If life insurance will save the farm, what are the avoidable things that will ultimately kill it? Let’s take a closer look. This is based on conversations I’ve had with farm families and I give my perspective in this article.
Here’s the jist - Do you wish for your family to be a family after the operation is ‘settled’ or not?
Living Wills, irrevocable trusts, life insurance, corporations, and wills alone are not enough. Every farmer and farm family is proud of what they have built and how far they have come yet not one farm is immune from the devastation that could happen (and usually does happen) upon the death of the matriarch of the family.
Just when I think I’ve heard the worst story I could hear, another one comes my way. I’ve seen solid preparation being torn apart by greed and farms lost or broken due to estate sales or bad debt. I’ve written a bit about this before in my blog post Who are you building the farm and ranch operation for but I want to address it again from a bit of a different angle.
In the mentioned blog I visit about leaving death benefit and how it can benefit your heirs who are taking over. Today I want to address talking to your entire family and making plans known BEFORE you pass away! Time and time again I hear of families who no longer speak because the matriarchs did not want to talk about how the future of the operation would be handled upon their death or pass it on before their death. This leaves the heirs with no one to question but each other, and that leads to an ugly feud between them. The one they are truly mad at - the one with the answers is gone.
This has got to stop! Just STOP!
It doesn’t matter if your parents put you in that situation, or your grandparents put your parents in that situation and you “lived to tell the story” - It doesn’t have to be this way.
Operation Owners! You have got to start talking to your family while you are alive. Sustaining operations after a death is NOT an easy subject as emotions can flare, but you must address the subject. If your family is already on a rough road, it’s just that much more of a must. There are plenty of mentors out there that specialize in farm family counseling that can sit in as a third party.
You have worked so hard to build what you have from the farm to the family. Include your kids because in the end, no matter how much money there is or planning, it can all be torn apart because YOU didn’t take the time to sit down and speak your wishes. Let them be mad at you, shoulder the responsibility rather than breaking up the family.
Planning is important, but speaking up and having a family meeting with the ENTIRE family is a must.
Now, what if you are reading this and you are not the matriarch or patriarch but see nothing is being planned for, what do you do?
You too have a responsibility to do what you can to protect yourself. Your concern is from a financial state of how you will take over the operation when the time comes. As I have said before you need to take the responsibility to protect yourself if the matriarchs are not going to protect you.
In either case the first step should always be to call in that neutral party to help with the lines of communication. It’s not easy, I know first hand with my family. Passions (sometimes recognized as tempers) rise and we tend to blow up before we think about things. Bringing a mediator in is not a sign of weakness but a sign of love for your family and your farm. You wouldn’t try to fix a broken bone without a doctor so why would you try to solve issues without a mediator? Too many times we are concerned about what others will say if we ask for help but I ask you, what will others say if the farm is lost or family is torn apart because there was no help? People are going to talk either way, let them learn from you in a positive light.
Val Farmer is in our circle of trusted professionals. He’s been a farm family mediator through the 80’s and has worked with many farm families. The hardest part is calling Val. After that he will help with the rest.
Don’t allow your family and farm to fall apart after you are gone or after your parents are gone. Take the step needed NOW and call Val for help.