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Farm Estate Hot Button Gets Pressed By Bad News
Submitted by email from J.B.
My wife and I are 70 years old. Our farm and family were doing well, and I intended to continue farming a few more years. Things changed really fast when I was diagnosed with cancer, and the prognosis is not very good. I’m optimistic that something good will happen, but realistically, the future does not feel as bright as it did less than a year ago. I don’t like making decisions in crisis-type situations and yet here we are. After the medical news we are all trying to sort things out, but the thought of jumping right into completing our estate plan is tough. Some things I want to take care of right now; other things I don’t want to talk about at all.
Every person has something that ultimately becomes a hot button. For some who never plan, the hot button never gets addressed and then it becomes a red-hot button after a death. The chance of things ending well in those situations is pretty low. For those who plan ahead, maybe it’s a close call, an article in the paper, the death of a neighbor or friend, or even a nagging spouse or frustrated children that stimulate people to action. I have also had many people, over the years, who wanted to plan quick before flying somewhere.
Whatever the reason is for others, your hot button has now been pushed. It may not be easy, but I believe you should definitely move forward with planning at this time. Here are eight thoughts for your situation.
- Face the reality of your situation. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Ultimately, we are all terminal, it’s just that we don’t always hear a report. Your age alone says it is time even though there is not a magic age to start or finish planning.
- Yes, you are in a crisis-type situation. Keep in mind this will likely be a huge relief to your spouse to have completed now rather than having to create a distribution plan later by herself. When I work with widowed wives, most comment how much easier it would have been to do with their spouse.
- Your plan can still have some contingencies that allow for flexibility later. Things can still change – even for you. Also keep in mind that there may be a lot of years between first and second deaths. That should be considered before locking the door and throwing away the key.
- If you anticipate that an influx of cash will be needed at some point, you need to determine where that cash will come from. Usually it will come from either cash stockpiles, loan options, or life insurance. It is likely you are not insurable, but maybe your spouse is. I am not suggesting buying insurance in a panic but, if needed, be aware of that option.
- Your farming heirs may feel panic. Making sure something is done so they are protected or fearing the loss of your presence on the farm are real concerns.
- Emotions can come out. Be prepared for some odd comments or unusual behavior from family members or other people. As humans, we tend to sometimes say things that should not be said or have bad timing.
- Work with someone who understands farm estate planning. That can actually take away stress – not add stress – in tough times.
Thanks for being a caretaker of the land. With some planning, hopefully the next generation will take care of the land just as you have.