Here Is What Estate Planning Looks Like During the COVID-19 Crisis

Here Is What Estate Planning Looks Like During the COVID-19 Crisis

There are a variety of reasons why valuing an estate is so important. People need an estate valuation for financing purposes, an investment analysis, and taxation, among other reasons. When to get an estate valuation depends on what you need it for, although it is beneficial to get one more regularly than you might think, just to have it on hand if a situation were to arise. 

Oftentimes, an estate valuation is necessary under more dire circumstances, like when someone in your family passes away. Just like death is uncertain and rarely predictable, so are other moments that are beyond our control. Take the recent COVID-19 pandemic, for example. For many of us, this crisis is something we have never encountered before. As such, the grim reality of coronavirus has forced a number of individuals to face “what if” scenarios they have never addressed before. 

The COVID-19 crisis is pushing individuals to finally reach out and sign the documentation for their estate plans. Other individuals are beginning to put their estate planning into action, which is a measure that should have likely been taken years ago. For those of you who have yet to begin or finalize this process, now is a good opportunity to have your estate appraised. Due to the current market conditions, asset values are suppressed, which will also help you save on your taxes. 

Below are a few things you should know about estate planning during the pandemic:

Witnessing and notarization through video conferencing

With stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders being given throughout various states, certain governors are signing emergency orders that allow both witnessing and notarizing to be done over a video call. This applies to documentation such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. 

Interest rates hit a record low

Due to the market volatility, interest rates are continuing to decline. Annuities, short-term loans, mid-term loans, and long-term loans have all reached historic lows. Now is a good time to take advantage of these low interest rates. You can consider refinancing loans to your family members or other beneficiaries, lending funds to your children, or selling your assets. 

Estate planning can be done remotely

Visitation restrictions might mean you cannot currently meet with your attorney, but that does not mean you have to halt your estate planning. You can still create an estate plan, update or finalize documentation, and get an estate valuation. Email and other lines of communication are still open, and many attorneys and experts are offering remote meeting options to their clients as well. 

The staff at Appraisal Economics has years of trust and estate valuation experience, including determining minority and marketability discounts. We also work closely with attorneys, accountants, and financial planners. Learn more on our website.

The Ins and Outs of Approaches Used to Determine a Cogeneration Plant’s Value

The Ins and Outs of Approaches Used to Determine a Cogeneration Plant’s Value

Cogeneration plants are one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to generate electrical and thermal energy, which can take the form of either hot water, hot air, steam, or all three. As the name suggests, cogeneration plants use combined heat and power (or “CHP”) as a fuel source. Natural gas is predominantly used in modern cogeneration plans, but biomass fuels and coal are also commonly used as well. 

Cogeneration plants may seem like a newer concept, but the idea has been around since the late 1800s. The energy they use would otherwise be wasted heat (think: a plant’s exhaust) that can now be harnessed as an additional energy benefit. Not only do these power plants operate at a 50 to 70 percent higher efficiency rate than other plants, but they are also better for the environment. There are thousands that are currently operating across the United States and Canada. This may be a smaller number than other power plants, but they are integral to our electrical generation. 

One thing to note is that the energy produced by cogeneration plants can either be used on-site or can be collected and distributed to third party companies. This depends on whether the plant is part of a larger facility or is just a stand-alone facility. 

Cogeneration plants are more complex and, therefore, more difficult to value. Below are some of the ins and outs of each valuation approach, which all go into determining the final value.

Sales Comparison Approach

This approach determines value by comparing recent sales of similar cogeneration plants in the market. These sale prices are pitted against the subject plant and then adjusted in accordance with size, capacity, age, location, and market conditions. 

Cogeneration plants are unique, so it is sometimes more challenging to determine adjustments effectively and reliably. An appraiser needs to determine the tangible assets, which requires applying deductions that can indicate value. Deductions must also be made for intangible assets, which include the workforce and management teams, computer software, as well as operating procedures and manuals. 

Income Approach

This method measures value by taking the plant’s present worth and future monetary benefits into consideration. For cogeneration plants, cash inflows and cash outflows must be determined. A cash inflow is forecasted by the sales of electrical and thermal energy. Cash outflows, on the other hand, include costs associated with operating expenses, fuel, and future capital expenditures.

An appraiser will develop these forecasts based on the level of confidence they have in how accurate these inflows and outflows will be. Some industries are more volatile than others, so only a small degree are confidently forecasted out more than two to three years into the future. Additionally, the economic environment of the plant’s industry is determined and could greatly affect how profitable the cogeneration plant will be. 

