When a Business Partner Dies: Dealing with All the Changes

Running a business can be one of the most rewarding yet stressful experiences you will ever enjoy and endure. You may have fulfilled a lifelong dream, and perhaps even had a business model just waiting in your pocket, looking for the right time to strike out on your own. Once there, you were probably surprised to be weighed down with issues like employees and turnover rate, human resources knowledge to be attained and applied, complexities of working with vendors, the challenges in making payroll, dealing with clients (and keeping clients) and so much more.

Partnership issues can be extremely complex too. You may have had a long-term friendship with an individual before starting a business together, and that bond can remain strong. Others may have several partners, some who are more like investors than actual participants—while yet others may be married couples working together. Personalities and how much time you spend together have a lot to do with your success in working and staying together, much like a marriage, and if financial stress or other issues begin to plague your business, there could be serious strain on your partnership.

The strain is usually even worse if one partner dies. You may be in a serious state of bereavement, to begin with (and the grieving period, of course, may stretch on indefinitely), along with having lost a major player and contributor in your business. And just as it so often is with losing a family member, everyone may be wondering ‘what to do now,’ and how to fill the empty space they have left behind in your company. At this point it is time to read over that business partnership contract we very much hope you created during the inception of your business.

It is prudent for everyone involved for you to have a clause stipulating what would happen to the partner’s shares in the event of their death. Would you be given the right to buy out any heirs first? Right of refusal is critical to discuss; otherwise, you could find yourself with your partner’s spouse or nephew taking over part of your company. It might be surprising for them to desire to do so—and especially if the new party is not feeling exactly welcome—but there is a good chance they may want to sell too. In that case, you will again need a good business attorney from a law office like the Bolender Law Firm to handle the transaction.

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

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