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What is Estate Planning and Why Should a Rancher Embrace It? 

Estate planning is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process designed to accomplish accumulation, preservation and distribution objectives–during a rancher’s lifetime and after his or her death.
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Estate planning is the process of accumulating, preserving and distributing assets to achieve the financial goals of people during their lifetimes, and to provide for their heirs according to the estate owner’s wishes at death.  

As such, estate planning is not a one-time event. Instead, it is an ongoing process designed to accomplish accumulation, preservation and distribution objectives – both during a rancher’s lifetime and after his or her death. Each of these three objectives has some key elements:  

  • Accumulation: Estate accumulation objectives involve accumulating assets and net worth during a rancher’s lifetime by systematically channeling money into savings, insurance and investment plans.  
  • Preservation: Estate preservation objectives include protecting a rancher’s ability to earn an income during his or her working years and planning to minimize and offset estate shrinkage at his or her death.  
  • Distribution: Estate distribution objectives deal with identifying and implementing the tools and techniques that will distribute estate assets to heirs in an advantageous manner that is consistent with the owner’s wishes.  

John Gromala, an estate planning mediator, and the Wyoming Agriculture & Natural Resource Mediation Program and University of Wyoming’s Cooperative Extension Service point out that even those who have estate plans often have not had serious conversations with family members regarding their content. He notes that heirs are rarely consulted. Moreover, he writes “it is dangerous to assume that a ‘happily married’ couple is communicating well about the division of their estate.”  

This becomes even more evident, he indicates, when this is a second marriage for the senior generation. As Gromala notes, “avoidance of conflict by ignoring it is considered a virtue by many people. They gloss over sensitive areas to preserve ostensible harmony. Unfortunately, glossing over a problem today invariably spawns a greater conflict tomorrow.”  

Additionally, a failure to talk with family members about the senior generations’ estate plan can adversely affect family relations long into the future.  

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Additional Resources

Watch NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winner profiles. See how the beef industry showcases its stewardship, conservation and business practices that work together on farms and ranches.

Blair Brothers Angus Ranch – South Dakota

Gracie Creek – Nebraska

Beatty Canyon Ranch – Colorado

JY Ferry & Son, Inc. – Utah

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