“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” -Alan Lakein
By Melissa Beck
We are thinking about estate and farm estate planning, and by “thinking” I mean we thought about it, and quickly tried to put it out of our minds, but it’s there, niggling, and sooner or later we are going to have to stop thinking about it and start DOING something about it.
Why is it so difficult to start moving forward on an estate plan? I can’t put my finger on it, but it seems to me like all of the dread I feel at tax time without the hard deadline. So, you see it’s easy to ignore, well, until it isn’t. Eventually, in all farm operations there comes a time when we have to do something, whether by choice or necessity.
Ideally we get to decide how our estate will be managed, and if we don’t have our own plan, the state will oblige with a plan of their own. So here’s the deal, who do you want executing a plan regarding your life’s work? Because the thing is, without an estate plan farmers and ranchers have little say so about what becomes of their farms once they can no longer manage them or pass away.
Here are some tips to help light a fire under us and get us to stop thinking about it and start doing something:
1. Do it: This seems like a no-brainer, but eventually we have to move from thinking and dreading to actually taking steps toward an estate plan.
2. Communicate: This is difficult for many of us. It is important to know the goals of everyone involved. Some heirs may not even want to be part of a farm. It’s best to be clear on what everyone expects.
3. Inventory: Take stock of all assets, including equipment, land, mineral rights, and finances.
4. Get organized: Know where records and documents are and share this information with the executor or trustee.
5. Get professional help: Your estate plan is important, and as the saying goes “a person who defends himself in court has a fool for a client” you should enlist the expertise of professionals.
6. Monitor and adjust: Life events can cause changes to be made to estate plans over time. Aside from major life changes, it is still a good idea to revisit the trust and ensure it still meets the needs of the estate.
Where are you in this process?