Succession Planning: Avoid Strife When Passing On The Business in Ann Arbor

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At the most recent meeting of the She Owns It business group, the owners discussed succession planning. The topic is of particular interest to Susan Parker, owner of Bari Jay. She and her sister, Erica Rosenfeld inherited Bari Jay from their father, Bruce Cohen, who had never created a formal succession plan. In fact, neither of his daughters knew he planned to leave the company to them.

Passing on a business takes a lot of thought and consideration.  You have to think differently about how you are going to pass the business along, such as through the family or making other arrangements. So in addition to planning for your estate, you must plan for the business succession.

What if you do not make plans for your estate or the business? Well, it gets messy. Generally, matters default to the probate court to sort things out. Sometimes this sorting depends on dusty state laws of “intestate succession” that provide a one-size-fits-all plan of distribution based on your “degrees” of family relationships.

In the absence of proper legal planning, the question likely is whether the family (let alone business) will survive the process. For more on this subject, you might want to read a recent article in The New York Times titled “Surviving a Succession Without a Plan.

The original story is, in many ways, a happy one. The family rises up to reclaim the business and it returns. That said, it is a story of two sisters. While these were very capable sisters, they were never brought up in the business or with the goal of running the business. To save the business, however, these sisters had to fight through an inter-family conflict, a rebellious employee and even a downward dive into the red before finally taking over and saving the business.

Unfortunately, the sisters could have been spared all of this anguish had their father simply created asuccession plan.

To speak with Terry Bertram, an estate planning attorney, visit

Reference: The New York Times – You’re The Boss (June 25, 2013) “Surviving a Succession Without a Plan

Categories: Estate Planning