As freelancers and business owners, we have to provide a little extra protection within our end-of-life documentation. This business end-of-life checklist should be used in concert with the end-of-life checklist creator for personal information. Complete the personal end-of-life checklist first and then proceed to the business end-of-life checklist.

Make sure you provide the appropriate contacts:

  • Who are your business contacts?
  • Who is your accountant?
  • Who is your lawyer?
  • Who is your virtual assistant?
  • Who are your contractors?
  • Who are your suppliers?
  • What are the contact details for an office, coworking joint or physical business premise?

Pro tip:

Provide a simple list that has names, contact details and what their regular duties are. That way, the person taking over will understand the roles and responsibilities of each of your business end-of-life checklist contacts better.

Plans you need

Planning your business to operate without you if you become sick, injured, ill or disabled is as important as planning for a sudden or expected death.

In business situations, it’s a great idea to have two plans:

A business continuity plan

A business continuity plan helps your business run in all kinds of disruptions, including natural disasters, theft, fire and should you receive a news of illness, disease or disability. As the name suggests, it is a plan you can activate to help you continue to run your business should you face problems of the personal or professional kind.

A Business continuity plan may also include a succession plan that outlines what you want done with the business in the medium to longer term.

The Queensland government offers this handy breakdown of what to include in your business continuity plan.

A business cessation plan

A business cessation plan helps wind up your business should the business stop operating. This includes if you stop trading, become bankrupt, decide to leave the business or if you die. It includes what to do with your business’ physical, digital and financial assets. A cessation plan includes information on your finances, who to notify, what to do with staff or contractors, how to finalise your current jobs, taxation obligations and notify your customers.

This outline from the Australian government is a robust starting place for your business cessation plan.

If your business is a saleable asset, a business cessation plan will need to include the following kinds of information:

  • How much of the business do you own free and clear? I.e. without debt or obligation?
  • Is there a co-founder that needs to buy your family out?
  • Will it sell on the open market, to a competitor or to a current employee?
  • Do you need a business evaluation? What was the previous evaluation for comparison purposes?
  • Is it a bequeath to a trusted offsider or peer?
  • How much debt remains to clear after the sale?

Outside the physical business itself, are there any other saleable assets to sell or transfer to another owner such as:

  • Do you have intellectual property such as patents and trademarks?
  • Do you have websites, licences and other items that are worth money?
  • Do you have any current royalties from products, books, music and so on to consider?
  • Do you have stock to sell?

What happens to your client lists and customer details:

  • Who is the right candidate to hand your clients over to?
  • How will you notify your clients?
  • Who will do the notifying?
  • If those records require disposal, what needs to happen? E.g. shredding, digital destruction etc.

What happens to your equipment and assets?

  • Have you got laptops and technology containing sensitive information that need clearing and disposal?
  • Do you need to sell assets such as cars, furniture and equipment?

Pro tip:

Ask your accountant and lawyer to help you plan out your business continuation and cessation plans for maximum coverage and benefit.

Your financial plans

As explained in the previous end-of-life checklist, your aim should be to reduce debt wherever possible. This includes ensuring your business accounts are easy to find and follow as well as simple to reconcile alongside your personal estate.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Where are all your financial records kept?
  • What invoicing software do you use?
  • What is your accountant’s name?
  • What is your MyGov login?

And including information about your debt profile such as:

  • What suppliers do you owe?
  • What contractors do you owe?
  • What remains on any business loans?
  • What are your business credit card details, how to access them online and what debt remains?
  • How much is outstanding on any business loans and how to access these accounts?
  • Do you have a tax debt?
  • Do you owe money to any personal or private lenders, friends or family members?
  • Who owes you money?

Also include any regular accounts and invoices you may pay that will need to be finalised:

  • Utilities
  • Rentals (storage units, art studios, love nests etc)
  • Phone, mobile phone, internet
  • Rates, water
  • Tax, PAYG and Business Activity Statements
  • Employee and Superannuation contributions
  • GST registration
  • ABN or ACN
  • Insurances
  • Licenses and permits
  • Leases
  • Business name registrations
  • Webhosting and domain name registration

You will also need to include logins and authorisations for all your bank accounts, loans, superannuation account and any other financial profiles.

Pro tip:

Make sure that your accountant, business partner or a trusted ally can take over and make sense of your finances should you depart. Even if that means designating different people with aspects of your financial profile for peace of mind.

Managing incomplete work

If you die unexpectedly during a normal work cycle, it can add extra stress to your staff and loved ones. This is why it’s a good idea to outline how this works in both your business continuation and business cessation plans. That way, your workers and family have options.

