Many business owners are too focused on 'today' to give serious thought to the future, and in particular to a future in which they will not play a part. As a result many businesses do not survive beyond the first generation of owners. A proportion of these failures can be directly attributed to inadequate succession planning. A Will gives you the opportunity to ensure that the success of your company continues even in your absence.

Sole Traders Businesses run by sole traders must be sold as a going concern by the people who administer your estate. Your Executors are usually only granted a 'reasonable period' in which to dispose of your business and it is possible that having to sell in this restricted time period is not in the best interests of your dependants. You should have a Will drawn up appointing responsible Executors and give them an express power to continue the business for however long as necessary. This will avoid a forced sale.

Partnerships Death of a partner usually dissolves the partnership unless otherwise agreed. It is critical therefore to ensure that you plan ahead and take appropriate legal advice during your lifetime. A partnership agreement should be drawn up to provide for the business to continue after the death of one of the partners, often with an option for the surviving partners to buy the deceased's share.

Limited companies If you own shares in a private limited company, the business will automatically continue after your death. However, there may be real difficulties if a major shsmallbusinesspic_10.jpgareholder dies. The business's survival will depend on who manages the company. Shares held in your name are vested in your executor. Your Executors will need to consider whether the company's articles of association or any shareholders' agreements provide any pre-emption rights. The company will need to be informed so that the alterations to the register of members may be made and new certificates issued.

The best way to ensure your beneficiaries receive their entitlement is to see to the proper management of the business immediately after your death and the only way to ensure this is to plan ahead and make a Will. It brings great peace of mind in knowing that the business you have created and worked so hard to maintain will continue and grow, long after you're gone!