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Indemnification in the Sale of a Business

In buying or selling a business, the term “indemnification” might come up in the purchase agreement. But what does it mean, and why is it important?

Here’s a simple guide:

  1. Protection Against Future Problems: Indemnification is, at its best, like a safety net for buyers. If something goes wrong after the sale is closed, such as unexpected liabilities or legal issues that were not factored into the original purchase price, a well-drafted indemnification provision can help protect both parties involved to ensure that the original business deal is preserved. Essentially, it outlines who is responsible for covering costs when events occur that result in costs to the parties after closing that have not been specifically addressed in the definitive purchase agreement – particularly but not exclusively when these events are unexpected.

  2. Clear Responsibilities: Indemnification makes sure everyone knows who is “on the hook” when a particular problem arises. Each party will have its own expectations about the other’s standing behind the deal being closed – exactly what they are standing behind, for how much and for how long. By clearly stating who must cover which categories of expenses based on time, subject, responsibility or fault, a well-drafted indemnification provision eliminates confusion and helps prevent and limit the scope of disputes down the line.

  3. Peace of Mind: Including indemnification in the purchase agreement provides peace of mind for both the buyer and the seller. The buyer can feel more secure knowing that they won’t be left to face certain liabilities alone, and the seller can have confidence that they won’t be dragged back into issues related to the business once it’s sold. The time to address these future concerns is, of course, in the purchase agreement itself to ensure that the deal on the table meaningfully takes all of these items into account when the final bargain is being struck.

  4. Tailoring to Specific Needs: Indemnification provisions can be customized to fit the unique needs and risks of the particular business being sold. This means that it can be designed to cover – generally or in a highly granular way – the specific concerns that are most relevant to the transaction.

  5. A Standard in Business Transactions: Indemnification is a standard part of many business sales and is often expected by both parties. It helps to formalize the agreement and align expectations, leading to a smoother transition of ownership.


Indemnification isn’t just legal jargon; it’s a practical tool that helps ensure a fair and secure transaction when buying or selling a business. A well-drafted indemnification provision defines responsibilities, protects interests, and fosters confidence in the deal. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, understanding and negotiating this provision can make a significant difference in your experience and the success of the transaction.


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