In this case, it is a construction company located in the United States. It is owned by one spouse, all bank accounts/credit cards etc. are co-signed by both. However, the business is a sole proprietorship of the one spouse who is terminally ill.

If that spouse dies, can the business carry on and finish up existing jobs under the direction of the surviving spouse, or will the state reclaim licenses? Will insurance no longer be in effect? How does the surviving spouse ensure that the existing projects and accepted bids can be carried out, have sub-contractors elected / paid etc? What must the surviving party do now to ensure that is the case?

  • This is a question related to law, so you should specify your country. Laws vary. Nov 17, 2015 at 22:02
  • You may want to consider asking at law.stackexchange.com or requesting migration of the question there from a moderator.
    – WBT
    Nov 19, 2015 at 0:44

2 Answers 2


For sure you should get a lawyer on this one, but it would seem to me that the simplest path forward would be to convert the business to a partnership where both spouses are owners, and to write a clause into the partnership agreement stipulating what happens upon death of a partner. Such an approach really should be done with a lawyer to make sure that it's all legally sound and will stand up in court if needed.


Since it's a sole proprietorship, all of the business's assets and liabilities will now be owned by the estate. The estate (in the person of the executor or executrix) then handles winding everything down.

While still of sound mind and body, the spouse who owns it all should get with an estate attorney and plan all this out (including who will be the executor, and ensuring that the executor knows how to complete in process jobs and the wind things down).

  • 1
    Actual outworking of this occurred 2 months later upon death. This answer was closest. Due to the simplicity of the issue an attorney wouldn't have provided value IMO. Transfer of bank accounts were easy. Payroll and liabilities did not suffer at all. Credit with suppliers was handled case by case but stayed with the business name and required a change of account holder. The biggest issue was insurance on new projects. The surviving spouse had to get a GC license. The insurance company then issued a new policy. Existing projects finished, insured until complete - was not an issue in this case.
    – maplemale
    Dec 23, 2019 at 17:41

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