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Planning Family-Owned Businesses in Illinois: Avoiding Earthquakes and Landslides while Building Legacies

(690 reviews)

Produced on May 19, 2017

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$ 99 Family & Matrimonial and Business, Corporate, & Securities In Stock
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Course Information

Time 1h 31m
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

More than half of America’s businesses are family-owned but more than 88% of family-owned businesses never make it to the third generation. Given these statistics, invariably, lawyers will encounter a client or potential client who owns an interest in a family business or wants to start such an endeavor. Usually, the reason for starting a family business is to leave a legacy. Yet, knowing this client has little more than a one in ten chance of success, how do you reconcile their legacy dreams with harsh realities? Understanding why the 88% fail is key.

Helping clients plan family businesses is rewarding and challenging. Often, clients with limited resources will use do-it-yourself (DIY) platforms to start their businesses. DIY services provide cost-efficient solutions for entrepreneurs and can foster problems of seismic proportions. Problems occur because, in part, businesses planning in general requires knowledge and experience in various professional disciplines, such as business law and related practice areas: agency, contracts, and tax, which most entrepreneurs do not possess.

Additionally, combining family and finance is inherently fraught with challenges because of the nature of the dynamic – family (read emotionally-charged) relationships. Therefore, attorneys who are interested in a practice focused on planning family-owned businesses must be cognizant of the multiple variables that will affect clients’ interests and have the requisite legal competency and skills to help clients create a legacy or a profitable and sellable business.

Join Max Elliott in a discussion about planning family-owned businesses. Ms. Elliott is principal and founder of a Chicago-based firm, The Law Offices of Max Elliott. Her firm practices estate planning and wealth preservation for professionals and small business owners.  She is also General Counsel for the Bernie Mac Foundation, Inc. and a member of the Chicago Bar Association Trust Law Executive Committee, U.S. Trust Center of Influence on Estate Planning, and American Bar Foundation Fellow. She has presented several times to bar association groups on business succession planning and has worked with several family-owned businesses.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Identify who your client should be and the ethical issues involved when your client is an entity involving multiple constituent groups
  2. Determine the requisite competency you should have to serve your client’s needs and how to manage those needs when you lack the needed skill set in a certain practice area
  3. Gain familiarity with statutes governing various legal structures for family-owned businesses
  4. Grasp the legal dynamics involved in crisis prevention and crisis management
  5. Discuss how to help your client build a valuable business and successfully transfer their interests 

Credit Information

After completing this course, Lawline will report your attendance information to {{ accredMasterState.state.name }}. Please ensure your license number is filled out in your profile to ensure timely reporting. For more information, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements page . After completing this course, {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} attorneys self-report their attendance and CLE compliance. For more information on how to report your CLE courses, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements FAQ .


Max Elliott

The Law Offices of Max Elliott, Ltd

Max Elliott, Managing Attorney and Founder of The Law Offices of Max Elliott, Ltd., is a licensed, Illinois estate planning, estate administration, and wealth preservation attorney. Her firm, with offices in Chicago and New York City, focuses on unique families and women small business owners, and services include estate planning for taxable and non-taxable estates, estate administration, and advising small businesses in start-up, growth, restructuring, cybersecurity compliance, and succession planning phases.

On behalf of her firm, Ms. Elliott is also General Counsel for the Bernie Mac Foundation, Inc., a private non-profit foundation, and spearheaded the organization’s most recent restructuring. 

Ms. Elliott routinely speaks to lawyers, students, and community groups on the intersection of estate and retirement planning; small business essentials, including legal entity selection, succession planning, generational wealth transfers, and cybersecurity program planning; and fiduciary selection and other protective measures for seniors and the LGBTQ community. 

She is ranked as one of the Top 100 Black Lawyers by the National Black Lawyers organization, a member of the Executive Committee for the Chicago Bar Association’s Trust Law Committee, a 2017-18 Super Lawyers® Rising Star, a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a volunteer faculty member for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), a faculty member for Manhattan, New York-based Lawline that provides online legal CLE for attorneys nationwide, a faculty member of Esquire CLE, a member of the U.S. Trust, Bank of America Center of Influence on estate planning, ranked “Superb” and a recipient of the Top Contributor in Estate Planning Award from Avvo, a lawyer peer ranking site, and a member of the Association of African American Financial Advisors. 

Before launching her practice in 2011, Ms. Elliott was a law clerk in a small tax law firm, assisting the principal in probate, domestic relations, corporate records, and non-profit corporation compliance.

Ms. Elliott graduated from DePaul University College of Law and, while there, Ms. Elliott co-founded, as Co-Editor-In-Chief, the DePaul Journal of Women, Gender and the Law, the first legal journal in Illinois dedicated to women and gender legal issues. She also served for 2 years as Editor of DePaul’s public interest law newsletter, “The Advocate.”

