Why every business owner should have a Business Will

View All Articles

A Business Will, or a Buy-Sell Agreement, is something that I strongly encourage all my clients who are business owners to have.

A properly drafted Business Will, will allow for the smooth transition of a business partner unexpectedly departing the business (for various reasons such as total and permanent disability or death of an owner) and provide the remaining business partners with the ability to take quick control of the business without the financial pain.

Advantages of a Business Will

Frustratingly, a Business Will is a document that most business owners agree is a good thing to have in place, but never get around to actually doing. There are plenty of advantages for having a valid Business Will in place, for example:

  1. Business partners are not forced into business with an inexperienced member of the affected partner’s family;
  2. The business continues smoothly notwithstanding the death or total and permanent disablement of an owner;
  3. Adequate funding ensures that the affected partner’s family standard of living is maintained in the event of death or total and permanent disablement; and
  4. The possibility of conflict is significantly reduced.

Preparing the Agreement

Prior to preparing the Agreement, you should arrange a time to speak with your accountant and solicitor to get a full understanding of the potential tax implications and legal traps. In particular, the following needs to be considered and addressed:

1.    Determination of value, by either:

  • An independent valuer;
  • A valuation methodology or formula;
  • A periodically agreed value (ie, the value is agreed from time to time).

2.    The Triggering Events, for example:

  • Death;
  • Total and permanent disablement (TPD); and
  • Trauma.

3.    Funding the payout; and
4.    Tax consequences, including tax consequences if the payout is funded by insurance.

Funding the Agreement

There are many ways in which a business owner can fund this type of Agreement:

  1. Funding through insurance;
  2. External borrowing by the continuing principals;
  3. Sale of the exiting party’s interest to a third party;
  4. Self-funding by the continuing principals from other resources;
  5. Vendor finance (often using the business cash flow over a number of months or years).

Where there is a shortfall, the Business Will should provide for how the unpaid balance is to be paid.

Tax consequences

It is very important to get advice from a lawyer or accountant experienced in this area, to avoid any unwanted Capital Gain Tax consequences.

It is easy to see why a Business Will is an important component for business planning. When done properly, the Agreement can make the transition for all parties much smoother despite the difficult circumstances.

If you have any questions relating to Business Wills, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The information provided in this article is for general information and educative purposes in summary form on legal topics which is current at the time it is published. The content does not constitute legal advice or recommendations and should not be relied upon as such. Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, FC Lawyers cannot accept responsibility for any errors, including those caused by negligence, in the material. We make no representations, statements or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information and you should not rely on it. You are advised to make your own independent inquiries regarding the accuracy of any information provided on this website. FC Lawyers does not guarantee, and accepts no legal responsibility whatsoever arising from or in connection to the accuracy, reliability, currency, correctness or completeness of any material contained in this article. Links to third party websites or articles does not constitute any endorsement or approval of those sites or the owners of those sites. Nothing in this article should be construed as granting any licence or right for you to use that content. You should consult the third party’s terms and conditions of use in relation to any third-party content. FC Lawyers disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including liability for negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way. Appropriate legal advice should always be obtained in actual situations.