Dennis Foster: Action is required to keep a farm intact

Dennis Foster
Special to the Farm Forum

The focus on this column for over a decade has always been on estate planning and in particular for folks who work and derive not only their living, but their very lifestyles and persona from the land. I generally look at and discuss all the various issues in broad terms and let the readers form their own conclusions. This month, I am going to take a bit more personal tack and state a few conclusions of my own. After all, estate planning is more than just dry numbers, legal work and financial products. It is, and should be, a highly personal and even emotional procedure to take care of the people you care for, providing you with peace of mind in the process.

Just a handful of hours of dedicated thought and effort has tremendous impact for your family for many years and even generations to come. You encounter and overcome many obstacles that are more difficult, time consuming and expensive on a continual basis operating your business on the farm. Although planning your estate and ensuring your legacy is an intimate matter, it must be addressed as a business concern and handled accordingly. I find it frustrating to see folks leave their farms and family exposed by lack of action

I am at a point just shy of 30 years into my career of helping families ensure the farm passes on fully intact to those who are working it and treating the rest of the family as equitably as possible. The end result is family harmony and a lasting legacy. As I age, my clients do as well. As painful as it is to see clients pass and empathizing with the grief of their loved ones, it is equally gratifying and, most importantly, comforting to know that we can celebrate the life that was led and not have to face any undue worries about any financial or family issues, allowing for time and proper focus on the grieving process and not getting caught up in a quagmire of unnecessary and strength sapping stress.

I must admit that although I am continually advocating for action, it is not hard to lose sight of just how important long-term planning is. A cherished client passing puts it all back in perspective. Unfortunately, I have been reminded of this far too often as of late. I share this with you in an effort to alieve some of my personal pain as well as realizing a bit of quite humbling gratification in the fact that I have had the high honor of being trusted enough to gain insight into the most delicate aspects of the family and finances. This allows me to offer ideas for consideration, recommendations and ultimately solutions. When enacted, the health of the family farm remains intact long after our ancestors are gone.

As I put down these rambling thoughts and observations, I sincerely hope I can gently jostle and in turn, inspire a few of you enough to seriously consider your own situation. Time is short and excuses are long. Even if you have done some planning in the past, it is always good practice to review your unique situation every few years and implement any adjustments as needed.

Bottom line is this, I can share a multitude of tactics. You can research even more yourself. After all, nearly unlimited information, good, bad or in between is merely a few mouse clicks away. Please keep in mind that information does not equate to wisdom.

As with all things, talk is cheap, and absolutely nothing is accomplished until someone does something. Action is indeed required. Please, seek the assistance of trusted advisors to guarantee your family and your farm continued success.