Craft a Legacy That Will Last Long After Selling Your Business

November 18, 2019

You’ve taken your business from a struggling startup to a successful full-scale enterprise and now you’re ready to sell. And if you plan to use the proceeds to enrich your family’s future, there are a few steps to take to help ensure this newfound wealth will one day become a lasting family legacy.

Where did the money go?

Financial services research firm Cerulli Associates reports that nearly 45 million U.S. households will transfer $68.4 trillion in wealth (some from the sale of a family business) over the next 25 years. Unfortunately, approximately 70% of family wealth disappears when it’s distributed across multiple generations. There are many reasons to explain why. Statistics say wealth transfers fail because most families don’t have the ability to make joint decisions or can’t make a system work with multiple stakeholders.

To stack the odds in your favor, you’ll need to bring people together, learn each other’s dreams and values, and create a strong family unit even as the dynamics change through births, deaths, divorces and second marriages. Here are some guidelines to help make this happen.

Build a strong family

Family strength comes from more than wealth – it emanates from strong individuals. To strengthen your loved ones, begin by supporting their goals and dreams. Help them build the confidence, resilience and perseverance to achieve their own success. Bolster their emotional maturity and values so they’ll make mature financial decisions.

Introduce your family to “the plan”…

Tell your family about your will and other estate planning documents that will be in place after the sale. To help, connect your loved ones to those who’ve helped build your plan, such as your estate attorney, accountant and trust professionals. Your advisors can help them gain the knowledge necessary to carry on your legacy. One caveat: Be clear with how much you want your advisors to share with your children.

…But don’t divulge everything at once

The promise of sudden wealth may inspire your children to rest on your laurels, so to speak. So balance educating them about your circumstances with encouragement to make a life of their own as independent, responsible, productive citizens. Any potential inheritance should be viewed as a safety net or a gift that must be treasured, not squandered.

Educate loved ones

Share how your wealth was built and how you view money’s purpose. Explain how grandma and grandpa rolled up their sleeves and invested time, sweat and tears into building a business from the ground up. And share the values that went along with that success, so your heirs will understand how diligence, delayed gratification and good stewardship benefit not just them but also those to come.

Hope for the best but be realistic

These steps may not work for every family, but they provide a starting point. And remember to be realistic. We can have high expectations of our children, but some can’t or won’t live up to them. However, if you keep all this in mind before you sell your business, you’ll have the best chance of keeping your wealth within the fold.

Next steps

  • Plan times for one-on-one sessions with family members to learn about their values and to talk about their dreams and how best to pursue them.
  • Teach younger children the value of self-reliance and the personal fulfillment of being a responsible citizen.
  • Introduce family members to your financial planning team.

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