Communicate clearly about farm’s future

What do people tend to do in the face of uncertainty? Nothing.

When you’re thinking about how to best transition your farming operation to the next generation, it can seem like a huge undertaking. There’s so much to do – between finding out the hopes and wishes of the next generation, deciding how you want the transition to happen, how to best accomplish it, and how to train and develop the next generation.

Getting started can be overwhelming. Plus, there might be uncertainty about the future – around which family members are going to be involved on the farm or what their roles are going to be. There might be financial uncertainty or uncertainty about some landlord relationships. Everything is ‘up in the air.’

Putting it off

Here’s what most people tend to do in the face of uncertainty: Nothing! When things are the most uncertain, most people hold tight. They delay action.

It’s often this way for families and farm transition planning. They may feel uncertain about how the transition will take place – legally and financially. They may be uncertain as to how the younger generation will learn the skills and knowledge they need to prepare to lead the farm.

But we already know the remedy to decrease uncertainty: take action to learn more, to learn what our options are.

If we wait to start a legacy plan for the farm until we are certain about the farm’s entire future, then the farm will never have a legacy plan. This can lead to a lot of anxiety for the younger generation as they don’t know what will happen to the farm – or their own future on it.

Plans and peace

Can you imagine the pressure the farm’s next leader would feel if the generation currently leading the farm suddenly said: ‘Well, I’m ready to retire. The farm is all yours – you’ll be making all the decisions now. Good luck!’

It doesn’t have to be that way. By taking action to start building a legacy plan now – no matter how many years there are until you want to retire – you can gain a lot of peace of mind for yourself and the younger generation.

With the help of a legacy advisor, you can create plans to address all aspects of your farm’s transition. The plan can include a succession plan that details how the younger generation will learn what they need to know to lead the farm, and the incremental steps they’ll take toward leadership.

Getting started on your farm’s legacy plan is the best action to take when things are the most uncertain, as it helps bring some direction for the future. The planning you do is the clearest communication you can provide about the farm’s future – and it may be one of the greatest gifts you can give the next generation as part of your legacy.

Read the new issue of the Smart Series publication, bringing business ideas for today’s farm leader. This issue features the story of a farm family who is working on a legacy plan to keep the farm in the family while maintaining family harmony, items to consider as you select an estate planning attorney for your legacy plan, and how to work toward increasing your operation’s efficiency. Get your free online issue here.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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