Posted by John Posey on August 11, 2020
Have you yet to devise an estate plan? There are five common themes for farm families to put it off as I see it:
- I never plan to retire
- Retirement and estate topics equate to mortality and uncomfortable subjects
- It is hard and confusing
- I might do the wrong thing, so I’ll do nothing
- My family will figure it out
Allan Vyhnalek, Nebraska Extension educator on farm succession, wrote a nice piece on this topic in Nebraska Farmer you can find here. It is a must-read for any farmer that has yet to put together an estate plan. Allan mentioned that from his discussions with others that it seems that about half of farmers and ranchers have an estate plan and I would second that notion. I find this to be the trend with most people in general. I believe most tend to put it off for similar reasons, but many farmers seem to have a particularly tough time with the idea of retirement. It’s right up there with the ranks of death and divorce on the uncomfortable conversations meter. I’ve found the thought of retirement is harder the more your personal identity is wrapped up in your career. When you’ve been doing anything for a significant part of your life and it’s become your way of life, the thought of separating from it can be tough. Especially if your vision of retirement doesn’t involve a transition to something else beyond what you did on the job yesterday. Besides, if you’re enjoying it and keeps you active and healthy, why quit? I completely relate with that perspective. I think you should work as long as you desire when it is making a positive impact in your life and the lives of others.
With the advances in technology, equipment, and medicine people are more reasonably extending their working years, but sooner or later you have to think beyond yourself if you’re going to leave a legacy. Even if you plan to work as long as you physically can, you need to accept there will come a time when you can’t. You have to make a conscious decision to leave this place better than you found it or leave it to blow wherever the wind takes it. Are you the kind of person that wants to set up the next generation for success and put them in a better place than you were in years ago? Would you like to see your successors and heirs have better and more opportunities than you had? Do want your family to be taken care of if something happens to you? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this is the time to step up and take responsibility for what happens. If it were easy, everyone would do it. It is going to take some effort so get after it. If you identified with anything you just read - do it. Focus on taking one small step towards putting an estate plan in place. What is the one thing you can do right now such that doing it would make everything else easier or unnecessary? Keep asking yourself that question until you make it happen. This is the Gary Keller question from his book, The One Thing, which I highly recommend.
Get out of the dreaded “Circle of Inaction” as Vyhnalek calls it and do your part to contribute to the long-term success of your farm, your family, and a vibrant rural America. See 7 Succession Planning Tips from Husker Harvest Days and visit the UNL Ag Econ website for more useful info on estate planning for farmers.
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