Why the wife of a chartered accountant felt vulnerable should her husband fall ill.

Several months ago I received a request from a chartered accountant who wanted to talk to me about selling his accountancy practice. We arranged to meet and he let me know he was going to be accompanied by his wife, who also worked in the practice. The purpose of the meeting was for me to answer any questions he had about the process of selling his fees, how much he would be paid from the sale, what his involvement would be post sale and what the time frame would be for the sale of his accountancy practice from start to finish. His wife was an active participant throughout the meeting.

It was not until the point that I asked his wife how she would cope if he were to become seriously incapacitated, that I realised she had been thinking about this scenario for a long time – years in fact – and it concerned her greatly. She was heavily involved in the running of the practice, they had no staff, her husband was the chartered accountant and had the specialist knowledge needed to do the work for the clients. If he was taken ill or even worse, died, then she would have been completely left out on a limb. She would not have been able to do the work herself and would not have known how to proceed. I gave her my business card and said that should she find herself in that position then she was to call me. Her husband and I were both surprised at how much she visibly relaxed – knowing she would not have to deal with that situation on her own.

I phoned her a couple of days ago to ask her some more questions about her reaction and this is what she said:-
“The work my husband does is very specialised. He has his own system but a lot of it is in his head. If he died I would muddle along, but I would not like it and I know the clients would not like it either – they would end up leaving to find another accountancy practice that could help them. When you said you would be there to help a weight fell off me. I knew I had someone to talk to”.

“Before the meeting I had no one to talk to. My husband said to phone the institute, but that did not make me feel any better. I now have the name of someone I feel I could talk to. I needed a person I could relate to – who knew how to deal with this situation. I have your business card by my bed. I have photocopied it and put it in all the relevant places. I have told the family about you. I did not know how much stress I was carrying until it was all gone.”

My question to anyone reading this blog is – Are you in the same position? Do you have a life partner involved in your practice that could not run the business if you were incapacitated for a long time? If you work in a multi–partner firm or have staff that you can rely on to carry forward your practice then you and your clients are a lower risk. However, you are most vulnerable if you work on your own with no staff and your life partner is not involved in the day to day running of the practice. Is it fair to leave them to deal with the sale of your practice without you there to guide and support?

I have experience of dealing with a widow whose husband died the night before she called me. I have experience of dealing with vendors who have had a heart attack, a stroke, a brain tumour and terminal cancer. In all of these scenarios it is important to deal with a broker who has empathy for the remaining life partner and has the experience to know how to deal with the situation especially since speed is of the essence.

If you would like to speak to me about your own situation then please remember everything discussed is totally confidential. You can email me at n.draper@draperhinks.co.uk – I look forward to being of assistance.