Role of Business Appraisers and M&A Advisors in Estates and Trusts

I was recently asked about Exit Strategies’ role as business appraisers and M&A advisors in estates, estate planning and trust administration.  Here was my answer …

Business Valuation (a.k.a. Appraisal)

As business valuation experts, we provide fair market value appraisals of closely-held corporations, FLPs and LLCs for estate planning, gifting, estate tax, charitable donations, buy-sell transactions and succession planning. We value fractional interests in operating companies and asset holding companies using appropriate discounts. Our appraisers adhere to recognized professional standards, perform appropriate due diligence and meet or exceed accepted reporting requirements. And of course we are prepared to defend our work in the unlikely event of an IRS challenge.

For estates containing closely held business interests, we determine value of the decedent’s interest. We can provide input to the attorney on the effect of using the alternative valuation date.

With regard to trust administration, when a privately held business interest is placed in trust, our business valuation can help the fiduciary establish a baseline value and enhance their understanding of the asset. An independent business valuation can also avoid any potential for conflict of interest, since fees charged by trustees are often based upon the value of the assets managed. Subsequent valuations may be ordered by the fiduciary to assess the investment’s performance over time.

In estate planning where a family business is one of the owner’s major assets, a business valuation is often the starting point for estate planning professionals as they consider various estate planning techniques. Valuations provide a basis for the owner to evaluate potential ownership transfers and gifts; and can safeguard against future IRS challenges.

Landscape photo by Lance Kuehne

Landscape photo by Lance Kuehne

When drafting entity agreement and buy-sell agreement terms, attorneys have to balance flexibility and efficiency of operations with restricting control and marketability. During this stage, we can identify problem valuation situations or problem assets and identify the effects of gift and estate planning alternatives on valuation. We can also provide feedback and input on operating agreement terms that impact value.

When business owners gift ownership in their businesses, we determine value as of the date of gift. When closely held business interests are donated to a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT), our business valuation can support the charitable deduction by the donor taxpayer.

Sometimes estate planning involves business succession planning. Like estate planning, real business succession planning is emotionally charged and often meets with resistance from clients.  A business valuation provides an objective look at many aspects of a business, including its management, marketability, inherent risks, and future prospects. The very act of going through the valuation process with an experienced and independent appraiser sometimes provides the catalyst that owners and their families need to fully engage in succession and wealth transfer planning.

M&A Advisors (a.k.a. business brokers, investment bankers, intermediaries, etc.)

There are many instances in which a generational transfer of a family-owned business is not the best option for a family. Often the children aren’t qualified to run the company or simply aren’t interested. Or the industry may be consolidating and an opportunity exists to sell the business for far more than fair market value and create substantial wealth and liquidity for the family.

Here, our firm regularly advises owners in the positioning, document preparation, strategic marketing and confidential selling process. We lead the M&A sale process for the client and work alongside their tax and legal advisors to maximize proceeds and preserve wealth.

Business valuations and M&A brokerage play a part in many estate and trust matters and succession planning for family owned businesses. For additional information or for advice on a current need, you can call Exit Strategies’ founder and president Al Statz at 707-781-8580.