Last month I wrapped up the series of columns on family members and their concerns as they relate to the family farming operation. Hopefully those of you without a comprehensive or up to-date plan have been inspired to do more than just think or talk about doing some planning. Talk is indeed cheap. Paper pushes the process to completion, and without getting something down in writing, all you have done is given the subject lip service.
I would surmise that if you are taking the time to read this that you most likely fall into the no current plan or no plan what so ever category. The first question I would ask and one I would like you to ask yourself, takes but one word. Why? Now, I am sure any number of reasons will be cited. The next question to pose to yourself is, are any of them valid? Be honest with yourself, as I doubt you can state anything of consequence that should hold you back from beginning planning.
I have heard about every excuse imaginable for not taking action to ensure what in most cases, generations have worked for years to build, passes fully intact for the use, enjoyment and benefit of generations to come. Now, some of these defenses are more creative than others, but in the end, remain little more than feeble attempts at avoiding facing the looming issues head on. These pretexts tend to present the largest obstacle in the way of guaranteeing the continued success of the family farm. Sad really, as overcoming this hurdle is as easy as saying, “Let’s do it.” Once making a commitment to plan, with the assistance of knowledgeable advisors, the pieces will quickly fall into place and the entire process can be wrapped up with surprisingly little effort or undue stress. The most common statement I continue to hear after 25 years of helping families is, “That was not bad at all. Why didn’t we do this years ago?”
As far as justifications not to begin planning go, my personal favorite, and I use that term with an over-abundance of sarcasm, is an attempt to think the government is changing this that or the other thing concerning taxes or any other number of sketchy issues concerning estate planning. Therefore, taking a wait and see approach. This emotional dodge for not planning is weak on many points. The biggest in my mind is that why would anyone rely on what the government may or may not do as it relates the well-being of your family? Does anyone really think that tax laws or anything else for that matter is going to remain exactly the same indefinitely?
Quite frankly, it is a bit foolish and naïve to think, let alone depend on the government to solve any of your problems. Particularly something as important as the continued harmony of your family and the ongoing health of the farm. Like it or not, this is solely your responsibility and without your taking the lead, absolutely nothing can or will be accomplished.
Take charge and begin working towards a properly thought out, funded and drafted estate plan that will have enough built in flexibility to address most any future contingency. Conditions can and do change and working with advisors that have been around long enough to have had gained the valuable experience and insight needed to guide you through the process will prove to be an incalculable asset.
It really is no more difficult than picking up the phone and starting the process.
Dennis Foster has been helping families with financial and estate planning needs for 25 years. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at 605-887-7069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.