Starting and running a business of any kind requires dedication and a lot of resources. If you've poured your heart, soul and life savings into a business, you certainly don't want to see that disappear just because your marriage doesn't work out.
Of course, most savvy entrepreneurs don't think that this will ever happen to them. Even though 40 percent of marriages in the U.S. are ending in divorce, we still want to believe in the happily ever after. If you own a business, it's more important than ever that you protect your assets if you're considering marital bliss.
Get a prenuptial agreement
No, prenuptial agreements aren't romantic. Chances are, the people who need a prenup the most are the ones who were sure that they would never have a use for one. While it may be difficult to broach the subject of a prenup with your soon-to-be-spouse, the sooner you make your concerns known, the better. If you're already married, it's not too late. You can always get a postnuptial agreement.
These important legal agreements outline asset allocation, which is particularly important for the protection of your business. Your prenup can list the value of your business at the time of your marriage and indicate that you are the owner. You can also divide assets and financial responsibilities in a prenup.
Protecting your existing business
If you have a business that existed prior to your marriage, one of the best things that you can do to protect yourself is to get a prenup. If this isn't possible, you can still cover yourself by doing these things:
- Have a valuation of your business that was completed at the time of your marriage.
- Don't pay personal expenses through your business.
- Don't borrow from your personal accounts to fund business capital.
- Take a competitive salary from the business.
- Avoid having your spouse work in the business.
When business and marriage mix
If your spouse does work in the business, or if it was a business that you started together, protecting your assets becomes more complicated, but it is still possible in some cases. If you are unable to agree to terms, you may need to liquidate the business and split your assets. Hopefully, it won't come to that. When you have a joint business, some of the things that you'll want to do include:
- Defining roles and percentage of ownership clearly (on paper).
- Try to find common ground to make the business partnership work going forward.
- If a professional split is necessary, keep emotions away from the negotiating table.
It's difficult enough to lose a marriage, but losing a marriage and a cherished business can be devastating. Take the proper measures to protect your assets and your business so that you aren't faced with these dilemmas later on.