Passing down the family farm and the family legacy to the next generation is an emotional and oftentimes difficult process. It is no wonder that many farmers and ranchers avoid these discussions until it is too late. This can be a huge mistake, often resulting in destroyed family relationships and the end of farming and ranching legacies.
Ron Hanson, renowned professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, was the keynote speaker at a Farm Succession Planning Workshop hosted by Farm Credit Services of America and Krotter Law Group this last Wednesday, February 8th.
For over 40 years, Hanson has counseled families to help them tackle and resolve family issues involved with farm succession planning. He shared gut-wrenching stories he has heard over the years of families falling apart, or losing their farm or ranch due to dissension and lack of planning.
Hanson encouraged the attendees to start their plan. He set out challenges of developing that plan, such as not wanting to include in-laws in the discussions, having a favorite child, not wanting to give up control, the curse of family wealth, and the entitlement attitude that exists in some families. He was direct with the group and asked them what if the “what-ifs” happen.
Hanson stressed that communication is vital for a successful family business succession plan. Secrets and surprises cause families to fall apart. Hanson cautioned, “Farm succession requires communicating as a family because graves are always silent.”
Every family has their issues and challenges, whether it be leadership, health concerns, conflicts, grudges or jealousies. These issues must be addressed during the succession planning process. “Remember that farms can actually be replaced but farm families cannot be replaced,” commented Hanson.
Hanson advised audience members to put together a farm succession management team, consisting of their accountant, attorney, farm lender, and insurance/financial/estate planning specialist, to help guide them through the daunting succession planning process.
Without question, navigating farm succession planning is time-consuming, complicated and an emotionally draining process. However, it is absolutely vital to protect your farm and ranch and the legacy you have worked so hard to build.
“Always remember that it is never too early for a family to begin the succession planning process. Do not let your family fall apart, and do not make the mistake of waiting until it is too late and now nothing can be done,” emphasized Hanson.