What Happens (To My Work) When You Die?

When you are self-employed, or have a small business, what happens to your work when you die is a bit more complex than if you are an employee.

For instance, if you are a health practitioner, or a professional who has clients, what would happen to those clients if you die suddenly?  Or even die less suddenly?

Do you have a plan in place for who would look after your clients, or take them on?

This may not be so important if you are a hairdresser, or a joiner, but if you are in the healing professions, it really does need to be taken care of.

As an ex-counsellor and psychotherapist, I had a supervisor who knew she would be contacted by my clients if I died. This was professional behavior – in this field, the sudden departure of an important person in one’s life can have far-reaching effects.

The same might be true for a professional dealing with the healing of someone’s body. To be left high and dry if your practitioner dies is not pleasant.

Knowing that your practitioner had a plan in place should this happen, including a recommended person to contact, will help your client in any transition that might need to happen.

Other points to consider when thinking of your succession plan (as it is known) are:

  • Be clear about your intentions with your business/practice/service for after you die
  • Do you want it to continue after you die? If so, how, and with whom at the helm?
  • Who do you want to have access to any business bank accounts?
  • Who gets to pay any employees, and how should they be paid?
  • How will professional bodies be informed?
  • What about leases on premises?
  • What about insuring against yourself dying, if you are the sole proprietor or key to the business?

The more you prepare in advance, the easier it will be for those left behind if you do die.

In Gifted By Grief, the original memoir that is the precursor of Before I Go Solutions, I wrote about The List – questions that I asked my late husband Philip a few months before he died. Difficult questions, such as ‘what do you want to be buried in?’ and ‘when should I sell the car?’ and ‘what kind of coffin do you want?’ Not to mention making sure I had his passwords and user names.

This, and the purely business-related questions above, are vital to limit the distress for your loved ones. They will be upset enough about you popping your clogs, without having to make decisions that could have been taken beforehand.

The List has now morphed into quite a few other things under the umbrella of Before I Go Solutions, the social enterprise I founded in 2016.  For instance, in my book, Before I Go, there is a whole chapter for those who own a small business or are a solo professional.

If you want to make sure you cover all the questions, get a copy of my Workbook, Before I Go: Practical Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die

Finally, taking care of this means you can rest easy knowing you have done as much as you possibly can do to protect your clients from the challenge of dealing with your death, so that they can manage their grief in the kindest way you can give them.

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  1. Juliet on October 8, 2015 at 6:35 am

    These are such good points. Even though I’ve done a pretty thorough preparation, I can see that there is still more to do. Thank you Jane for keeping these issues before us.

  2. Joanne Warren on June 22, 2023 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for the reminder, Jane. I have shared this on my LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

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