While change in general is hard for all of us, including this author, perhaps the biggest change that an owner ever will make is the one that requires him to leave the firm. Knowing when to pass the baton and how to do it are actions that all of us will have to take sooner or later.It is incumbent on the firm, as well as individual owners, to lay out their plans. The sooner the plan is set in writing, the easier it will be for all involved to implement it. Not having a succession plan is like not having a will. You are going to let someone else determine what will happen.

While the following checklist is not meant to be all-inclusive, it will get you started down the succession-planning path. Don't be afraid to add questions that pertain to your particular situation. There are four key areas of any successful succession plan - what happens to the practice (an individual's or the entire firm's), how the buyout is structured, how are clients informed, and implementing the plan.

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