Business owners and their team often put years of hard work into creating a viable firm.

They may prepare for many eventualities - but the coronavirus crisis is undoubtedly unprecedented.

The government has advised us to work from home where possible and practice social distancing.

But this is not to say that in many cases companies cannot stay open for business.

In a previous article, I talked about not acting rashly and checking available support from reliable sources.

For example, the government is providing a range of support for businesses, including a job retention scheme.

There is extra relief for industries which are harder hit, such as a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses.

Sickness

The data is still coming in, but according to recent reports around 20 per cent will develop severe symptoms or become critically ill. Sadly, an estimated one to two per cent are dying from the disease.

We need to prepare for the possibility of key members becoming incapacitated or unavailable.

It’s time to talk

Perhaps the best investment a business could at this time is to have a 45 minute conversation about what would happen if one of the owners were no longer around.

Where possible, it makes sense to bring in an objective professional, who could talk you through your options.

Failing to prepare

Having worked with clients at a later stage, I know that failing to prepare can lead to financial and emotional fallout.

I have had companies reach out when an owner has become sick or died - without any protection in place.

There are instances when the person who is no longer around could own at least half of the company.

This can throw both members of the business and their family into turmoil – adding financial stresses into the mix at an already difficult time.

Sometimes it is possible to put processes in place for remaining shareholders. However, the best protection is advance planning.

Putting paperwork in place

Putting a Will, shareholder agreements and business insurance in place in advance help to keep a business running more smoothly should the worst happen.

A Business Trust can also help protect against hefty bills and events such as a surviving spouse remarrying.

Businesses can also put a Power of Attorney in place to make business decisions alone.

It’s important to prepare for the possibility of having an owner unable to make decisions for a time.

Here at Kinherit we also provide a secure online vault, where clients can store their assets. They can also upload items such as share certificates to ensure important paperwork is easier to locate and manage.

We work to ensure the right money goes to the right people at the right time. We want to give you some peace of mind over the matters which are in your control.

The main pitfalls to avoid as a business owner:

  • The assumption that everything will be OK.
  • The assumption that everyone knows what is going to happen.
  • Not taking the time to discuss the possibility of the sickness or death of an owner or key member of the team.
  • Not putting agreements in writing.
  • Not seeking independent, impartial advice.

Three steps to protect your business.

  • Ask yourself what would happen if a business owner or key member were to get ill or die. How would the business function? How would the business then be divided? How would their surviving family be provided for?
  • Have honest, open conversations. A 45 minute conversation is worth investing in to understand possibilities and have a plan in place.
  • Get objective, qualified professional in to discuss it and make decisions legally binding.

Ben Mason, is the CEO of end-of-life planning firm kinherit, which provides secure Will-writing and complex trusts. He also heads Futures Protected, which offers insurance to protect a business against financial losses in the event of the death or critical illness of an owner.