December 3, 2006 - A Christmas Idea of Value

This is a topic I have discussed several times over the years on Samuelson Sez and I feel so strongly about it I’m going to preach another sermon... on the need for wills and estate planning.

While it really applies to everyone, I am going to focus on farmers and ranchers, where the need to have a succession plan in place is so important. And since none of us knows when our time on earth will end, it’s never too early to start the process.

The reason I am talking about it now is two-fold. The first Saturday of this month, for the second consecutive year, I moderated a panel discussing estate planning at the Missouri Livestock Symposium in Kirksville, Missouri. Last year we had 50 in the audience, this year there were nearly 100 people in the room listening to and asking questions of the panel made up of a farm realtor, a banker, an attorney and a C.P.A. We were scheduled to go 90 minutes and, based on questions from the audience, we probably could have gone another hour. They were intelligent questions that told me interest in estate planning is finally growing.

This process is a family affair and that is the other reason I bring up the subject now because with the holidays many children come back to the farm to celebrate with parents and siblings. This might be an ideal time to sit down as a family and talk about what Mom and Dad would like to see happen to the farm or ranch after they pass on; and what are the interests of the children. Very often one of the children will want to continue farming, while siblings may just want the financial proceeds. I have seen this situation tear families apart and if there is no plan in place, this is a terrible legacy to leave your children.
One more critical point, it must be the entire family and that means spouses of sons and daughters

Things I learned moderating the panel and fielding questions....you may think you do not have an estate plan, but you do and its called the IRS. They love it if you die without a will or estate plan.
Start planning as early as possible and make sure you have a will with the arrival of your first child. The attorney said he has recently handled the estates of 2 clients , young parents killed in their 30's in automobile accidents.

And get professional help in establishing your plan, people who understand your wishes and have the legal knowledge to make them happen. Hiring a good attorney is not an expense, it is an investment.

So...do it early; do it with the entire family involved; and get professional help. This could be the best Christmas gift you could give to your family.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.