Small business owners are the heart of the American economy. When every other sector is struggling, it’s the small businesses that keep on keeping on – regardless of how high unemployment is or how frustrating the new healthcare laws are. Unfortunately, they’re also the ones most likely to find themselves struggling to understand the intricacies of estate planning. There are specifics associated with covering those bases – and one forgotten detail can change everything. For many NH small business owners, meeting with an estate planner can make a world of difference.
These are a few of the important details a small business owner faces. Many of these contingencies can feel a bit overwhelming, but all are important. You’ll want to meet with an estate planning attorney in New Hampshire to ensure your own unique bases are covered.
The Reality for NH Small Business Owners
One of the biggest fears small business owners face is the reality if they are unable to conduct business, it fails. You’d be surprised at how few small businesses have more than one person who knows the business dynamics in their entirety. Naturally, an unexpected illness or injury is enough to keep many awake at night.
By naming someone to pick up the pieces should you become ill or otherwise incapacitated, you’re putting into place a more proactive game plan versus finding yourself reacting to the emergency. An advance directive, which includes two documents, will often serve your purposes nicely.
A living will names someone you trust to make medical choices should you be unable to do so. That includes making the decision to withdraw any type of life support if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness (provided, of course, you are not able to make your own wishes known). These aren’t unique to small business owners, but they’re good to have and can help protect everything you’ve worked so hard to build.
Durable Power of Attorney
The durable power of attorney allows another person you trust, referred to as an “agent”, to manage your business should you become incapacitated. The living will allows you to name someone to make medical choices, but your durable power of attorney allows someone to make your business decisions. There doesn’t have to be one person named for both; in fact, it’s rare that it unfolds that way.
You can also instruct your estate planning lawyer to hold the durable power of attorney and release it only if it’s ever needed. This is something you and your legal team will work out. Often, though, our clients have it stipulated that a letter from the doctor, explaining that they are incompetent, should serve as proper notification.
Let’s be honest – these are difficult topics to bring up. It’s not like you can announce, as your wife is passing the salad dressing over dinner, that you need to discuss end of life issues and the state of your business, but make no mistake: as awkward as the conversations are, they are absolutely crucial and can make a huge difference in how your family is able to cover the bases in the event of your death.
Any estate planning attorney will encourage you to not underestimate the role of ethics in your decisions: when you name someone to handle either of these great responsibilities you want to be able to trust they will have no ulterior motives. If, say, you are a furrier with a collection of fur coats, you might not want to name your brother in law, who’s an avid supporter of PETA, to oversee your business transactions. It’s not that you don’t trust him, but you don’t want to put him in the position of going against his own ethics and moral beliefs.
As always, we strongly encourage anyone – whether they’re small business owners or educators or bank presidents – to ensure a solid relationship with an estate planning firm is in place. It’s the only way you’ll be able to close your eyes at night and rest easy knowing it’s one fire that won’t have to be put out.