Estate planning is a process that is often avoided because it deals with issues regarding people, property, laws and taxes – issues that family members may not be ready to think about.
But planning an estate can benefit every agricultural family. The process of creating a plan reduces the stress and uncertainty of not talking about important issues. We know that estate planning can be confusing and broaching the subject can be a difficult conversation to start.
The personal side of estate planning often worries people the most, particularly how to have a productive conversation. Robert Fetsch, a family development specialist with the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and the Wyoming Agriculture & Natural Resource Mediation Program and University of Wyoming’s Cooperative Extension Service list 10 general ways family members can sabotage the development or implementation of a farm or ranch transition plan:
- Procrastinating. Delaying to make transition plans until it’s very late in the process.
- Avoiding planning or making decisions; ignoring transition planning altogether.
- Refusing to discuss the subject of estate transfer.
- Blaming others for problems; staying angry.
- Doing all you can to block the younger generation from any involvement in goal setting or decision making until they are middle aged.
- Refusing to listen to other family members’ viewpoints.
- Holding total control of the family business.
- Assuming others know what you want (not discussing your wishes about transfer with family members).
- Making sure all your sense of worth, your identity and life’s meaning come solely from the business; resisting transfers to the next generation.
- Not paying attention to wake-up calls like a farm/ranch accident, illness, death or major choice point by offspring (e.g., an opportunity for them to take a job in town).