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Should I Get A Buy-Sell Agreement Or A Cross Purchase Agreement?

When it comes to planning for the future of your business, there are various legal and financial matters to consider. One important aspect is determining the best strategy for transferring ownership in case of unexpected events, such as the death or departure of a business owner. This is where agreements like buy-sell agreements and cross-purchase agreements come into play. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two options, helping you make an informed decision that suits your business needs.

Planning for the future of your business involves anticipating potential disruptions and ensuring a smooth transition of ownership. A well-thought-out strategy can help prevent disputes and financial setbacks. Two common approaches to address these concerns are buy-sell agreements and cross purchase agreements.

Understanding Buy-Sell Agreements

A buy-sell agreement, also known as a buyout agreement, is a legally binding contract that outlines the terms and conditions under which ownership interests in a business can be sold. It typically involves a predetermined price and a process for executing the sale. Buy-sell agreements are commonly used in partnerships and closely held corporations.

Exploring Cross Purchase Agreements

Cross purchase agreements, on the other hand, are a type of buy-sell agreement where each business owner agrees to purchase the ownership interest of another owner should they leave the business due to retirement, disability, death, or other triggering events. This means that each owner becomes both a seller and a buyer in the agreement.

Key Differences Between Buy-Sell And Cross Purchase Agreements

While both buy-sell agreements and cross purchase agreements serve the purpose of facilitating smooth transitions, there are some key differences between the two:
  • Number Of Parties Involved: In a buy-sell agreement, the business entity is typically the purchaser of the ownership interest. In cross purchase agreements, individual owners are the purchasers.

  • Simplicity: Buy-sell agreements can be simpler to administer as the business entity directly buys the ownership interest. Cross purchase agreements involve multiple transactions among individual owners.

  • Funding Mechanism: Cross purchase agreements may require a funding mechanism to ensure that owners have the financial means to buy out the departing owner's interest. Life insurance is a common funding method for cross purchase agreements.

Factors To Consider In Making Your Decision

  • Number Of Owners: The number of owners in your business can influence which agreement is more practical to implement.

  • Administrative Complexity: Consider the administrative burden and costs associated with each agreement type.

  • Funding Availability: Determine whether owners have the financial capacity to execute the agreement without straining the business.

  • Tax Implications: Consult with tax professionals to understand the tax implications of each agreement type.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Buy-Sell Agreements

  • Simplicity in execution.

  • Business entity purchases ownership interest.

  • No need for complex funding mechanisms.

  • Potential for disagreements over valuation.

  • Limited funding options.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Cross Purchase Agreements

  • Clear individual ownership.

  • Can be more tax-efficient.

  • Utilizes life insurance for funding.

  • Administrative complexity.

  • Requires multiple transactions.

  • Potential for unequal financial burdens among owners.

Making The Right Choice For Your Business

Choosing between a buy-sell agreement and a cross purchase agreement depends on your business's unique circumstances. Consider the number of owners, financial capabilities, and the administrative workload you're comfortable with.

The Importance Of Legal And Financial Advice

Deciding on the right agreement requires a thorough understanding of legal and financial implications. It's advisable to seek professional guidance from legal and financial experts to ensure you make the most suitable choice for your business. At Exit Stage Left Advisors, we can handle all of this for you.


Can I switch from one agreement type to another later?

  • Yes, it is possible to switch, but it may involve complex legal processes. It's best to consult with legal professionals before making any changes.

Are these agreements legally binding?

  • Yes, both buy-sell and cross purchase agreements are legally binding contracts once executed according to their terms.

What if my business has more than two owners?

  • Both agreement types can be adapted to accommodate multiple owners. Cross purchase agreements may involve more transactions in such cases.

Can I fund a cross purchase agreement through means other than life insurance?

  • While life insurance is a common method, other funding mechanisms like installment payments or external financing can be explored.

Is a business valuation necessary for these agreements?

  • Yes, determining the value of the business is a crucial aspect of both agreement types to ensure fairness and transparency in transactions.


In the world of business, preparing for unforeseen events is a mark of responsible ownership. Buy-sell agreements and cross purchase agreements are tools that can provide clarity and security during times of transition. By carefully evaluating your business's structure and needs, you can confidently choose the agreement type that aligns with your goals.


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