In this paper the Kaplan-Meier product limit estimator is employed for the analysis of the succession event at the firm level within a portion of territory, the province of Rimini (in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy), characterized by the widespread presence of family SMEs. It is found that after thirty years in the market, SMEs face a higher risk of sudden exit. From direct investigation carried out for firms survived at least thirty-five years after start-up it turns out that entrepreneurs tend to maintain a crucial function in the firm they have founded even after their retirement. Besides, SMEs facing the succession event display a scant interest both in hiring the services of specialized consultants and in attributing a great importance to the university-level education of their heirs. At the institutional level, particular significance is granted by SMEs facing the succession event to the gift and inheritance taxes, that are in general considered too high. From this perspective, the recent regulatory reform occurred in Italy in this field represents an important step forward.