Even without these vital plans, you can help create end-of-life documents for your business by answering the following questions:

  • Where do you keep all your client contact information?
  • Where do you keep the information related to your current workload?
  • What happens with the day-to-day running? What does a day in the life of your business look like?
  • Who takes over if there are projects and tasks to complete?
  • What are their contact details?
  • What software, email accounts and other information do they need to be able to do this effectively?
  • How does someone notify your clients if you die? Template it out!
  • Who are the clients to notify?

Pro tips:

Get in the habit of updating your client related contact information when you complete quarterly BAS. That way, your financial records and client work lists will match.

Business record keeping is easier with automation. You can automate your accounting with Xero or Rounded and manage your clients and communication with online software such as Slack, Asana, Monday and Trello.  

Managing ill-health and disability

What is the contingency plan if you lose your health or if someone you love requires extra care due to a life limiting or life altering diagnosis or injury?

This article from freelance advocacy and education group, the Freelance Jungle, explains what to do with clients, your business and more if your health falls apart while freelancing. It will help you plan out what your illness contingency plan might look like.

Include the following information in your business continuation plan:  

  • How do you manage illness or disability alongside freelancing?
  • What level of information do your clients need to know?
  • How does the person continuing the business manage it alongside grief or disruption?
  • How will it impact the hours of operation?
  • Are steps required such as consulting an accountant, deregistering for GST, applying for additional support and funding?

How to make sure your business isn’t someone else’s pain later:

  • Commit to keeping your financial records tidy
  • Take the time to document your processes and procedures. Update this information on a yearly basis
  • Template out email responses and social media notifications in advance to reduce stress on friends, co-workers and yourself
  • Activate a virtual assistant to support you
  • Automate as much as possible for all important records
  • Reduce your debt and outstanding amounts in a timely fashion

Pro tip:

Always approach illness planning from temporary through to permanent states of illness and disability. And with high, medium and low impact considerations within those plans to match the degree of assistance you may require.

Customer and supplier notifications

Whether you are slowing business down, doing a temporary handover or need to cease operations, outlining your notification process and templating out that content is a vital part of your business end-of-life documents.

A simple notification plan can help reduce intrusive phone calls, social media snafus and poor communication between an unwell you and your clients. It can also stop your loved ones from experiencing unhappy and unpleasant customers as they come to terms with your death.

Write down all the ways you communicate regularly with clients. You will need to provide specific instructions to:

  1. Access these forms of communication
  2. How to amend the information available
  3. Provide additional support to get the message across

Most businesses require the following information:

  • How to access a website and add a pop up, blog and edit the front page for notification purposes as well as change contact information on pages and in footers
  • Instructions on obtaining access and completing the task of changing business hours, contact information and phone numbers on the contact page, social media platforms and Google My Business
  • Messaging for social media platforms and how to obtain access to post it as an administrator
  • Access to work phones, message banks and how to change the outgoing voicemail messages
  • Email logins as well as information on how to setup auto-response messaging
  • Notification at physical shop level if applicable

As an added kindness, you should always seek to template out the information that your loved ones or colleagues may need to share on your behalf. It’s difficult writing a message about someone becoming ill, injured or dying. Take the emotional labour off the shoulders of the person left with the task as much as possible.

This includes creating email and social media templates for:

  • Disruptions, delays and changes to service delivery as someone else takes over
  • Cessation of service delivery and what that means for ongoing, pending and current projects
  • Who is the most appropriate contact person going forward? I.e. lawyer, accountant, creditors, the person taking over etc

Pro tip:

To keep the information accurate, review it every twelve months. A great time to do this is when you are finalising the tax from last year as your customers and their communication needs will be fresh in your mind.

Your technology management plan

Access to your technology can make your loved ones experience of your death so much simpler. No one wants to fight tech platforms or scramble to find passwords while navigating grief. Recording logins and passwords in a safe, central place means your loved ones won’t have to seek legal advice to gain access to your accounts or suffer decision-fatigue when it comes to what to do with your digital footprint.

Your end-of-life documents should include access instructions like:  

  • What are your security and burglar system logins and authorisation codes?
  • What online memberships and subscriptions do you own? What are the logins for these memberships and subscriptions?
  • What are your internet account logins and email account details?
  • How do you access devices on hardware and software level?
  • What are your social media logins and what do you want done with the accounts?
  • What professional memberships do you have, what are the membership details and what is the cancellation process?
  • Are you studying online educational programs such as short courses, online learning, university, TAFE etc? How do you cancel enrolment and finalise tuition fees?
  • What are your phone and voicemail passcodes and your phone plan billing details?
  • What software do you use? What are the passwords and dates of renewal?

Pro tip:

Using a program such as Last Pass for password management can help reduce the number of passwords and logins you need to remember or record. Or you can create a paper log that is kept in a secure place such as a safe, safety deposit box or with your lawyer.

Need additional advice to get your end-of-life documents for business organised? Sign up to the Great Last Impression newsletter and watch this space!