We do many transactions involving family transfers. These transfers can become quite complex and often involve the sale of stock, gifts, or compensation arrangements as part of the final plan. We conduct a fairly heavy level of questioning and analysis to identify the transfer goals and structure the transaction so that it meets those goals and is as tax-efficient as possible.
To do this, we follow a very careful process to assess various elements of the company, its value, the senior generation’s liquidity needs, etc. However, the first step of the process pervades all others – family congruency.
Family congruency means that the family who owns the business has done the proper level of work to make sure there are no lingering issues on the table and the family is in agreement with the plan. When the family is not on the same page, we recommend slowing the transaction down until things can be worked out or clarified. Some families have enough structure and governance in place that they have few, if any, issues. Some, on the other hand, don’t realize the complexity of their situation or choose not to address it, thinking that they can deal with it later. This is a significant mistake.
Even the best structured family transfer can be ineffective if it is completed without clarity and agreement among the family members. If the family is not on the same page at the beginning of a transfer plan, it is unlikely that they will be at the end. However, by that point it may be too late to properly complete the transfer and save family relationships.
With all the goals of a family transfer, family harmony should be at the top of the list. If you have family issues, address them – because even the best transaction structure can’t.
Mario O. Vicari is a director with Kreischer Miller and a specialist for the Center for Private Company Excellence. Contact him at Email.
Has your family experienced issues as part of the transfer process? How did you resolve them? Share in the comments.