We received calls from two agents almost back to back illustrating the need for contingency buy/sell agreements.
The first agent called said that his partner had died suddenly of a heart attack immediately after some minor surgery. They both agreed that a Contingency Buy/Sell Agreement was a great idea just two months earlier, but the partner passed away before they were scheduled to meet with the attorney to draw up the Buy/Sell Agreement.
This was an unfortunate failure in perpetuation planning because for a few reasons. The partner’s wife, with whom the remaining partner had a good relationship, was not the party with whom he was negotiating for the disposition of the agency. And the attorney for the estate was definitely NOT the remaining partner’s friend. His fee came from a percentage of the estate. For that reason, the attorney was certain that the agency was undervalued and was demanding a much higher valuation.
Soon after the first call, we received another call from an agent who lost his partner. The partners had an outmoded Agreement that would not bear the scrutiny of any court or heir. The two decided to revise their agreement, but his partner also suddenly died of a heart attack before the agreement could be updated.
This was several months earlier, and the remaining partner was confronted with the worst case scenario. He tried, to live up to his original Agreement for the Buy/Sell that the two signed some thirty years ago. Since the agencies were relatively small and both had young families when the agreement was originally drawn, the terms were for a multiple of revenues as the basis of value. Further, to make it easy on the remaining partner, the terms called for a long term payout over the course of fifteen years. The attorney for the deceased partner’s wife insisted on a cash payout with no discounting from the value established by their agreement. And to complicate matters, additional claims were made by attorneys for the deceased partner’s wife and adult children from a previous marriage. They also wanted their fair share of the agency value as assured to them by their deceased father.
The litigation defense in both of these cases will be nightmares, expensive and could have been completely avoidable by taking the following steps:
1. Execute a simple, direct Contingency Buy/Sell Agreement that is sensitive to the Fair Market Value of the agency at the point in time that the Agreement is triggered.
2. Make sure that the signators on the Agreement include both the agency owners and their spouses.
3. Fund the Buy/Sell with life insurance in the case of death and a timed buy-out in case of disability.
A Contingency Buy/Sell Agreement need not be complex or expensive. It DOES need the credibility of an attorney in your state to make sure it is legally correct and binding. It basically states that the partners will guarantee the buyout of a deceased partner payable with the proceeds of a life insurance policy owned by the beneficiary to an amount equivalent to the Fair Market Value of the insurance. It also provides for a timed buyout of the agency in case of total and permanent disability.
Gaining the signatures of the spouses of the agency owners cements their agreement to the terms and makes it difficult to alter or argue about the document after the incident.
Spelling out a term buyout for a disabled owner allows for continued support of that owner through the recuperative period, guarantees a continued income stream to support his family during his period of diminished capabilities and spells out the use of the disabled owner’s prior productive salary as the normal limit of the payout with the timing being as long as that payout does not achieve the total value of his portion of the agency’s ownership.
Using a “Fair Market Value” statement with a requirement that the value be completed by a valuer of insurance agencies assures the seller’s estate that a competent valuation will be completed and that neither by the buyer or seller will be disadvantaged in the process.
One of the agency owners in the example above estimates that he will be spending a six-figure amount to defend and maintain the ownership of his agency. All for the lack of a professionally prepared and valued Contingency Buy/Sell Agreement that both owners assumed could wait until a ‘better time.’
Please be aware that anyone, young or old, single or married, male or female, could have a heart attack at any moment. Complete your Contingency Buy/Sell NOW, or call us at (800) 779-2430 if you need help.
Live today like it was your last day —
Plan for tomorrow as if you’ll live for another thirty years