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Passing Your Business To Your Heirs

If you want your descendants to save on inheritance taxes find out why now's a good time to start handing over the family business.

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This story appears in the May 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Most business owners still in their operating prime would rather not think about handing over the family business to the next generation--at least not until they're ready to retire. By then, though, it may be too late to come up with the kinds of tax-saving strategies that could save your heirs a bundle later on.

"The earlier you start, the better," says Sanford J. Schlesinger, an estate attorney with Schlesinger, Gannon & Lazetera in New York City. That's partly because your company is likely to be worth less earlier on, so it will cost less taxwise to transfer it earlier. If you wait until your $1 million business has grown to $50 million, gifting it to your children will cost millions in gift tax. Worse yet, if you leave it to them at your death, they might just have to sell the business to cough up the estate tax.

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