Whether the older generation will need support from the business during retirement affects what tax-saving strategies can be used. If continuous financial support must be built into the estate plan, there's potential discomfort on the seniors' part that they will be dependent on their children as well as considerable pressure on the next generation to run an operation with enough cash flow to support the parents' retirement. If estate planning starts early, however, the senior generation has time to develop assets outside the business, and the discomfort can be avoided.
Estate planning is not high on any entrepreneur's to-do list. "It's important, but not urgent," says Geller. "I tell people that the most successful business owners I know spend a lot of time on important but not urgent matters. The least successful ones spend a great deal of time on urgent matters and less on important ones."
Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone; you can and should change your estate plan every time major life or business changes occur. If you've made plenty of sacrifices to build a substantial business to hand over to your children, the sooner you start estate planning to preserve that business, the better.
Patricia Schiff Estess publishes the newsletter Working Families and is the author of two new books, Managing Alternative Work Arrangements (Crisp Publications) and Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage (Betterway Press).