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Every business owner should have a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will and other advance directives, a Will, and otherwise prepare for the transfer of assets to heirs.

Since an owner's funeral is part of the continuation of a business, consider making your funeral plans known.

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A Durable Power Of Attorney Gives Authority

A Durable Power Of Attorney can give a trusted person the authority to act in your place in case you become incapacitated and can't speak for yourself. The Durable Power Of Attorney can be used to give someone power to run the business, or be limited to decisions which are usually within the province of an owner.

Without a Power, a court may have to appoint a person (often a stranger) to make owner type decisions that have to be made.

A Durable Power Of Attorney is:

  • A Power Of Attorney is a document which gives whatever authority you specify to another person (your "Agent") to act on your behalf.
  • A "Durable" Power of Attorney is one that stays in force even if you become incapacitated and can't speak for yourself.

A Power of Attorney can take effect when signed. In most states, the Power can be "springing" -- not start until an event which you specify occurs.

How To Provide For The Passage Of Your Interest In The Business

Speak with your attorney about the best manner for you to pass your interest in your business to your heirs. If your business and other assets are worth in excess of $5,120,000, you'll want to consider how to minimize estate taxes.

With respect to your Will:

  • Be sure the provisions correspond with the provisions you make about the continuation or sale of your business.
  • Make arrangements for who will continue the business or fulfill any agreements such as a buy/sell agreement.
  • If your executor/personal representaive is not business savvy, consult your attorney regarding appointing co-executors.
  • One person would be directed to handle the business aspects of your estate. The other would be directed to handle the personal aspects. Check with your attorney to find out if such an arrangement can be legally binding in the state in which you live, or whether it will just be an informal arrangement.
  • Include provision for what happens if the two people disagree and an action needs to be taken.
  • To avoid confusion, it would help to have a discussion with co-executors together, and to then memorialize the discussion in writing.
  • Let your executor/personal representative know where your List Of Instructions is stored, as well as your Business Ethical Will if you have one.
  • Make sure it is challenge-proof, and that it is up to date both with respect to your assets and the people to whom you want to leave them.

Keep in mind that the bank in which you have your safe deposit box may seal the box on learning about your demise.

  • If you are a sole proprietor or a partner in a partnership, the bank will likely seal the box.
  • If your business is a corporate entity, the odds are the box will not be sealed if the box is in the name of your business-- but you need to make sure other people have authority to enter it.

Consider writing a Durable Power Of Attorney. Depending on the state in which you live, it will empower a person to carry on your affairs while your estate is being settled.

Consider Executing A Living Will And Other Advance Directives

If you don't have a Healthcare Power Of Attorhey and other advance directives, now is the time to execute them. A situation like Terry Schiavo can create havoc for a business. You may recall Ms. Schiavo was the young woman in Florida who was kept alive for years and whose case even went to the U.S. Congress because her wishes were not clarified in writing.

If you have advance directives check them to be sure they are up to date.

Provide For Funeral and Memorial Arrangements

Consider whether you have any particular wishes with respect to remembrance. If so, tell them to the appropriate people.

  • What are your wishes with respect to being remembered by your business? Do you want your business to continue without a break? To be closed the day or week or your funeral?
  • Are there business associates you want invited to attend or participate in your funeral or memorial service?
  • Are there business associates you do not want to attend?
  • For information about funerals, including why it is advisable to pre-plan (not pre-pay), click here.