Cost Approach

This approach analyzes the physical condition of the plant, its operating characteristics, and its utilization. Additionally, the economic environment and any technological advances in the industry are also taken into consideration. When determining depreciation, an appraiser looks at wear and tear, operating stress, and any effects of prolonged accidents, shutdowns, or disasters. 

Modern cogeneration plants also have more inherent value than older plants. Plants that use updated technology tend to have more efficient operations that decrease maintenance, labor, operating costs, emissions costs, and the generation of heat rates. 

A final valuation is given once all of these approaches are correlated and compared with one another. Not only does an appraiser need to consider each approach carefully, there must also be a firm understanding of the operations, economics, and electrical generation industry.

At Appraisal Economics, we have an experienced team of engineers, tax, and appraisal consultants that have provided expertise to power plant companies all over the world. You can learn more about our power plant service here.

The Importance of Having Accurate Valuations for Hedge Funds

The Importance of Having Accurate Valuations for Hedge Funds

Hedge fund valuations have always been a fickle and inconsistent process. Previously, the hedge fund industry never established a standard process for determining the fair market value of over-the-counter, private, and illiquid assets. That all changed during the 2008 financial crisis. Investors suffered significant losses, and the industry faced increasing pressure to adopt a more streamlined valuation process. 

Post-crisis hedge fund investors demanded the valuation process to be more transparent while also being upheld to stricter regulations. Accurate hedge fund valuations are critical. If a hedge fund’s assets are misrepresented, that will lead to inaccurate fees and erroneous performance expectations. Additionally, inaccuracies can also result in flawed redemptions, which can severely hurt investors. 

To provide investors with valuation assurance, hedge funds can hire third-party valuation firms that understand the nuanced aspects of hedge fund valuations. Investing in a hedge fund structure is a complex procedure. It varies significantly from private equity assets, which can benefit from closed-end investment structures. Hedge funds, however, usually manage liquid investments wherein redemptions by investors can happen quarterly. For hedge fund managers, their fees are determined either monthly or on a quarterly basis on unrealized market values. This is why accurate hedge fund valuations are so important. 

To safeguard against inaccurate valuations, hedge fund managers should have strict policies to price their portfolios. The valuations should be detailed, compliant, and specifically outline the primary, secondary, and tertiary pricing sources. As more hedge fund managers seek the expertise of third-party valuation firms, investors need to understand the role they play in the process. It is also important that investors are paying close attention to procedures so that they can know, with certainty, that everything is well-monitored. 

A few services that a third-party valuation firm can provide hedge fund managers are negative assurance, positive assurance, and a full valuation. Each of these services varies, and the one you opt for depends on your specific circumstances. Talk with a valuation firm you trust, one that can prove that they have a great track record working with hedge funds. If you are not working with a qualified third-party valuation firm, then you risk providing inaccurate valuations to investors or bearing the risk of such valuations internally. 

At Appraisal Economics, we have been performing valuations for leading hedge funds private equity funds across the nation for 30 years. You can see our full list of services on our website, and can contact us today if you would like to learn more.

Common Valuation Issues That Can Happen During the Bankruptcy Process

Common Valuation Issues That Can Happen During the Bankruptcy Process

Last year, over 22,700 businesses filed for bankruptcy in the United States. Unfortunately, bankruptcy is just a reality facing many businesses with the outbreak of COVID-19. Companies big and small across all industries are at risk. Startups can face bankruptcy just months into their operations, and large corporations are also susceptible to bankruptcy even after decades of business.

You have seen the headlines. In 2018, a majority of notable department stores had no other choice but to close their doors. Last year, other major retailers followed in their footsteps and declared bankruptcy — Forever 21, Payless Shoesource, and Barneys New York, just to name a few. Other companies like Purdue Pharma and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) also filed for bankruptcy last year. 

When a company files for bankruptcy, which can either be voluntary or involuntary, it is either resolved through a Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 procedure. Under Chapter 7, which is known as a “liquidation” bankruptcy, a trustee takes control of the debtor’s assets, liquidates those assets for cash, and distributes the cash to the creditors. On the other hand, Chapter 11, which is known as “reorganization” bankruptcy, allows a business to continue its operations while also repaying creditors through a court-approved plan of reorganization.

Whatever route your business must go, a valuation plays a key role in the process. Yet, due to the complexity of a valuation during the bankruptcy process, there are some common valuation issues that can arise.

The feasibility of the Chapter 11 plan confirmation

A business can only emerge from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy if a plan of reorganization is submitted to the court and also approved. A valuation is crucial throughout this entire process, from the original proposal to the negotiations that happen along the way to the finalization of the reorganization plan. A debtor cannot even propose a plan without a valuation, since it informs the total amount that each of the stakeholders will get.

