Hi, Helaine: I have stock in a family business my father left me when he passed. My sister, my two brothers and I own equal shares, a little more than half the business. The rest is owned by a few cousins who also inherited shares. I am no longer involved in the business, have no emotional attachment and could use the money.
I left 15 years ago and we all get along great -- better, actually, since I left the company. The shares used to pay dividends, but they changed the policy after I left. I recently asked my siblings if the company would be interested in buying my shares. I would rather the company buy them than just one or two siblings because my father always believed we should be equal. (My sister definitely can't afford it.)
My siblings are concerned that we currently own the majority of the stock, and if I sold the stock back to the company, that would no longer be true. I'm 55 and I'd like to settle this, but I don't want to look desperate. Any suggestions for how I can clear this up? -- Unwilling Shareholder
Dear Unwilling Shareholder: A firm conversation with all your siblings is in order here.
I'd tell your brothers and sisters you are ready to sell your shares, and you would prefer to do so in a way that no one is disadvantaged. Perhaps your two brothers who can afford to buy you out can lend your sister the money so she can do the same. Or perhaps you simply need to accept that you can't be responsible for everything, and make arrangements to sell the shares to any sibling who wants them. If none do, move on to your cousins. Or perhaps -- if the business can afford it -- they can vote to allow dividends once again, so that you are not under so much financial pressure that you feel you need to sell.
But one thing I want to make clear: You should not continue to damage your own finances in the name of family unity and solidarity. You are not acting desperate; you are simply being truthful and looking out for your own interests. There's nothing desperate or wrong about that.
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