Blog Post

Estate Planning for the Business Owner Series, Part 2: Valuing the Business

Future Wealth Navigator

The value of an asset at the time of a transfer is the key component to the United States’ transfer tax system. Gratuitous transfers during lifetime are considered gifts, while transfers as a result of the death of the owner are included in the value of the decedent’s estate. Some assets are easy to value: marketable securities have a value based on the mean of the high and low on the public exchange on the applicable date where they are listed, while the value of cash is equal to the total amount transferred. Valuing an interest in a closely held business is much more complex. When an estate planner has initial discussions with a client and invariably asks how much their business is worth, the client may give you a number based entirely on speculation, or perhaps they are using “book value,” a multiple of the business’ EBITDA (i.e., earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), a value used in a recent loan application, or even the value used for equity as compensation (a “409A” value). None of these values are “adequate” for purposes of determining the value of the business at the time of a transfer for estate planning purposes, and none of these “values” can be used to substantiate the value of a transfer on a Federal Gift or Estate Tax Return.

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