Business Probate Lawyers
When a person dies, everything they own forms part of their estate, including any business interests. Dealing with businesses can make the probate process lengthier and more complex than usual. Having an experienced probate solicitor on your side helps to resolve any issues that may arise so that the process is as easy as possible.
Business Probate Solicitors
The legal process known as Probate must be undertaken when a business owner dies, so business assets can be sold or transferred. The personal representative or executor of the will is responsible for obtaining a Grant of Probate before they can administer the estate according to the deceased’s wishes.
At Rowlinsons our Estate Administration team are experts in matters relating to business probate. In October 2023 our estate administration team was highly commended in the category ‘Private Client Team of the Year – boutique’ at the British Wills and Probate Awards. In 2018 we received the National Law Society Award for Excellence in Private Client. Our team were also highly commended in the Solicitor Firm of the Year (North) category at the 2018 British Wills and Probate Awards.
Our Estate Administration team includes solicitors who are full members of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and have received a STEP Worldwide Excellence Award, demonstrating our commitment to bringing you the highest quality of service.
You’ll have direct telephone and email access to our award-winning solicitors and assistants for a fast response, so we’re with you every step of the way.
How does Probate work when the deceased owns a business?
When a business owner dies, their company may be the most significant asset in the estate. It may include physical assets such as equipment, machinery, or property. Whether the business operated as a sole trader, in partnership or as a limited company the assets involved will need to be properly evaluated before they can be dealt with. This means that the probate process will typically take longer to resolve than for simpler estates.
Business assets are usually placed into trust for the beneficiaries until probate is granted and the assets can be distributed.
Can the business continue to operate when the owner dies?
There will be issues to deal with immediately such as whether or not the business can continue to operate and who will run the business in the meantime. There may be employees to think about as well as the day-to-day running of the business.
What happens to a business when the owner dies depends on the structure of the business. If the business was a partnership, the surviving partner may simply carry on with operations. For sole traders, the personal representative might have to decide whether to cease trading or carry on as normal. They may find themselves having to step in and help run the business while waiting for matters of probate to be settled.
Identifying assets and obtaining valuations may be difficult while being responsible for employees, dealing with debtors and creditors, and running the normal day-to-day activities of the business. Issues around probate and business are rarely straightforward and there is a risk of a long-drawn-out process if complications arise.
That’s why it’s essential to get expert legal help early on so you can make the right decisions to do what’s best for the business and anyone involved with it.
How are business assets dealt with during probate?
When evaluating a business, it is crucial to note the structure of the business and whether it’s a sole trader, partnership or limited company.
Where the deceased owned the business themselves outright there will be no distinction between their personal finances and the business.
When someone jointly owns a business with one or more people there is also unlimited liability, and the owners are held personally responsible for debts or creditors. What happens to the business when one partner dies depends on the terms laid out in the partnership agreement.
The deceased may have personally owned assets used by the business such as premises, which could complicate matters. Specialist legal advice may be needed here to determine what happens to the partner’s share.
A limited company limits the liability on the owner. The business itself takes on debts or owns profits separately from the finances of the owner(s). It’s common for family businesses to be structured this way.
If the deceased owned shares in a public or private limited company the shares will form part of their estate and be sold or transferred as part of the process.