One issue that can arise is whether or not the reorganization plan is actually feasible. The last thing the court wants to do is approve the plan and then, within a few months or years, have the same company refile for bankruptcy again. Here, the valuation expert uses information and projections to determine whether the plan is realistic or not. 

Standards of value vs. premises of value

The standard-of-value terminology used in a traditional business valuation is not always the same as how it is used in a valuation for bankruptcy purposes. Similarly, the premise-of-value decision during the bankruptcy process may require court involvement. The wording you use has a significant impact on the valuation and, as a result, the outcome. 

These are just a few examples of issues that can arise during the bankruptcy process. If you need to talk to a certified appraisal expert with years of experience conducting valuations for companies filing for bankruptcy, contact us!

A Look Into the Nuances of Business Valuations for Tax Season

A Look Into the Nuances of Business Valuations for Tax Season

There are a multitude of reasons to get a business valuation. Determining the tangible and intangible assets of your business is always important, whether you are shaping your business strategy, getting ready to acquire another business, or buying out a partner. Business appraisals are a complex process, so companies look to certified third-party valuation firms to ensure their data is accurately represented in their valuation.

This is especially true when a valuation is conducted for tax purposes, which introduces additional layers of complexity into the process. A business valuation becomes more elaborate when you consider multinational companies who operate globally. Certain intercompany factors need to be addressed to comply with your tax reporting, and these factors are typically determined by the income approach since the other approaches (market and asset) can be more limiting. 

Here is an example scenario: A company just acquired another company’s stock. They plan to transfer patents to an entity that is located outside of the country, so they need to obtain a valuation of each patent. The products that are protected by these patents will be sold to customers and related parties, and these sales will be controlled by intercompany transfer pricing agreements.

When doing a business valuation for tax purposes, some of the factors that must be explored include intercompany transactions, the nature of the entity, transfer pricing, intellectual property, and tax rates. Below we will take a look at each.

Intercompany transactions

This data is vital, yet often misunderstood. These can include financing, sales of a company’s goods or services, and how they are using their intellectual property. If these are not included, your business can be severely undervalued. It also raises red flags and could get your company in trouble with the IRS. 

Nature of the entity

The nature of the entity guides the entire valuation process. Commonly, this impacts holding companies that have minimal operations, intangible holding companies, and full-service operating companies. Different approaches are used depending on the company in order to accurately determine value.

Transfer pricing

This is another vital but overlooked part of a business valuation. It is important to make sure that these factors (profit margins, revenue, etc.) are consistent so the data is not contradicting.

Intellectual property

In certain circumstances, some entities do not maintain IP rights, while full-service entities do. Without IP rights, an organization may have lower profit margins and risk. IP needs to be accounted for in a business appraisal.

Tax rate

If an organization keeps its earnings in the country it is located in, you have to consider the tax rate of the specific area. However, if that company will repatriate its earnings back to the U.S. shareholder, you must consider U.S. tax rates and understand how to report for foreign tax credits.

It is important to eliminate potential tax issues that could arise with an inaccurate business valuation, so make sure you are working with an independent valuation firm you can trust.

If You Are Buying a Company, Consider an Equipment Appraisal

If You Are Buying a Company, Consider an Equipment Appraisal

When you are in the process of buying another company, there is a lot to prepare for. Top of mind are usually all the short and long-term factors, like the transition period, operations, profit, and assets. While these are all important, what often gets overlooked is an equipment appraisal.

Many individuals do not realize just how important equipment appraisals are to their company’s bottom line. In fact, some individuals fail to see the value of equipment beyond its typical day-to-day usage. When you are on the hunt for what business to purchase, make sure you get an equipment valuation before you sign the dotted line. The appraisal will provide you with a significant amount of information, which will ultimately inform whether or not buying a specific company is a good idea. Below are a few reasons why you should consider an equipment valuation completed before you purchase another business.

Determines the condition of every piece of machinery

When it is time to prepare your necessary documents for the upcoming tax season, the equipment you use at your company is depreciated on a specific schedule. But we all know that the condition of a piece of machinery is impacted by a multitude of factors. Equipment that is completely depreciated can actually last for a few additional years, while machinery that follows the standard depreciation schedule could give out years before it is expected.

Provides maintenance records

An equipment valuation not only gives you an understanding of the life of your machinery, it gives you a comprehensive understanding of each piece of equipment. Part of the appraisal process can include diving into previous maintenance and repair logs. This insight is important, as you can see if everything has been properly maintained during its lifetime. If there are multiple pieces of equipment that are in poor condition, it should influence your buying decision. Fixing and replacing large machines is costly, so a valuation can give you leverage to negotiate the final sale price.

