Purpose ‐ This article aims to review business and academic literature on the topic of business succession planning (BSP). The purpose is to allow the vast quantity of evidence and opinion to be contextualised, and enable a better understanding of the key themes within BSP, particularly with respect to small, family-owned businesses. Design/methodology/approach ‐ An extensive literature search of business magazines, journal databases, textbooks, and relevant reports and citations was carried out. A categorisation of the evidence, involving over 400 articles, allowed informed discussions on the key themes surrounding BSP. Findings ‐ Key findings include family succession, legal, financial, and fiscal components, barriers against implementation, and methods for managing the process. A detailed summary of these and other topics is given, which together constitute the critical themes which should be borne in mind by businesses facing BSP. Research limitations/implications ‐ The main weakness of this paper is the lack of theoretical development. However, the findings prompt key areas for future research, and help to contextualise the topic for any potential new developments in succession planning. Practical implications ‐ Despite the need for further scientific and validated studies, businesses are urged to devote sufficient resources and attention towards succession to promote long-term survival and prosperity. Originality/value ‐ This paper allows researchers and business practitioners to obtain a wholesome reflection on the key themes within BSP, which are often exacerbated by the sheer volume of diverse opinion. The value of this paper is that it amalgamates the available evidence and offers a detailed, informed insight into the current state of research and practice in business succession.