Pathways of Ownership Distribution

It’s not uncommon for a family to pass on ownership of their business equally among all their children. When this second generation passes on their shares these may again flow equally among their children—the family’s third generation. According to this approach, the two siblings in the second generation will each receive ownership of fifty percent of the business. Then, for example, if one of these siblings has two children, and the other has three children, the two children of the first sibling will each inherit twenty-five percent of the business, and the three children of the other sibling will each inherit sixteen percent of the business. In legal terms this distribution by equal shares is known as per stirpes.

Alternatively, each of the third-generation children might receive an equal percentage of the business; in law this is known as per-capita distribution. In the example above each of the five, third-generation offspring would inherit twenty percent of the business.

According to Susan R. Schoenfeld, CEO of Wealth Legacy Advisors, neither approach is inherently fair or unfair—each family should decide for itself.


Family-Business Structure—Three Circles

Establishment of smoothly working interrelationships among the business family, business ownership and business management is one of the challenges as well as strengths of a family business. In the first generation these groups invariably have all the same players. But as generations pass the picture can become significantly more complex. To help with visualizing the interdependence of the three overlapping groups, or subsystems, comprising the family-business system, Renato Tagiuri and John Davis developed an organizing framework in simple graphic terms (below).

Microsoft Word - Three Circle Graphic.docx

Their Three-Circle Model provides a basis for understanding the seven interest groups that emerge, each with its own legitimate perspectives, dynamics and goals. The long-term success of the business depends on their independent functioning, interdependent relationships and mutual support.