A new survey from U.S. Trust finds that while US business owners feel they have the ability and a responsibility to create jobs and opportunities for others, when it comes to their own estate and business planning many business owners are missing important steps that could unintentionally jeopardise their business, employees and family financial security.
The findings come from the 2012 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth Survey released last week. U.S. Trust’s research found that high net worth business owners have generally weathered the current economic cycle with optimism and focus on the future.
U.S. Trust is part of the Global Wealth and Investment Management unit of Bank of America, N.A. (NYSE: BAC).
The survey found that nearly three-quarters (72 % ) said that, as business owners, they feel they have a responsibility to create jobs, and 76 % feel an obligation to keep people employed even if it means lower profits.
Two-thirds (66%) of business owners twice as many as non-business owners say they feel empowered to make a difference by their ability to create opportunities for others. Roughly half (55%) of business owners have started, acquired and/or made substantial investments to expand their business since 2008.
One-half said they have not made any significant changes. When asked about plans to grow their business, only about half (55%) of business owners said they are holding back because of economic and regulatory concerns. Even fewer cited access to credit (28%) or availability of start-up funding (15%).
The nationwide survey of more than 600 high net worth individuals found that people who own their own businesses are generally wealthier and earn higher incomes than those who don’t. Most (68 %) created the majority of their wealth on their own by working for it.
They attribute their success to a combination of passion, intelligence and an entrepreneurial spirit, and a majority (52%) see themselves working indefinitely, including 46 % of business owners over the age of 67 who said they have no plans to retire any time soon.
For the 2012 Insights on Wealth and Worth study, U.S. Trust said it surveyed US business owners with at least USD 3 m in investable assets, and nearly two-thirds who have assets greater than USD 5m. U.S. Trust’s research found evidence that many business owners do not have wealth and estate plans that reflect their position and personal wealth:
More than half (55%) of all business owners surveyed have not established a formal succession plan for their business, including 43% of those over the age of 67.
Six in 10 business owners surveyed do not have a comprehensive estate plan. In fact, they are slightly less likely than non-business owners to have the basics such as a will, healthcare proxy or a named durable power of attorney.
Additionally, one in three business owners has established a life insurance trust. Three-quarters (77%) of business owners say it is important that they leave a financial inheritance to their children or grandchildren.
Forty-six percent already have transferred assets to a trust set up for future generations. One-third of business owners who haven’t established a trust say they don’t see theneed for a one because they are under the impression that a will is sufficient to carry out their wishes.
Fifty-four percent of business owners say they consider the most important goal of an estate plan is to minimise estate taxes. Yet fewer than half have taken, or plan to take, steps to reduce the size of their taxable estate in advance of potential tax law changes that could raise estate taxes.
Additional information about the 2012 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth survey can be found at www.ustrust.com/survey