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07 December, 2008 - Estate Planning is Essential

A few days ago I was involved in a meeting of about 450 farmers in a day-long conference and there were two program subjects that reminded me it is time to renew my plea to you to handle them.

The topic of one of the speakers was the need for farm owners to establish an estate plan, a plan for orderly disposition of the farm and property after death. I’ve discussed this before, particularly with parents, on the need to sit down with the family and discuss what you would like to see happen to the farm after you’re gone.

I know how difficult it is emotionally to sit down as a family and discuss life after Mom and Dad are no longer here, yet if you own farm land and have children and heirs, this is one of the most critical things you can do. Perhaps holiday time is the time to do it because a lot of families come together at one time. I don’t care how old you are; if you have children and you are involved in a farm ownership situation, you need to have a will and an estate plan because you never know when this day could be your last one.

To Mom and Dad, let me tell you, the worst legacy you can leave a family is to leave without a will or an estate plan. I have read and heard too many stories of families torn apart after their parents have died and there is no will to direct the disposal of the farm. I am amazed at the number of families who have never sat down together to discuss what parents would like to see happen to the farm or what interest children have in continuing the farming operation.

There is also a financial aspect to this issue; if you die without a will, the state and the IRS will likely get a good portion of your property, leaving a lot less for your children and heirs. A well-planned will and estate plan can lessen the tax burden. Again, I know this is not easy for parents and children, but to not do it is far more difficult and can leave family members divided forever.

The other subject on the program that day; the relationship between a landlord and tenant. The speaker pointed out that has probably never been more important than right now in these volatile market times. If you are a tenant, it is important to really have open and honest communication with your landlord, and I offer the same advice to the farm owner. Know what is happening; be totally honest in the market situation and the crop situation and communicate often. Make that one of your New Year’s resolutions and make it happen.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.