Owners often have buy-sell agreements with partners in case one dies, and if such a pact values the business too highly, it can leave survivors with too high a bill to pay. That could even wind up requiring the whole business to be sold.

One silver lining to a lower valuation is the impact on taxes, particularly when passing a business on to heirs. Estate taxes are expected to rise next year and new restrictions on use of trusts could also be coming soon. "Because values are so low and interest rates are so low, there's never been a better time to move assets to the next generation," says Parrish.

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