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Find expert to help you tackle farm succession plans

Here are four questions to ask a third-party mediator before they help you divide the family farm.

Mindy Ward

November 28, 2023

3 Min Read
A senior farmer shaking hands with young woman with notebook in cornfield
GET ANSWERS: Sharing family financials with outsiders involves a level of trust. Take some time and find the right people who can listen and help develop a farm succession plan. Jevtic/Getty Images

Passing down a family farm involves careful planning to ensure a smooth transition and continued success of the operation, but are you up for that job?

Let’s face it, some people are planners who just can’t wait to get out the forms and start typing. Then there are others who when the “farm succession planning” topic comes up, they immediately have a chore to do outside.

In either instance, a third-party mediator could help navigate complex decisions between different personalities to finally create a family farm succession plan that works for everyone.

Help comes from various places

Third-party professionals are those who do not have a stake in the financial decisions you are about to make regarding your farm estate. So, who are they?

Qualified professionals to add to the succession plan conversation may include:

  • a certified succession planner

  • a financial or estate planner who specializes in farm estate planning

  • an arbitrator to help with family discussions

  • your banker to help with finance resources

  • your accountant who has income records and projections for your business

  • your personal attorney, or one who specializes in tax issues

Before entrusting your farm's future to one or more of the above, it's essential to know if they are the right person for the job.

Questions to ask before committing to planner

Here are four questions to pose to those you want involved in your private family discussions:

1. How do you approach multigenerational communication and collaboration? The American Farm Bureau Federation recommends a planner who emphasizes the need for open and honest conversations about expectations, responsibilities and goals.

2. How do you address the emotional aspects of succession planning within a family? Family Farms Group specializes in addressing the emotional dynamics of farm succession. They highlight the importance of someone who can acknowledge and manage emotions within the family, from one generation to the next generation.

3. How do you stay informed about changes in agricultural policy and regulation that impact farm succession? There are a number of sources a planner can use. The National Agricultural Law Center provides up-to-date information on agricultural law and policy, with resources to help succession planners stay informed about regulatory changes. You need to make sure your succession plan aligns with current legal requirements.

The American Farmland Trust focuses on policy issues affecting agriculture and provides resources to help farmers and succession planners understand and navigate changes specifically in land-use policies.

4. What experience do you have facilitating successful farm transition, and can you provide references from past clients? Land for Good — an organization focused on farmland access, tenure and transfer — says like any employer, farmers should check references and ensure that the planner has successfully guided other farm families through the succession process.

Bottom line

Selecting the right succession planner is a critical step to keep the farm in the family for generations to come. Don’t leave it up to chance. Ask the questions, listen to the answers, and make your selection that aligns with your family's values and goals.

Remember your farm is unique, so a tailored approach to succession planning is critical for a successful transition.

Read more about:

Farm Succession

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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