Business succession planning focus of seminar

Tom and Joe are co-owners of a pizza shop. Tom dies of a heart attack one day, leaving Joe as the presumed sole owner of the business. What happens next?

That’s the question that will be answered Thursday, April 26, at Wilton Library when Andrew White, a financial adviser with Charter Oak Insurance and Financial Services Co. in Norwalk, gives a free seminar on business succession planning. Registration is at 6:30 for the 7 p.m. presentation. The Bulletin is media sponsor.

Those who attend will walk away with an understanding of the pros and cons of using life insurance to fund the purchase of their partner’s share of the business, understand the different types of buy-sell agreements, be aware of the potential tax ramifications that come with succession planning and the potential tax consequences of decisions that are made, and to define three different case studies of business succession planning.

A small or medium business could be a pizza shop, an auto repair shop, anything where people are self-employed and are the owners of the business, White said in a telephone interview.

“There’s a number of things they face, since they’re responsible for their own future, with nobody providing benefits, so the onus is on the business owner to do that,” White said. “If they don’t plan things correctly, it could jeopardize the owners, the employees and the continuity of the business.”

The key is to make sure the owners have control over the continuation of their business, if they die, he said.

One of the most common mistakes in a small business with two partners is that if one co-owner dies, half of the business must be purchased from the family by the surviving partner, who may or may not have taken out an insurance policy on his partner’s life to cover this situation.

“The owners buy life insurance on each other, so that the surviving partner has a lump sum to purchase the partner’s interest in the business from the survivors,” White said.

White said he does not provide specific tax advice in the seminar, but gives the general concept that if there is estate tax due, it goes in cash to the federal government. That can be a real problem for the survivors, if the value of the business is locked up.

“The estate taxes are due nine months after somebody passes, so if a survivor inherits 50% ownership, and if he or she doesn’t have money to pay it, it can jeopardize the business,” he said.

The seminar will also cover different types of assets and properties, and business formations like limited liability corporations. There will be talk about the value of a business, and wills, trusts and gifting.

White is a graduate of Fairfield University who holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He lives in Westchester County, N.Y.

Prior to joining Charter Oak, White was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. His experience includes working on the floor as a trader, as a securities industry regulator, and financial adviser. He has more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Seating for the seminar is limited and RSVPs should be made no later than April 20 by calling the library at 203-762-6334. or online at