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Check the window of opportunity for a transition plan

Agriculture.com Staff 01/27/2006 @ 8:49am

Last week I attended services for the father-in-law of a farm woman friend. It was a sadder occasion than any funeral I can recall.

Here was a man who had lived well into his 70s, worked hard his whole life, raised a family, built a prosperous farm, yet at the time of his death, his son barely spoke to him and his children were divided against each other.

At the services, the various families stood apart from each other, and the tension was obvious.

I'm not involved in a farm myself, but I've been very close to my friend over many years, have listened to her family stories and her frustrations, and have read your column when she's shown me some that seem to apply to her family's situation.

I just had to write to tell your readers what happens when folks don't plan and work things out when they have the chance and to encourage them to act before it's too late.

In my friend's case, she and her husband stayed on the farm for all their married life. Her husband farmed with his father, and they had a comfortable farm life for which they worked hard.

It was something they both wanted and loved, so they didn't mind all the hours they put in and the wages they didn't receive. They thought it would all work out one day. They raised their kids to love the farm, too, and their youngest stayed on the farm doing just as his dad had done.

Family is divided at death

But no land was passed, no written agreements were made. When Granddad's will was finally discussed a few months before his death, my friend and her husband found out they'd be equal partners in the farm with his three siblings – all living away in other towns.

The result: no one could agree on what would become of the farm, how profits might be shared, how anyone could be bought out, whether the ground should be sold.

Granddad lived long enough to see all this and died an unhappy man, seeing the farm he had worked so hard to build become the source of argument and division among his four children.

I hope your readers will take steps not to let this happen to them. I wish them all the best.

Last week I attended services for the father-in-law of a farm woman friend. It was a sadder occasion than any funeral I can recall.

This isn't a new problem to our readers, but hearing it from an outsider looking in at the problem is another kind of wake-up call to all of us. Why won't we act before it's too late? If a friend can see our need and our failure to act, why don't we?

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