Stock Redemption Versus Stock Purchase

Written by Michael Baron on . Posted in Asset Protection, S or C Corp, Transferring Ownership, Wills

Dear Michael: We have a family farm corporation which has evolved over the years. We wanted a simple way of moving our estate to our children and farming son and our CPA suggested this would be the best. At this point, we have just our farming business – machinery, grain, etc. – but none of our land in the corporation, as we rent the land back to the corporation to avoid Social Security taxes on this income.

Recently, we were told by an insurance agent that if we wanted our stock to go to our son in the business, the corporation could buy life insurance on us and redeem our stock upon our death. The agent thought it would be easier for the corporation to come up with the payment than our son. Can we use this as a deductible expense to the corporation as the agent did not know? Tax Season Always

Dear Tax Season: There are two basic types of business purchase plans used by most corporations, that being the corporate ‘buy-sell’ agreement and the corporate ‘stock redemption’ agreement.

Under the ‘stock redemption’ agreement, the stock would be ‘redeemed’ by the corporation buying the stock from your estates upon your death. Ostensibly, this money would then flow from your estate to the heirs you name in your will.

If the life insurance premiums have been deducted from your expenses in any way, the death benefits will then come to the corporation as taxable income to the C Corp or as pass-through taxable income in an S Corp. This would greatly complicate any redemption of your stock as corporate or personal income taxes would have to be completed prior to the redemption of your stock.

The other item that occurs when you ‘redeem’ stock is that the stock is simply retired in the corporation no matter if it is a C or S corp. The corporation has money due to the death benefit and your stock is retired.

Because there was no exchange from outside the business by an individual, no one can claim any tax deduction for having made an additional investment into the business.

Had your farming son owned and been the beneficiary of the life insurance under a ‘stock purchase plan,’ he would have been able to ‘invest’ this money into the corporation to purchase the machinery, grain and other assets. Any assets purchased would be deductible to him for depreciation, etc. unlike the internal stock redemption plan that merely retires stock.

With your son as owner, payer and beneficiary of the death benefit, he can now purchase your stock from your estate – you’ll have received a stepped up basis in the stock on some portions of your stock – and the money will then flow to the beneficiaries of your will. Your son will get a tremendous income tax benefit from handling the funds this way versus the stock redemption.

By the way, if your agent doesn’t know these things, find one who does – yours is playing out of his field of expertise. You need better advice.

This also prevents shares of the business from going to ‘unintended beneficiaries’ if your will does not address these shares. Many people forget when they convert their farm business to a corporation, they have to mention the ‘shares’ in their wills so as to be distributed by the instruction of these wills.

Too many people forget to change their wills and then the ‘shares’ become part of the ‘residue of your estate’ – commonly known as everything I didn’t mention by name in my will – which is typically split evenly between all the children.

Last, but not least, if your son can’t afford the premium, raise his wages or 1099 him for the income needed to pay this premium. Its better he pays a little tax now to reap the huge benefits of having him own the insurance outside the corporation.

Happy Easter everyone – our annual rebirth is finally here!

“Keeping the Family Farm in the Family”
Great Plains Diversified Services, Inc.
1424 W. Century Ave.
Suite 208, Bismarck, ND 58503-0917
Telephone: 701-255-4079
Fax: 701-255-6106
Toll Free: 1-800-373-4078

No Estate Plan, No Future

Written by Michael Baron on . Posted in Wills

Dear Michael:

We’ve tried to get ready for retirement as our child takes over the family farm. She is married to a boy who doesn’t have much experience with farming, so we’ve been kind of dragging our feet on transferring too much property to them. They’ve got a little machinery but pretty much work for wages and a bit of crop share. What happens if something happens to us both prior to us getting a will put in place when we know everything is going to work out? – Waiting on the Will.

Dear Waiting: Waiting on writing a will is like waiting for the right time to have children. There’s always going to be a reason not to do something at any given point in time in life – whether it’s a decision to have children or writing a will.

If we waited for the ‘perfect’ time to have children – a time when we have our finances in order, when the bills are paid, when we were guaranteed to have enough money to support more mouths in the house we, as a species, would have died out long ago. Thank God the desire to procreate used to be more important than having financial security! I say used to be because this current generation of kids getting married seems content to wait until the ‘perfect’ time.

The same is true of writing your will. If we knew what the future was going to be, we would then know when we’re going to die. We would just wait until the week before and we’d have a snapshot of our lives to show to the attorney and s/he could draft a will based on the facts at hand.

With the experience I’ve had in estate counseling, I can tell you even if you knew all the facts at hand and knew you were dying the next week, you still couldn’t write the perfect will because your kids would change something – either something minor or something major – in your estate plan AFTER you die.

So what good is it to do a will or an estate plan at all? Well, the alternative is chaos and chaos will be the end of your family farm business.

If you die without a will, the farm assets and liquid assets – if you have any – will be divided equally between all of the children. This will leave your farming child without a home base to work out of because the farmstead will be owned equally by all of your children and the non-farming children don’t want to let the farming child get something they didn’t get. The same is true with the machinery, the livestock, etc. etc. on the farm.

I’ve had siblings file injunctions against the farming child to stop farming until these matters are settled legally. What does this mean? It means there is a legal order to stop doing business until all is settled. This might not be a bad thing in December or January but can you imagine having your farm business brought to a halt right now during harvest season? Or calving season? Or selling crops when they should have been sold?

The other matter that happens when you don’t have a will or an estate plan is one or more of the siblings are going to have to petition the court to be appointed personal representative.

If we have more than one sibling who wants to be PR in an estate – which you typically do in a farm vs. non-farm sibling – the estates going to have to wait until the judge hears testimony as to who would make the best PR and then it becomes the judge’s decision who is in charge of the estate from then on. Once they get the court appointment – which can take up to a year and your farm business has been in limbo for this time – the PR now takes charge of the estate and starts selling grains, livestock, etc.

The best thing to do is visit with someone to help you design a ‘what if? will or estate plan. What if the farm child stays with the farm for five years, ten years, or whatever you choose, what would you want them to have in order to be solvent? What if they quit and another child chooses to farm? Who would that be and what assets would they receive? What will the child on the farm receive to survive and what does that leave left over for the other children?

It sounds like there could be a hundred questions to answer – and there is – but once you sit with someone and have these questions dealt with the will, itself, won’t be a huge, technical document. It will be pretty much your standard performance contract you’d sign with someone building a steel building for you. When are you going to do it, when is the time frame finished and what’s it going to cost?

Waiting for the perfect time, or waiting until your son-in-law proves his proficiency is not the answer. In fact, drafting a document now that allows your daughter and son-in-law to see what is expected of them gives them a future to look at and plan for. It gives them solid ground to move more efficiently into the farm business. You’ll get your answers much quicker now if you tell them what’s going to happen eventually then if you just let it play out in time.

“Keeping the Family Farm in the Family”
Great Plains Diversified Services, Inc.
1424 W. Century Ave., Suite 208
Bismarck, ND 58503-0917
Telephone: 701-255-4079
Fax: 701-255-6106
Toll Free: 1-800-373-4078


Michael Baron is not an attorney. Information given through written, verbal, or electronic means by Michael Baron or Great Plains Diversified Services, Inc. is not to be construed as legal advice. An attorney, tax advisor, or other registered advisor is needed for the completion of the estate planning process. An attorney must be consulted for legal advice and the drafting of legal documents.