Prepares you for the future

If you know the condition of the equipment and whether every item has been correctly maintained, you will have a better idea for what future costs you should prepare for down the road. This helps to ensure that there will not be a high number of surprising (and expensive) costs so that you can budget more accurately. 

An equipment appraisal is a small part of looking into buying a company, but it is also a crucial part of the process. Because an equipment valuation can be important, you should also take careful consideration into the firm you are hiring to conduct your equipment appraisal. Here at Appraisal Economics, we have conducted a wide range of equipment valuations, including appraisals for hospital equipment and power generation machinery.

Focused on Digitization? Make an IT Equipment Appraisal Part of Your Growth Strategy

Focused on Digitization? Make an IT Equipment Appraisal Part of Your Growth Strategy

Digitization is no longer a commodity in today’s competitive business landscape. If it is not one of your top priorities, you are putting the health of your organization in danger. But any efforts to become more digitized should not stop with the tools themselves, or even with the strategy on how to properly implement the technology. Whether you are a small startup or a multi-million dollar business, it is crucial that you work with a certified appraisal company to value all of your IT equipment.

Business appraisals provide critical information that is necessary to ensure your company is protected. When you are considering buying out a partner, expanding your global reach, or considering strategies that will grow your revenue, business valuations are key. But it is just as important to value the smaller assets of your company as well. IT equipment appraisals can impact your company’s bottom line in ways you may not even realize.

You might think that some of your equipment is already obsolete given how quickly new technologies are released, but do not make the mistake of undervaluing your older equipment. Some companies are willing to buy a business’ older equipment when they are looking to get rid of older items in preparation for an upgrade. On the other hand, if you are looking to purchase another company’s equipment for your own internal use, getting their equipment appraised will ensure you are not buying equipment that barely has any life left in it.

Additionally, an equipment appraisal could showcase that the equipment you have, even if it feels a bit older, is still functional and can serve your operations well. This all depends on how you store and care for your equipment, of course.

As you begin doing your research for an appraisal company, look into the types of valuations they have done in the past. If they have experience doing equipment appraisals for numerous companies, they are going to know what to look for and be the most accurate when it comes to pricing your items. Working with certified appraisals eliminates the potential of being taken advantage of for someone else’s gain, which is why you should never seek the advice of an equipment vendor who would only have their best interests in mind. 

Getting an equipment appraisal for your company’s computer assets will have an impact on your growth and longevity, as it eliminates risk and also provides you with a framework for profiting off your technology as well.

Goodwill Can Increase Your Company’s Value: Here Is How

Goodwill Can Increase Your Company’s Value: Here Is How

There are certain aspects of a business that can be easily seen and measured. These tangible assets are unambiguous, and making sure they are represented in an accurate business valuation is critical for a multitude of reasons. Business valuations not only guide your business strategy, they are also necessary for tax and financial reporting, as well as for instances when you are planning on buying out a partner or selling the company. It is important to know what your company is worth. 

However, you know that the value of your business is more complex than just your property, equipment, assets, working capital, and more. There are other factors that must also be measured in order to have a complete and comprehensive valuation. Is your company known as a stand-out hub for innovative new ideas, products, or services? If your industry is booming and it is anticipated that the market will have a promising future, being a top contender in your industry could increase your company’s value beyond what it might have normally sold for. 

Similarly, if you have a very large following of loyal customers and a reputable standing within your community, this can also increase your value. You spent decades cultivating relationships, and if someone is looking to buy your company, they will see this influence and leverage as an investment opportunity. A potential buyer would be willing to pay more for your business over another just because of your well-established history. 

The goodwill of a company has a direct impact on its valuation. Yet, these intangible assets are more complex to measure than your tangible assets. To calculate your business’ goodwill, you would determine the fair market price of your liabilities and assets, deduct that number from the final sale price, and what is remaining would be your total goodwill. However, not only is it difficult to know all the factors that could be considered goodwill, it is also difficult to ensure they are accurate. You want to make sure you are not undervaluing yourself, but you have to also make sure your valuation can withstand possible scrutiny in the event you have to deal with legal or insurance disparities. 

When you work with a certified business appraiser, you can have peace of mind knowing that all of your tangible and intangible assets can be accurately represented. At Appraisal Economics, we understand all of the aspects that could influence your company’s goodwill and overall value, and our comprehensive reports will provide you with the necessary appraisal documentation to have on hand whenever you may need it.

