What happens to your business when you die?

When it comes to writing a will, it’s important to have a plan in place for your business. Here’s everything you need to know about leaving a business in your will.

There are around 5.7 million businesses in the UK. Some are small, sole trader businesses, while others are huge corporations employing thousands of people. But whatever size business you own, it’s important that you have a say over what happens to it when you die.

What happens to my business when I die?

If you’re a sole trader...

Sole trader businesses are the simplest to deal with when writing a will, as any assets used for business purposes are owned by you.

You can leave this type of business as part of your residuary estate which can then be shared between your beneficiaries in any way you choose.

If you're a sole trader and want to leave your business as a specific gift, you may need additional legal advice. We recommend talking to a local legal provider or your solicitor face to face.

If you own a limited company...

All limited companies in the UK have both a memorandum and articles of association. These specify the purpose of the company and how it should be run. The articles of association may also say what should happen to your share of the business when you die, so it’s important to read these documents when you start writing a will.

You can learn more about how to make a will.

If the articles of association include details of what happens to the business when you die, this will usually overrule any wishes left in your will. If the articles of association don’t prescribe what happens when you die, you can talk to a local legal provider or solicitor to leave your business in your will.

If you’re in a partnership...

When a partnership is formed, a formal partnership agreement usually goes along with it. This sets out what will happen to your share of the business when you die. The terms of this agreement will override any wishes stated in your will, so make sure you take the time to read the initial agreement. If you didn’t create a partnership agreement and there isn’t one in place at the date of your death, the partnership can be forced to cease trading when a partner dies.

If you’re in a limited liability partnership...

All limited liability partnerships should have an LLP agreement or LLP members’ agreement. This is designed to make sure the LLP can carry on if one of its members dies. If you’re a member of an LLP, familiarise yourself with the terms of your agreement before you start writing a will.

Can I leave my business as a gift?

If you’re a sole trader or the sole director of a limited company, you may be able to leave your business as a gift to a specific person (or specific people). This may be right for you if you have a succession plan and want your business to continue trading after you die.

How to include a business in your will

It’s really important that your executors know about your business as soon as possible, so our online will writing service makes it easy to include as part of your will. When adding a new asset in the ‘Accounts and property’ section, simply choose ‘Business that I own’, then write the name of your business in the box.

You can learn more about how much does it cost to make a will.

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