Leaving-Your-Business-WillA will is a legally binding document that ensures that an estate is taken care of properly and that assets are distributed fairly. Without one, the state must assume this role on the decedent's behalf. Although the details of how the decedent's estate will be divided among relatives varies from state-to-state, surviving spouses and children share the estate. When the decedent has no spouse or children, their assets are typically divided among their siblings or parents.

From a legal standpoint, the state can divide the decedent's property as dictated by certain rules without a will, but this action may not be in the best interest of the decedent's business. A business usually takes years of hard work to establish and maintain for it to survive and expand. Unlike when the state is forced to decide how a decedent's assets will be divided, a business owner who has had time to closely observe which surviving family member would act responsibly handling their business in the event of their death has an advantage over the state's determination if this person is specifically chosen in a legally binding document as a will. 

In some cases, the surviving spouse would be the most fitting person to take over the business if need be. In other cases, leaving a business to a surviving spouse would be a grave mistake if he or she does not know how to manage financial matters properly or has no knowledge of investments, payroll or other daily tasks that need to be carried out on for the business to function properly. A will also ensures that a decedent's wishes are carried out by whomever they appoint to handle their business affairs as they see fit and to follow specific rules set out in the will. For example, a business owner can write instructions as to the percentage of money that will be used to pay off creditors in their will, such as expenses for inventory, loans, final income taxes, and so forth. The more detailed the will, the easier it will be for the one who inherits the business to focus on other pressing responsibilities with less frustration of also being responsible for paying off business related debts incurred by the decedent. 

A business owner may want to seriously consider appointing someone who is trustworthy and who has experience to help manage their business if it is left as an inheritance to a child or children who are underage or if the business is left to adult children from a previous or current marriage.

Another aspect of leaving a business in a will covers any contractual agreements made by them and another party (corporation, LLC, partnership) which allows the business owner to still have control of what happens to their share of the business in the event of their death. 

Details such as the ones mentioned above will need careful consideration and planning. The will may still need to be reviewed if any adjustments need to be made in the future which is best handled by an experienced lawyer. A lawyer can give specific guidance about certain things that will need to be covered when leaving a business in a will that can benefit all who are involved.

Wills are documents that need to be reviewed and updated throughout the course of the owner of a business's life, and can ensure that a business will continue to run smoothly after their death. Since the process of writing a will can become more complex when an estate includes a business, a business owner should write down and ask specific questions that they want to ask their prospective lawyer. The business owner also needs to be aware that are many types of lawyers. Some lawyers (i.e., estate planning or probate lawyers) have more experience when it comes to handling documents pertaining to commercial assets than others and the owner of a business needs to find one that will work best for them. Ideally, the right lawyer will educate the business owner of the fees involved after the initial consultation, explain the details of what type of wording should be used when drafting the will, make sure that the will is reviewed regularly, and be able to provide continual guidance in the will without charging hourly fees.


This article helps you gain information about leaving your business in your will, what to expect from your lawyer when drafting your will, and the types of lawyers that can best handle specific issues or instructions concerning your business in a will.