I am frequently asked by small business owners if they should have a separate LLC or multiple LLCs for their assets. The answer is “it depends” on what your objective is for considering this.
When it comes to understanding your estate and planning for it, the key concept is ownership. How do you own your assets? How should you own your assets? How can you easily pass along this ownership to your loved ones?
When it comes to business assets, whether in the context of ordinary day-to-day operations or as a business owner setting up your estate plan, ownership is still the name of the game. One question that arises, then, is whether your assets should be spread across separate or multiple LLCs.
I came across a recent article in CPA Magazine and, according to the author, whether you should start splintering your assets into multiple LLCs depends a great deal on what you hope to accomplish. No surprise there.
However, to many it’s simply a question of liability and risk protection, but then there are other goals. Namely, splitting into multiple business entities will allow your company to move the ownership of assets around between family members or employees without necessarily dividing the business.
This can be accomplished with some careful planning, corporate due diligence, and transactions like the sale-leaseback or, more in the vein of estate planning, the gift-leaseback. In that latter play, the business owner either leases or gifts the asset away and then immediately leases it back, thereby spreading ownership but retaining the operations of the company. Of course, not all business assets are well equipped for this practice, but others are perfectly positioned, especially those that deal in large equipment or vehicles.
It’s not quite as simple in practice, and diligence is a necessity, but for many small and family owned businesses this fractured structure will allow a great deal of leeway.
Whether it truly is right for you will take some thought and competent counsel, both legal and financial/tax, at your side. In the end, it all comes down to your own unique goals, first for your business and second for your family.
Reference: CPA Magazine (2011) “How to Determine if a Separate LLC is Right for Your Assets”