Unlimited liability

Page written by AI. Reviewed internally on February 16, 2024.


Unlimited liability in business and finance refers to a legal and financial structure where the owners are personally responsible for all the debts and liabilities of the business.

What is unlimited liability?

Unlimited liabbility means that if the business incurs debts or legal obligations that it cannot repay, the owners’ personal assets may be used to cover these obligations.

Unlimited liability is most commonly associated with sole traderships and general partnerships. In these business structures, there is no legal distinction between the business and its owners. Unlike in limited liability entities, unlimited liability provides no such protection. In the event of business failure, personal assets can be used to satisfy business debts.

Unlimited liability businesses may face challenges in raising capital and expanding operations, as potential investors or lenders may be hesitant to become involved due to the heightened personal risk for owners. 

Passing on an unlimited liability business can be complex, as it may involve personal liabilities and require careful planning for business continuity or succession.

Example of unlimited liability

John and Alice decide to start a small bakery business together as equal partners. They operate the bakery as a partnership.

Unfortunately, the bakery encounters financial difficulties, and it builds up significant debts to suppliers, creditors, and landlords. Despite their best efforts to turn the business around, the bakery continues to struggle financially.

As a result of the unlimited liability associated with their partnership, John and Alice are personally liable for the bakery’s debts and obligations. This means that if the bakery is unable to repay its debts using its assets and revenue, creditors can pursue John and Alice’s personal assets.

In this example, John and Alice face the risk of losing their personal assets due to the bakery’s financial difficulties and unlimited liability.

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