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12 March, 2024

What is an LOI and Why Do Dentists Need One?


Embarking on the journey of buying or selling your dental practice is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and strategic planning. An essential step in this process is the creation and negotiation of a Letter of Intent (LOI). While generally not legally binding, the LOI plays a pivotal role in shaping the details of your dental practice transition. In this article, we explore the importance and specific sections contained within the LOI, in the context of buying or selling your dental practice.

What is an LOI? An LOI, also known as a “Letter of Intent”, is a formal document that outlines the terms and conditions between a buyer and seller of a business. It’s usually provided by the purchaser. An LOI is generally not legally binding but contains important information that both parties agree upon before moving forward with the sale of a business.

1. Formal Expression of Interest

If you’re serious about purchasing a dental practice, a Letter of Intent serves as your formal declaration of intent to purchase the business. It’s more than a courtesy; it establishes the groundwork for the entire negotiation process.

The LOI highlights the terms of the deal and your motivation for purchasing the dental practice. Sellers can then determine the seriousness of your intent and the compatibility of your vision for their dental practice.

Earnest Money and Escrow:

Earnest money is a deposit demonstrating your commitment to the sale transaction. You should explicitly outline the amount of earnest money to be paid, the terms under which it will be held, and the conditions for its refund. Including these details ensures clarity, protects your investment, and helps prevent misunderstandings that could arise later in the negotiation process.

Additionally, if an escrow agent is involved, the LOI should define the terms related to the choice of agent, their role, and their responsibilities. This section should also address the purpose of the escrow, such as holding funds until specific conditions are met, and should also define who will be responsible for any related fees.


2. Terms and Conditions

The Letter of Intent outlines the foundational terms and conditions of the proposed dental practice sale. This section may contain an overview of what you and the seller agree upon, and provides the starting point for more in-depth negotiations. It may include specifics such as the proposed purchase price, the list of assets included in the sale, the financial structure of the deal, payment terms, financing arrangements, and any other important details that you wish to include.

You and the seller should use this section to clearly communicate your expectations and concerns. For example, you might request a detailed breakdown of the assets included in the sale, while the seller may outline any agreements related to the dental practice’s current outstanding liabilities.

3. Confidentiality

To protect sensitive information, a confidentiality clause is usually included in the LOI. This section explicitly outlines the obligations of both parties to keep details of the potential transaction confidential. It emphasizes the importance of only sharing information with specified or necessary parties, such as a dental CPA or dental attorney.

When negotiating a dental practice purchase or sale, confidentiality is paramount. Patient records, financial details, and proprietary business information should be safeguarded. Both parties need to agree on the extent of confidentiality and the consequences of any breaches. This helps to facilitate a successful dental transition.


4. Exclusive Negotiation Period

The Letter of Intent may establish an exclusive negotiation period, during which the seller agrees not to engage with other potential buyers. This provision provides you with a dedicated timeframe to conduct due diligence and negotiate without the fear of competing offers.

An exclusive negotiation period can be a valuable tool for you, allowing you to invest time and resources in exploring the practice thoroughly. Sellers, on the other hand, benefit from a committed buyer and a more streamlined negotiation process.


5. Due Diligence

Due diligence is a critical step in any business transaction, especially when buying a dental practice. The LOI outlines the specific actions of due diligence that you will undertake. Due diligence is completed prior to finalizing the business purchase, and may include reviewing financial records and reports, supplier contracts, lease agreements, patient lists, and other relevant information.

In this section, the Letter of Intent should specify the documents and information the seller agrees to provide you with during the due diligence process. It may also outline a specific timeframe for you to complete your due diligence, which can speed up the negotiation process.


6. Contingencies

Contingencies are conditions that must be met for the dental practice sale to move forward, and are specified in the Letter of Intent. This section allows both parties to articulate any conditions that are crucial for the deal to proceed. For example, as the buyer, you may make the sale contingent upon securing financing prior to the business purchase.

By addressing contingencies in the LOI, potential roadblocks can be identified early on in the dental transition process. This enables both parties to assess the feasibility of the situation and the impact of such contingencies on the sale.


7. Timeline

Including a proposed timeline for completing the transaction in the LOI is beneficial for both parties. The purchase or sale timeline should be realistic and account for potential delays. It sets expectations and helps with planning and coordination of the sale process, legal documents, and due diligence.


8. Binding and Non-binding Provisions

Despite the Letter of Intent being a non-binding document, there are provisions within it that may be legally binding. For example, the confidentiality clause, exclusive negotiation period, and earnest money terms may be legally binding. By clearly defining these clauses, you can ensure that both parties are aware of the binding and non-binding provisions in the LOI.


9. Negotiation Framework

The Letter of Intent serves as a negotiation framework, providing an initial basis for discussions. Both parties should express their priorities and expectations, while encouraging open communication. The negotiation framework outlined in the LOI helps prevent misunderstandings and sets the stage for a more cooperative dental practice transition.


10. Good Faith Agreement


Once both parties have signed the Letter of Intent, it is agreed that there is a genuine motivation to move forward with the sale process. Even though the LOI is not legally binding, it serves as a good faith agreement which facilitates professionalism throughout the negotiation. It’s important to understand and review the contents of the LOI before signing it. You can approach the drafting and negotiation of the LOI with the guidance of a dental attorney and dental CPA who can work with you exclusively during the sale process.


Buying or selling a dental practice can be a complex endeavor. By having a clear understanding of the terms and conditions and other information contained within the LOI, you can improve your odds for a smooth dental practice transition. To find out more about buying or selling a dental practice, book a free consultation with our expert team of dental CPAs.


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Note: The material and contents provided in this article are informative in nature only. It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone. If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.

Ed Gabriel, CPA is President of DrillDown Solution and a graduate of Brigham Young University. His clients benefit from over 40 years of experience in maximizing profits, minimizing taxes and putting them in the best financial position possible.