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Succession Planning: How to Get Clients Over Their Inertia

Succession planning isn't easy. After all, no one likes to think about death, particularly their own.

While many adults can cope with their mortality long enough to put together a will or estate plan, when it comes of business succession planning, one of the biggest obstacles facing lawyers is convincing business owners to just get started. Here's how attorneys can help clients get over their inertia.

Focus on Those Who Need It Most

Every business needs a succession plan. But some businesses need one more than others. If your client has a sole proprietorship or a partnership without a written partnership agreement, explain to them that they need a succession plan in place immediately.

An unexpected accident or untimely incapacitation could put the business in jeopardy, as such businesses often don't have the governing documents addressing ownership and decision-making that LLCs or corporations do.

A Plan Is Better Than Waiting for a Perfect Plan

Some business owners may want to wait until everything is perfect for succession before putting together their plan. Take, for example, the client who wants to hand her business over to her son -- while the son's just not sure if he wants to take over. Or take the business owner who hates the current business leadership and would have to leave the company in their hands. Both are perfect excuses to ignore succession -- until it's too late.

Remind clients that almost any plan is better than no plan. The plan you have today does not have to be the plan that is actually implemented. Rather, a successful succession plan will consider contingencies and be updated over time, in order to make sure it remains appropriate throughout the life of the business.

Tailor Your Plans With Creative Strategies

Of course, every business, like every client, is different. When it comes to succession planning, you'll need to have a variety of strategies at your disposal.

Thankfully, there are a host of resources out there, including Family and Business Succession Planning by Thomson Reuters' Aspatore. (Disclosure: Aspatore is one of FindLaw's sister companies.)

Part of the great minds series, Family and Business Succession Planning provides an insider's look at navigating tax laws and developing creative succession strategies, based on the experiences of successful practitioners. If you're looking for ways to enliven your estate and business planning practice, it's the perfect place to start.

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