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advantages of a buy-sell agreement

The Advantages of a Buy-Sell Agreement for Business Transitions

How Do I Love Thee Advantages of a Buy-Sell Agreement? Let Me Count the Ways…

Businesses with more than one owner face unique challenges in planning for the future. A buy-sell agreement is an arrangement between business partners to govern potential ownership transitions, including the “four Ds”: death, disability, divorce and disagreement.

One of the advantages of a buy-sell agreement is that can protect the company and the remaining owners by outlining how the departing owner’s shares are handled.

Advantages of a Buy-Sell Agreement in the Case of the Four Ds

  • Death: In the event of an owner’s death, the surviving spouse or family members may inherit the shares of the company. The buy-sell agreement outlines how the remaining owner(s) or company can buy those shares. Often, the deceased owner’s family will sell stock to the remaining partner(s) in exchange for cash. A well-structured buy-sell agreement includes a life insurance policy so there is cash available to purchase the shares of a surviving spouse.
  • Disability: Another advantage of a buy-sell agreement is that it provides for contingencies, such as an owner’s disability. There are many ways to structure this part of the agreement, but often insurance plays a big part. When an owner isn’t able to work, the other owners may buy him or her out from the disability payout. Or the agreement may mandate the sale of shares of the company to ensure the injured or sick owner would continue receiving income.

[Editor’s Note:  You may also be interested in Estate Planning & Asset Protection in an Hour]  

The traditional option to fund this type of buy-sell arrangement is disability insurance. But today, many life insurance policies offer a disability rider as an optional add-on. Bundled policies are typically less expensive than two separate policies and may cover more contingencies. Both options cover disabilities, a medical issue requiring long-term care and other serious health crises. When one owner is not able to work because of these health issues, the insurance provides a pay-out.

  • Divorce: In a  divorce settlement, an owner’s former spouse may be awarded a portion of the company. One advantage of a buy-sell agreement is that it outlines terms to ensure the former spouse is compensated. The agreement avoids the risk of having to manage the business alongside a co-owner’s ex-spouse or losing control of the company altogether. Tensions are often high in a divorce. It is important to protect the business from a new minority owner who may or may not have the best interest of the company in mind.
  • Disagreement: Just like a divorce, businesses sometimes dissolve because of irreconcilable differences between owners. Buy-sell agreements can act similarly to a prenuptial agreement. They outline what will happen if the owners cannot continue their partnership. It is much simpler and less expensive to agree on the terms ahead of time than to battle it out later in court.

[Editor’s Note: You may also be interested in What’s it Worth: Valuing a Business for Sale]

The vast majority of small and medium-sized business with more than one owner would benefit from the advantages of a buy-sell agreement, but only a small portion of them have one. The “four Ds” can easily be planned for, but without a formal agreement, the “four Ds” can lead to financial ruin for company owners. Talk to your financial advisor or attorney to learn more about how a buy-sell agreement might be able to safeguard your company.

[Editor’s Note: If you want to learn more about selling your business, we recommend you check out Financial Poise’s other free articles on the topic, starting with this introductory piece, “Getting Started with Business Transition and Exit Planning”.]


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About Jeff Motske CFP®

Jeff Motske, CFP®, is president and CEO of Trilogy Financial, a privately held financial planning firm headquartered in Huntington Beach. He is the author of The Couple's Guide to Financial Compatibility and the host of “The Jeff Motske Show,” where he guides listeners through proven steps toward financial freedom. Learn more at, or contact…

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