Soaring values of automobile dealerships are a boon to hard-working entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses.
The combination of well-financed outsiders, public dealership groups and established dealers looking to expand makes it a great time for those who want to cash out.
But, increasingly, dealers whose succession plans rely on selling to family members or general managers are being forced to rethink options.
Rising values are disrupting some dealer family succession plans. Receiving an unsolicited offer much higher than the existing valuation could undo years of planning.
Compared with all that, the recent House passage of a bill that would eliminate federal estate taxes is little more than a distraction.
For years, many dealers and their trade associations have advocated abolishing the federal estate tax, which currently imposes a 40 percent levy on estates larger than $5.4 million.
Dealers say the tax unfairly penalizes their family members, who can be forced to sell a dealership or its assets to satisfy the estate tax bill if a dealer family member dies unexpectedly. Estate planning also consumes resources that could otherwise be reinvested in the business.
But even if the bill the House approved this month is approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama -- whose administration has argued against it -- auto dealers must still take estate taxes into consideration. A different Congress could re-enact an estate tax.
As a mergers and acquisitions broker put it: "What family would eliminate planning a contingency for estate taxes coming back?"
The more immediate focus for dealers planning for succession is the rising value of their businesses. Stores priced too high can exceed the ability of a working child or general manager to pay off.
As their asset values grow, dealer families must be flexible and must explore fall-back plans for every contingency.
Transferring wealth to the next generation requires ample time and planning. But the inherent optimism and drive that make entrepreneurs successful also make it hard for them to relinquish control. Many don't get serious about estate planning until very late in the game.
Sometimes planning a succession can seem more difficult than building a business in the first place. But charting such a path and completing it are the only way to sustain a business over generations.