Business Succession Planning with Support from Accountants and Business Attorneys

by Jeffrey K. Cassin, Business Attorney, Norris McLaughlin P.A.

With the gift temporary increase of the federal estate and gift tax exemption from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 (TCJA) set to expire if Congress does not amend the law before December 31, 2025, now is a critical time for family-owned businesses to consider succession planning. While accounting and tax considerations often drive the process and the structure of estate planning of business owners with accountants and trust and estate counsel, the role of business attorneys in the process is also critical.

Five Reasons to Engage a Business Attorney

  1. When Deciding if You Will Gift, Sell or Shut Down

The decision to gift to family or employees; sell to family, employees or third parties; or shut down is a profound decision. Understanding the difference between the upsides and downsides of the different approaches – which can be more than just economic – is important. Understanding your legal responsibilities in each of these situations is critical, too.

  1. Creating or Updating Corporate Documentation

Merely assigning the equity of a business to a trust or estate is not sufficient. The corporate documents must be updated to reflect a change in ownership or new leadership and be made current if in arears. There may be corporate filings at both state and federal levels that are required, such as filing New York State’s Change of Ownership form or notifying the U.S. Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

  1. Protecting Your Interests Under New Leadership

When handing over the keys to someone else as part of succession planning, you will generally need to bring in new leadership. This changes your role from “running the show” to taking a back seat. This perspective shift requires you to evaluate protections from the new leaders. This can take the form of contracts, structuring incentives for the new leaders to align with your own, and putting institutional structural controls in place that both accountants/auditors and business lawyers can assist you in implementing.

  1. Securing Business Contracts

In addition to your executives, securing contracts with employees and key customers is important for ensuring the ongoing health of your business. Very often, family-owned businesses neglect to engage their business attorneys to validate these important agreements.

  1. Structuring Your Succession Plan

Regardless of which approach you pursue, the structure of your succession plan can take on several features that implicate you from an economic, tax, liability and operational perspective. Your business attorney will understand plan features – not only to secure the health of your business, but ensure your own peace of mind.  

Contact Us

The complexities of succession planning would best be thought through together with your accounting and legal partners. If you have legal questions about succession planning, consider reaching out to:

Jeffrey K. Cassin
Business Attorney
Norris McLaughlin P.A.


About Norris McLaughlin

Norris McLaughlin is a multi-practice, commercial law firm with offices in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Our capabilities and experience include legal counsel on matters of national and international scope. With a team of 120 attorneys practicing in over 30 legal disciplines and industry-focused groups, we are well-positioned to service a wide range of clients, including small businesses, middle-market companies, and Fortune 500 corporations, as well as the private individuals and families who own, lead, and/or manage those companies. Learn more about our Business Law Services on our website.