and testament is a document that explains what a person wants to happen to any belongings. It may also contain other information such as funeral plans. However, property that is distributed with a will goes through probate, and this can take time. With a living trust, assets can be distributed immediately to beneficiaries without this delay.

Trusts may have a number of other uses as well. Rather than distribute assets immediately, they can be used to manage assets for beneficiaries who may be unable to manage them themselves. Similarly, a will may name a legal guardian for minor children. A business owner with children younger than 18 might think about how an estate plan could be designed to allow children to enter the business if they are interested and to provide for them financially if they are not. For example, a trust can require a beneficiary to reach a certain age before receiving a distribution, or distributions might be made at the discretion of the trustee.

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