Transition planning can ease farm stress

Farm Forum

As we are in the heat of the growing season, most folk’s thoughts — not surprisingly — do not delve too deeply into estate planning issues. There are plenty of other things to focus on. Like ensuring you are raising the very best crops possible with the conditions at hand. As I write this, many of you are experiencing a lack of moisture combined with less than desirable commodity prices. I sincerely hope the situation has resolved itself via timely and welcome rains. The markets are, well, the markets. Good crops and fair prices would bring a collective sigh of relief to a great number of people as agricultural feeds all of us in the region, not just in the literal sense but financially, as well. Regardless, I am confident that today’s producers have not only the fortitude, but also the business savvy to weather whatever this season can throw at them.

When put into perspective, I am quite sure you and your family have been through far worse than we are currently experiencing. With the nature of modern agriculture, farming no doubt makes for an interesting albeit sometimes quite expensive roller coaster ride. That being said, most of you endure all of the excitement and uncertainty you care to handle managing your operation on a day-to-day and yearly basis. This leads neatly into the theme of this month’s column. Why put yourself and your family members through any more undue stress as it relates to the succession of the family farm?

These concerns can easily be eliminated through proper planning. By doing so, you will remove a significant source of stress as well as providing yourself with a very calming sense of satisfaction by guaranteeing that all will indeed be well in the end. This is not to say that you simply snap your fingers and everything magically falls into place. As with anything of value, a bit of effort is required. But please do not equate this with work. Nearly every family I assist comments upon completion that the entire process was relatively quick and painless. Much more so than they had anticipated. With the aid of competent and experienced advisors, it amounts to a pretty straightforward affair.

Your advisor can handle the legal and financial aspects. Basically, what is expected of you is to share your thoughts and feelings as to what direction you would like to see the farm head. What goes where, in what amount, and to whom. How those actively involved on the farm and those who aren’t should be treated. A willingness to accept your own mortality is needed. Your own morbidity, as well. Meaning the fact that we all age and some of us better than others. Possible long term care scenarios absolutely must be addressed and accounted for. This single issue can be a real game changer.

For those of you without a current and viable plan in place or those looking to review and perhaps revise your plan, I would make the following recommendation during this, your busiest time of year. Simply put some honest and earnest thought into the matter. Our minds are continually wandering into inane and unproductive areas. Why not simply direct some of this thought into what your preferences would be for your legacy? This is a great time to ponder all of the possibilities. Jot your ideas down when you get a chance and you will now have a valuable guideline to work off come winter. This is when most folks have time to schedule the meetings needed, complete any needed paperwork and put everything into place.

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