The climate for agriculture is constantly changing. Sometimes in a positive direction and sometimes in a negative direction. This climate I speak of does not necessarily reflect the weather outside although it is a big negative right now. Keep the faith it will get better. There is only a few more than 20 days until spring and remember the great groundhog said spring was coming early.
In reality, the climate I am speaking of deals with a multiple of factors such as cost of operation, commodity prices, landlord/tenant relations, next generation on the farm, rules and regulations, and the list can go on and on.
One area I want to speak about is right at the family level of the farm operation. It deals with communications and having your affairs in order. In other words, do you have some estate and business plans in place, and does everyone involved in the family farm operation know about these plans and understand their role?
So, what are the plans? Is it a complete estate plan? How about a transition plan for the farm? Is your plan nothing more than a will or medical directive? Maybe there is simply no plan at all. Is your plan a little of this and a little of that but nothing complete?
Have you communicated your plan to the rest of the family? Do they know what you really do and what you really want at the end of the day?
Planning for the end or before a crisis or disaster happens is not easy. Have you thought about the “what if”? Maybe a place to start the conversation with everyone is with some basic questions such as:
— Who will make the day-to-day decisions?
— Does everyone in the operation understand their role?
— Will it be a short term or long term need to keep the farm going?
— Can you keep the farm on target with goals?
Communication amongst everyone is important for all members involved in the family operation so you are ready to make necessary decisions. Whatever the situation, the plan should allow you and your family to evaluate the situation. This would be true for both the financial and physical operations for the farm.
If we are discussing a transition plan for the family farm we need to be sure to talk openly with everyone involved not only about the obvious things but the “what if”. You want the discussion to focus on what matters most. Try to get everyone to identify wants, needs, hopes, and fears. Don’t forget to discuss goals and objectives of the farm. Not everyone may be on the same page and that can directly affect the transition plan.
If you haven’t figured out already, Communication! Communication! Communication! Have the plans in written form to direct the farm family. If you are working on an estate plan be sure to include a will, a living will, power of attorney, and health care attorney, end of life directive, health and medical directive.
Create a list of other valuable papers. These may include will/trust documents (original and copies), burial, cremation and funeral directions, special letter of instruction, marriage certificates, social Security Cards and records, employment records amd retirement system Information (STRS, PERS), armed forces and family health records.
There should be a list of go-to people that could be important advisors such as your lawyer, tax preparer, extension educator, clergy, and doctor. This list could include many more qualified individuals that can help.
If you can get this accomplished then pulling it together into a notebook or file or both should be pretty easy. Be sure to get copies for all involved.
I realize these are discussions we do not like to have and in many cases never have. Be proactive and start the process.
If this sounds like something you would like more information on then let me suggest that you attend our upcoming program – “Getting Your Affairs In Order” scheduled for 6:30-9 p.m. Monday, March 18 at the OSU Extension Greene County office, 100 Fairground Road, Xenia. This program will include lots of discussion and insight to help with both getting an estate plan or a transition plan in the right direction for you needs. The program is free. All you have to do to make a reservation is call the Greene County Extension office at 937-372-9971.
Trevor Corboy is the agriculture and natural resources educator at OSU Extension Greene County and guest columnist.