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Pre-Partnership Pondering

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You may be reluctant to discuss the potential breakup of your business partnership, fearing that such talk could prove self-fulfilling. Butclarifying sticky questions while you're all on good terms can help prevent some of the tension that leads to business divorce. And if you do decide to split,written agreements can help ensure that everyone's treated fairly.

"There's an assumption by many partners that no matter what happens to their businesses, they'll be partners forever," says lawyer David Gibbs, of theBoston law firm Peabody & Brown. Even when his clients have the best of intentions, Gibbs still advises them to set up an agreement detailing how they'destablish the worth of company stock if one partner wanted out, what each would do if the other died, and how to govern the sale of stock to outsiders. Forsmall companies, most such agreements cost between $1,000 and $4,000, says Gibbs.

There's another benefit to the exercise. People who can't come to terms on how they'd get out of their relationship have a second chance to think about gettinginto one.




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