Who is your Family?
"Family" may be a single word but it can have different meanings. If you look in a dictionary the term can be defined in a number of ways from one, the narrow nuclear meaning of one or two parents and their children to two, a wider, more extensive, meaning of all the decendents of a common ancestor. If you take the narrow meaning, then you exclude childless couples or other variations on the family unit, such as step and adopted families, which are common in modern times.
In this day and age therefore, it may be easier just to define a family by legal bonds but this does not get you the whole way. It misses the fact that you may have several families in your lifetime and sometimes several families at once, if you so choose. For some people, family consists of those people you trust and rely on for mutual support, rather than blood relatives, so your family may include friends, pets or even a trusted business partner. In the end ,as the old saying goes, “Family is what you make it” and ultimately it is for you to choose what Family means for you.
When one of your assets is a stake in a Family Business then the term Family becomes even more important as the dynamics become even more complicated, as each persons can be wearing different hats, as director, shareholder, parent or child and even a trustee of a family trust or executor of a Will of a deceased family member.
In the context of a family business, your Family in the terms of who comes for Sunday lunch may include your and your children’s in laws and step children but would you want non blood relatives to have a stake in your business? For the purposes of the business, often Family may have a more restrictive meaning. As was previously stated, you can have several Families in your life at once.
Having decided what Family means in the context of your business then there are still even more serious issues to consider:
- What is the purpose of the Family being in business together?
- What is more important the business or the Family?
- Are there any key business decisions on which the Family should be entitled to have a say and who is Family for this purpose?
- Should the business always be wholly Family owned and in what circumstances would you contemplate any external investment in the business or a possible sale?
- Should the business provide employment for any Family member who asks for a job?
- Is there a requirement that any Family members employed in the business must work elsewhere before they join the business?
- Who should appraise Family employees?
- What information about the business should be provided to Family members who are 1) shareholders but not directors or 2) neither directors or shareholders but, for example, beneficiaries of a Family trust holding a stake in the business?
- Who should control the business?
- Should all the shares carry voting control?
- Who should inherit your shares?
- Should the shares only pass to those who work in the business and how do you balance up the other Family interests, if this is the case? Can you achieve equality in these circumstances and
- do you want to? Should you recognise that those who have contributed directly to the business’s success should take a larger stake or have they already been rewarded through the remuneration package they have received?
- If non blood members are excluded does this include your spouse and his or her children from a previous relationship and how do you manage the ensuing conflict at home.
It is easy to put off answering these questions but this is only storing up future problems, often until it becomes too late. In a worst case scenario not tackling these issues early on, can lead to expensive litigation and permanent damage to Family relationships. At Lupton Fawcett LLP, our specialist, multi-disciplinary Business Families team is experienced providing solutions to help manage your Family’s expectations with regard to the family business and to put a succession plan in place through amending your companies articles, reviewing and drafting shareholder agreements, Wills and LPAs. If necessary, there are other tools we can use, such as creating a family constitution or suggesting that a Family member enters into a pre or post nuptial agreement or new service or employment contract..The important thing to bear in mind, however, is that there are easy solutions, to deflect potential Family crises and the sooner you contact us for help, the easier that solution should be.
For further help and advice, please contact Amanda Simmonds.
Tel: 0113 280 2131
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.