Why You Should Get a Business Valuation When Buying Out a Partner

Why You Should Get a Business Valuation When Buying Out a Partner

When you first started your company, both you and your business partner were crucial to its success and longevity. Fast forward to today, your business partner has decided to transition away from the company. This could be for a number of reasons. More commonly, the partner wants to move on to a new venture or they are looking to retire. In some instances, however, they are either no longer aligned with your company’s vision or there has been a falling out of some kind. 

Whatever the situation, you now have to take the right steps to ensure that when you buy out your business partner, it is not only favorable for all parties involved, but that the buyout will not negatively impact the company in any way. Partnership buyouts are expected to increase with more baby boomers planning their retirements and younger generations looking to make more lucrative career moves, so make sure you are prepared when the time comes.

Determining the value of each partner

Even if the buyout began on friendly terms, disputes about the process can quickly make the partnership buyout less civil. The easiest solution would be to follow the terms outlined in the buy-sell agreement that both parties settled on when initially forming the partnership, assuming it was drafted in a fair manner. This agreement typically speeds up the buyout process and ensures there are fewer arguments and risks along the way. In some cases, there is no initial buy-sell agreement, which means that each partner will need to agree on the value of each other’s shares in the business. If one partner has been more involved in the company’s operations and growth, a higher payout could be expected. 

It can get complicated if each partner establishes a valuation without professional knowledge or expertise and tries to buyout the other partner using the average of undervalued or overvalued numbers. Either the numbers will be vastly different, or both partners might not agree on a final number. This is why it is important to work with a third-party valuation company such as Appraisal Economics. We have an unbiased approach to every valuation we conduct, and the methodologies we use to determine value are fair and credible. 

Getting back to business

When a partnership buyout can be settled quickly and with no animosity, it allows you to get back to business as usual. Knowing that the departing partner has received a fair share of the business, he or she is more likely to do what is necessary to ensure that business operations continue to run as harmoniously as possible during this transition phase. Contacting clients and updating them about the partner who is leaving prepares them for any upcoming changes. Detailing the responsibilities of the partner helps to decide what tasks you will take over and what potential staffing decisions you need to make to avoid any discrepancies in operations and performance.

The process of buying out a partner is faster and more preferable when you use a certified business valuation specialist. Keep this in mind as you consider forming another business partnership in the future. Initially establishing a buy-sell agreement with a new partner and a third-party valuation company will prove better for everyone in the long-term.

Best Practices For Maintaining Your Trademark

Best Practices For Maintaining Your Trademark

In an effort to protect your business, you registered your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If approved, you were issued a federal registration number. Now that you have taken that necessary step in the preservation of your brand, your business is protected for the rest of your tenure, right? Not exactly.

Registering a trademark is just the beginning of the journey, not the final step. It ensures that you are legally protected against infringement, but it is possible to have your registration canceled. If this were to happen, your only option would be to file a new application and start the process over again from the very beginning. However, repeating the process does not guarantee that your trademark will be re-registered, even if it was approved the first time.

The only way to look after your brand is to maintain and defend your trademark in order to keep it alive. Here are a few best practices:

Know your renewal dates

Part of maintaining your trademark is to prove that you are actively using it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) actually requires you to regularly submit file renewals that demonstrate your continued trademark use. If you miss the renewal date by over six months, they will cancel your trademark. Since the USPTO only sends one email reminder, it is best to mark the renewal dates on your calendar:

  • Your first renewal is due 5 years after your registration date
  • Your second renewal is due 9 years after your registration date
  • After that, every renewal is due 10 years after you submitted the second renewal

Monitor new trademark filings

Just as having a trademark is good for brand value, having other companies try to infringe on your trademark can actually have adverse effects on your overall brand. It is not under the USPTO’s purview to monitor all filings, so the responsibility of tracking new trademarks falls on your shoulders — or this can be done by a trademark attorney as well. Make it a point to regularly search the USPTO’s database and if you notice any that are too similar to yours, you can file an objection.

Your trademark should evolve with your brand

Just as you should never have a “set it and forget it” mentality towards your trademark, you should also never let your trademark fall stagnant. Registering your trademark early is the best strategy, but you should also be mindful of your future goals for new product development or any plans of expansion. If your company decides to modernize your current logo or packaging, for example, make sure those changes are also reflected in your trademark.

In addition to maintaining your trademark, it is also crucial to have your trademark valued as well. This not only gives you a competitive edge, it is also necessary when looking ahead and planning for other factors such as: trademark sale and/or purchase, tax reporting, determining royalty rates, and bankruptcy, among other reasons.