It is common for husbands and wives or civil partners to work together in a family business, be it a partnership or a limited company. What happens to the business therefore, when the marriage/Civil Partnership breaks down?

As a first step, it is necessary for all assets held in the joint or sole names of the parties, to be valued.If a family business has been handed down through the generations to one party to the Marriage/Civil Partnership, then it isn’t inevitable that the business itself will go into the matrimonial pot and be divided up between the parties.

There is no magic shield that will protect a business, whether it be a limited company or partnership. There are steps which can be taken to protect business assets, but most of these measures need to be taken long before the divorce/dissolution process begins.

Discretionary trusts, shareholders’ agreements, and pre-marital agreements are just some protective measures that can be taken by a business owner who is concerned to protect his/her business assets in the event of a divorce/dissolution.

In the case of a business which has always been owned by one party to the marriage/civil partnership, it is best that protective measures by way of a Pre-Marital Agreement or Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement are undertaken at the earliest opportunity.

There are no hard and fast answers. Each case is judged on its own facts, and its own merits. It is essential to take legal advice early if you wish to protect a business interest in the event of a divorce/dissolution. For more information, please email Elizabeth Hodder or telephone 01284 763333 to speak to us.

Shareholders’ Agreements

Shares are assets, like any other. They can be sold, transferred or may pass between parties after a death, under an estate. A Shareholders’ Agreement is a contract usually between shareholders in a limited company, or indeed a family run company.

Having a Shareholders’ Agreement can prevent problems arising when shares in a company fall into the hands of persons that the remaining family shareholders simply cannot work with.

Shareholders’ Agreements do not cost the earth, but can be worth their weight in gold, when a business is travelling through troubled waters for one reason or another.

If you would like more information about this, please email Graeme Kirk or telephone 01284 763333 to speak to us.

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