Why Your Multi-Partner Law Firm Needs Buy-Sell Insurance Policies

August 4, 2022

Successful multi-partner law firms are worth a pretty penny. Here’s a scenario I often see:

  • Partner A owns 58% of the Firm;
  • Partner B owns 22% of the Firm;
  • Partner C owns 13% of the Firm; and
  • Partner D owns7% of the Firm.

What happens when Partner A dies unexpectedly? Are Partners B, C, and D prepared to pay Partner A’s estate the value of his lofty ownership percentage?

It is appropriate for partners to be concerned about what will happen upon the death of one of the owners, and how it will affect the business, the other owners, and the heirs of the deceased owner. Surviving owners want to ensure the continuity of ownership and not risk having a large share of ownership fall into the hands of potentially inexperienced heirs of the deceased. In addition, they want to protect themselves and the company financially. On a personal level, owners also want to ensure that their family is financially secure and compensated fairly in case
something happens to them.

Enter a buy-sell agreement, which can address all of these concerns. A buy-sell agreement is a contract among business owners which, upon the death of one of the owners, requires the remaining owners or the company itself to purchase the deceased’s interest in the company according to the agreed upon terms of the contract. In addition, the deceased’s heirs are required to comply by selling their inherited interest at the previously agreed upon price.

Funding a buy-sell agreement

There are various options for funding a buy-sell agreement, but some carry more risks than others. Some owners choose to either save money now and pay cash or to take out a loan to buy out a deceased owner’s share in the company. Both of these situations can be financially risky, both for the surviving owner(s) and the company itself.

The smartest method for funding a buy-sell agreement is through life insurance. This ensures that funds are immediately available when a death occurs; plus, death benefit proceeds are generally income-tax free. In addition, the funds used to buy the deceased’s share are purchased for pennies on the dollar and the premiums will likely be significantly lower than the cost of repaying loan interest.

Types of buy-sell life insurance include the following:

  • Cross Purchase Plans: Under this type of plan, the owners enter into an agreement with each other. Each owner purchases a life insurance policy on the other owners, and will be named the beneficiary of the policy. Upon the death of an owner, each surviving owner receives life insurance proceeds income-tax free and uses said proceeds to purchase the deceased’s business interests, while the heirs receive an agreed-upon payment for their business interest.
  • Entity Plans: In this type of agreement, also known as a stock redemption plan, the company purchases life insurance policies on each owner with the company itself as the beneficiary. When an owner dies, the company receives the life insurance proceeds and uses said proceeds to purchase the deceased’s business interest, while the heirs receive an agreed-upon payment for their business interest.

With a little planning, insurance is an intelligent way to prepare both your business and your family in the event of unexpected catastrophe. If you find yourself in need of an insurance plan to fund your buy-sell agreement, please reach out.

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Davis Wealth Management LLC d/b/a Davis Wealth Management. James Davis offers Securities through Concourse Financial Group Securities, Inc. (CFGS), Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Concourse Financial Group Advisors, a DBA for CFGS, a Registered Investment Advisor. Davis Wealth Management is independent from CFGS. Please be advised that presently James Davis holds Series 7 and 66 licenses in NC and SC. For residents of other states in which registration is not held, proper licenses and registrations must be obtained by representatives before proceeding further. No part of this communication should be construed as an offer to sell any security or provide investment advice or recommendation. Securities offered through CFGS will fluctuate in value and are subject to investment risks including possible loss of principal.

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