Hello, northeast Ohio! One of the key components of farm and estate planning is taking the time to discuss how your farm business will handle the unexpected, the proverbial curve balls which life throws at our families and businesses.
It is hard to plan for something that may or may not happen. However, the discussions which your family has now will make it easier to respond when hiccups do arise.
In our Passing on our Family Farm series, we challenge farm families to be proactive. How would you respond to the following scenarios?
We are all going to leave this earth. How prepared is your business for the death of one of your principal farm operators? Has the next generation been trained up to manage all aspects of the business? If you knew you only had a month to live, what would be the most important items on your to-do list? Most of our planning revolves around the farm passing from the senior to the junior generation. What happens when a family member dies “out of turn?”
Agriculture ranks among one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S. Farmers are at very high risk for both fatal and nonfatal injuries. What plan does your business have to overcome short or long-term absences of key managers and employees?
Additionally, as we age, our bodies don’t bounce back as fast as they did previously. How will the business account for the slowing down of family members and employees as they age?
Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that 50% of Americans will be married only once. Thus, the likelihood of a divorce impacting someone involved in the business is a stark reality. What mechanisms does your business have to protect assets from a divorce? What happens when a divorce occurs to a key employee who also happens to be your son or daughter in-law?
After the death of a spouse or after a divorce, family members may remarry. How will you react when a remarriage occurs? Some adult children may be unsettled when their middle-aged or senior parent remarries, especially following a death of a spouse. What impact will a remarriage have on your farm business? What concerns may arise when the senior generation who owns the majority of the land remarries?
No one plans on having to go to a nursing home. However, for many families, this may become a reality. Do you have plans to fund the long-term care for one or more members of the family farm? Where would $75,000 to $100,000 per year come from to pay for a skilled care center? Will you have to sell land? Should you buy long-term care insurance? Or do you just pray that this situation never arises?
Lack of retirement funds
Social security is one of the major retirement sources for many farm families. Currently, the average couple who both are receiving benefits would average $2,596 per month. An aged widow(er) living alone would average $1,453 per month. Based on your family living expenses, will social security be enough? Or will other retirement funds be needed? Will the succeeding farm generation need to pay a rental payment to help fund their parents and/or grandparent’s retirement?
Buying out business partner
What would you do if your brother who has been your business partner for over 30 years suddenly wanted to cash his half of the business out and retire? Or what if he died and you had to buy out his heirs? Is there enough equity for a buy-out or will the farm have to be sold? Does your operating agreement address this issue?
We live in an increasingly litigious world. How is your business protected from a lawsuit which might arise from a farm accident or from an ag product you sold? How much protection is offered by your business structure? Do you have enough liability insurance coverage?
Like it or not, we all have some type of dysfunctionality. There are bound to be disagreements between generations, spouses, siblings, and in-laws. Stress can enhance these disagreements. What can you do today to improve the effectiveness of your family communication?
the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of an unexpected issue which we had little control over. Weather events and trade issues can also impact our business. How well is your business positioned financially to weather global issues?
The point is that there are a lot more questions than answers. Hopefully, this will help you begin the discussion on how to better prepare for the bumps in the road ahead. Have a good and safe day!
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