Last week, I had the great honor to speak to producers at both the Minnesota and South Dakota Cattlemen's Association's annual meetings. While there, I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit with producers and listen to the many featured speakers on the agenda. A common theme for both meetings was estate planning. There is a sense of urgency for producers to start making transition plans for their operations, yet, it's a complicated discussion that many put off.
“Estate planning can’t wait,“ Randy McKee, of McKee Companies, a nationally recognized estate-planning company that helps farmers and ranchers transition to the next generation, told the audience. He noted that while there are so many factors in the agriculture sector that can’t be controlled, such as prices and the weather, there is one thing producers can have control on and that’s the future of their family business.
“It’s important to make sure the people who you want to be in control are actually in control of your estate. Estate planning done right can help protect the place from lawsuits, family fights, divorce, expensive legal fees and unwanted publicity. Who makes money when there is trouble? It’s not farm families, that’s for sure. It’s the courts, which will ultimately decide the fate of your family heritage.”
McKee says effective family communication is the key to a successful estate-planning process. “To determine the best way to transfer your assets to the next generation, it’s essential to identify the potential problems to your estate plan and know the steps that can be taken to avoid a family fight. I bet 80% of producers are poised for troublesome scenarios with their estate down the road. It’s time to start planning now. Are you prepared?” asked McKee.
For more information on estate planning, check out McKee Companies  or other estate-planning resources profiled here . A wealth of other estate-planning information can be found in a special issue of BEEF entirely devoted to this topic .
Has your family sat down to make plans for your estate? Was it a difficult conversation? Do you have advice to offer others on transition planning?