This has happened to all of us. A friend or an acquaintance has an accident or an unexpected medical emergency. We are shocked by the tragedy. Have you wondered what things would be like if you were in their shoes? What would happen if your family had to deal with that?
It's true that the odds of an unexpected tragedy happening to us are small – but it does happen and without warning. Unless there is a plan in place for the farm, your family and business will struggle due to lack of planning.
I know of a farmer who didn't start a legacy plan until he had already been diagnosed with cancer. His daughter was the one who contacted us. They all had a lot of planning to get through – in a short time window. It is understandably difficult to make the necessary decisions when the main decision-maker is fighting for his life.
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The best plans are made in advance – when everyone is still healthy and doing well. A 'close call' farm accident became a wake-up call for another farmer. He came face to face with what the farm could have gone through if something had happened to him.
He started to work on his legacy plan – as fast as he could – with the help of a legacy advisor. He wanted to be certain that his family and farm would be protected if he wasn't as fortunate in the future.
It is human nature to live our lives based on what we see going on right now. We don't usually think about death until someone close to us dies or we have a scare of our own. But when we see a close friend's family going through that, we imagine what would happen if it was our family.
You don't want to picture your family struggling or fretting about what's going to happen with the farm. They'd be dealing with enough already. With a plan, everything is set and will fall into place. Then the family focuses on grieving, as they should – not on business details.
Where's your legacy plan at now? Started? Finished? Non-existent? Choose to keep it urgent. You could start by sitting down to dinner with your spouse to talk about plans. You could make a phone call to your kids – to tell them that you're all going to start talking about this together.
The main thing is to open the dialogue with your family. Let them know that it's important to you because of how important it will be for them and for the future of the farm.
If you need help starting these conversations, you could enlist the help of a legacy advisor to jump-start or guide the discussion. By proactively planning now, you're making sure that it won't be too late for your farm and family.
Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994, he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers achieve success through financial analysis, insurance, commodity marketing, and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy. Contact Darren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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