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

(653 Ratings)

Produced on: May 19, 2017

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 91 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

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 


Max Elliott

The Law Offices of Max Elliott, Ltd

Maximillienne "Max" Elliott, our firm's Principal, practices with the compassion and sensitivity required to maintain family harmony for her clients. She is licensed to practice in the State of Illinois and has represented clients with large and modest estates, challenging negotiations, multi-jurisdictional probate matters, guardianship involving minors and disabled persons, and family-owned business planning.

Max routinely speaks to lawyers, students, and community groups. For years, she was a staunch supporter of marriage equality, educating colleagues and the public on the adverse effects of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and was elated to celebrate the Supreme Court's historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that established marriage equality across the nation for all LGBTQ couples.

Max is a volunteer faculty member for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), member of the U.S. Trust, Bank of America Center on Influence on estate planning, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Bar Association Trust Law Committee.

Before launching her practice, Max was a law clerk in a boutique tax litigation firm, assisting the principal in probate, domestic relations, corporate records, non-profit corporation compliance, and estate planning.

In addition to her legal experience, Max has more than 20 years of non-legal employment experience, including many  years in the American Bar Association's International Liaison Office in the President's Office and several years with Fortune 500 companies.

Throughout the years, she has also assisted entrepreneurs in creating viable business planning solutions. This experience and her compassion for the philanthropic efforts has also guided Max to become General Counsel of The Bernie Mac Foundation.

Max has received numerous awards for her commitment to the community and is an active volunteer member of several legal organizations: the Black Women Lawyers’ Association; the Cook County Bar Association; Chicago Bar Association; Illinois State Bar Association; and American Bar Association.

Also, because of her strong commitment to public service, she also supports Chicago Women’s Health Center, a women’s medical collaborative center providing healthcare services to women living alternative lifestyles and those in the LGBTQ community, IntraSpectrum Counseling a mental health treatment organization for the LGBTQ community; and Marillac St. Vincent, which serves low income families throughout Chicago. Max additionally serves on the Women’s Board of Heartland Alliance, and the Board of Directors of the DePaul Law Black Alumni Foundation.

Living in Chicago, Max is happily married with 2 charming stepsons and a darling niece.


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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$ 89 Family & Matrimonial Law and Business, Corporate, & Securities Law In Stock


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