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I think there’s a tendency for people to think of estate planning as something that is very daunting. But we aim to make the process simple and straight forward for them.
Clients are looking to grow their business, and invariably there reaches a point in their business or business career where they’re asking, “What’s next?” That’s where corporate succession planning, or business succession planning needs to take place well in advance before passing, because if something happens to the owners, it’s hard on the family and on the business itself. We come alongside clients to consider their assets, their circumstances, and their intentions, and we explain the law in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Ultimately, we want to empower them to make decisions that are right for themselves as well as their families.
When we’re working on succession planning and transition to the next generation, there are various tools that we will use as a part of that plan. One of the ones I want to highlight are the use of shareholder agreements. When you do a shareholder agreement, you want to create a framework whereby the principles of the company have a way of dealing with each other in good times and in bad. People like to think about the marriage, but they don’t like to think about the divorce. We think it better to plan ahead. Shareholder agreements are great because they document the intentions and they bind the parties to that agreement, along with the company itself. That allows people to have certainty, especially when the first generation is handing it off to the next generation, they want to know that they’re going to be taken care of, and major decisions, for example, are going to be done with consensus. Whether it’s through majority, or unanimous decision making, it’s all captured through the shareholder agreement.
When we’re working with our corporate clients and indeed with all of our clients, if it is appropriate we will reach out to their accountant, to their financial advisor. We’ll ask who they work with, and we’ll try and get them as part of a group that is working on whatever plan that has been proposed to us. It’s always good to get input from other professionals, and we do our best to bring them into the plan. And if an issue arises when an executor or trustee is doing his or her job, we will involve our colleagues who are experienced dispute resolution lawyers. Together as a team we’ll help our clients to manage that situation.