In addition to her legal experience, Ms. Elliott has more than 20 years of non-legal experience, including several years’ employment in the American Bar Association’s International Liaison Office and several years with Fortune 500 companies, including a former “Big 8 Accounting Firm” and a leading international management consulting firm. 

Throughout Ms. Elliott's career, she has also assisted entrepreneurs in creating viable business planning solutions, such as creating and implementing marketing plans, strategic operation plans, securing capital, and business succession. She has worked with start-ups in the personal care, healthcare, small manufacturing, and nonprofit sectors. This experience provides a solid foundation for the business advisory services she provides to small business owners.

Ms. Elliott has received numerous awards, starting in law school and continuing through her legal career, for her commitment to advocating for the rights of marginalized individuals and communities. 

Besides her blog started in 2011, “The Lotus Rules,” (formerly, “The Shark Free Zone”), Ms. Elliott's publications include “Improving Afghanistan Maternal Mortality Rates despite the Lack of the Rule of Law,” International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI) Human Rights and Rule of Law Review, Fall 2010; “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: What the Reversal of U.S. Asylum Law Means to Advocates and Women Asylum Seekers,” The Women's Advocate, Fall 2009; and “Catching Up with International Criminals in the Twenty-First Century: Modifying and Accelerating U.S. Extradition,” White Paper, Library of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, Spring 2009. Ms. Elliott is also the author of the non-fiction book, “Ms. Thang, Real Knights Don't Show Up at 3 in the Morning,” published by Pocket Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster. 


  • Virtual Estate Planning: Digital Currency & Posthumous Children
  • Preventing Disasters: Estate Planning for Older, Unmarried, LGBTQ Couples in Illinois
  • Future Planning: Cryptocurrency, Cryonics & Posthumously Conceived Children
  • Planning Family-Owned Businesses: Avoiding Earthquakes and Landslides while Building Legacies
  • Diversity Matters: In/Tolerance Tales from the Solo/Small Firm Trenches
  • How to Incorporate Estate Planning into Your Offering: The Silver Tsunami, Planning Trends, and Estate Planning Myths
  • Avoiding the ARDC Checkmate: The Ethical Difficulties of Lawyers Functioning in Dual Roles
  • Professional Wills and Advanced Directives for the Solo/Small Firm Practitioner,
  • Working in a Solo Small Firm Practice Environment
  • Estate Planning and Wealth Preservation Considerations
  • The Lottery & Estate Planning for Elders: You Don't Need A Ticket to Win
  • What if I Am Neither: Estate Planning for the Transgender and Queer Community
  • Estate Planning for LGBTQ Couples: Legal Changes in Plain English, Part Deux
  • Estate Planning for LGBTQ Couples: Legal Changes in Plain English
  • Celebrating Black History Month: The Essence of the African American Community and the Law
  • Tax and Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples
  • The Silver Tsunami: Are You Prepared? (Estate Planning for Baby Boomers & Their Families)
  • Fundamental Estate Planning Documents for Today’s Families
  • Succession Planning for Attorneys
  • Basic Estate Planning Is an Oxymoron
  • Fundamental Estate Planning Documents for Same-Sex Couples
  • Changes in the Estate Planning Landscape in Light of the Illinois Civil Union
  • Basic and Intermediate Estate Planning Fundamentals
  • Marriage Equality, Hot Topics in Family Law,
  • LGBT Employment and Relationship Rights
  • Estate Planning and the Illinois Civil Union

Professional Affiliations

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Illinois Bar Association
  • American Bar Association

 Volunteer Support

  • Chicago Women’s Health Center
  • Howard Brown Center
  • Marillac-St. Vincent Family Services 
  • Legal Advisory Board of Raise the Floor Alliance,


DePaul University College of Law, International Law

Northwestern University, Political Science, International Relations


Edward C.

This was excellent in every way.

Elizabeth F.

I found this course to have a tremendous amount of value- it touched on valuations! I also enjoyed the analogy about tackling the elephant a bite at a time. I may watch it again.

Jordan H.

Max Elliot's presentation was masterful; brilliant; educational and entertaining--Edutainment!


Speaker is excellent

Sunhee L.

excellent presentation


Very enlightening. She is a very thought speaker with a lot of experience in Business Law

Edward C.

presenter was extraordinarily knowledgable and in command of her subject, and presented her subject highly effectively.

William W.

Nice presentation.

Amy H.


Robert M.

Very well done presentation and coverage of the topic.

Loretta O.

Very interesting

Adisa K.


Steve G.

Very good presentation

Gary D.

This course offers great basic information, particularly helpful in its emphasis on the lawyer's ethical obligations.

Lori K.

well done presentation - thank you!

Frances M.

Very knowledgeable, excellent advice

Gerardo D.

I have learned new legal matters that are helpful.

Honey G.

lots of practical advice

Donna W.

This presentation was thoughtful and thought-proving. It reminded me of so many issues and attorney responsibilities.

Sam W.

The vast supplemental materials will be very helpful to me. I have starting working in this field, and with every client I have to learn something new. This will be a good reference for me going forward.

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