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MASTER AGING: As you get older you do lose a step, but a well-thought-out succession plan can help you maintain control until you're ready to transition from the farm.

Keeping control as you age

Embracing the changing seasons of your life can help you retain control longer.

As we advance through the golden years, we may start to experience loss of control in our lives. We begin to realize we can’t do everything we could when we were younger, both physically and mentally. Handling farm or ranch operations becomes harder, and eventually even driving or handling the checkbook can be a challenge.

As this happens, we will know that we are struggling in our day-to-day lives, but our pride and concern over loss of control will likely prevent us from asking for the help we need to keep ourselves safe and protected.

David Solie, a geriatric psychologist and the author of the book “How to Say It to Seniors,” tells us that two main things happen developmentally as we age: We begin to become more reflective and intentional in our thinking, and we begin to worry and fixate more about the loss of control in our lives as we slow physically.

The fear and frustration of an increasing loss of ability comes to a head when our kids show up and have the nerve to suggest that we sell our home and consider moving into an apartment, or even an assisted living facility — or even worse, that we should stop driving!?!

This new season in our lives is hard, and we don’t like to embrace the reality of it. But growing older is better than the only other alternative. This new way of being is simply the natural transition we face as we move through our lives. Embracing it, instead of fighting it, will make our lives more enjoyable.

As we go through this new season, how can we stay in control longer?

Putting tools to work

An effective estate plan that encourages family involvement and communication can be designed to help ease the frustration of these transitions and allow us to maintain control longer in our advanced years. Being proactive and planning ahead will allow those who love and care for us to provide us with assistance that allows us to stay in control of ourselves and our finances.

Our reluctance or refusal to accept some assistance can make our family members’ attempts to help much harder and more frustrating. It may also force them to take necessary steps to protect us, and those steps may involve removing all our remaining control. This is exactly the outcome we are fighting so hard to avoid.

While most of us try to delay family involvement for as long as possible, getting our families involved early can allow us to stay in control longer. We need to realize that our children don’t want to take control over our lives (or responsibility for us) any more than we want to give up control. Starting early and allowing for a gradual transition produces much better results for everyone involved.

We should not let a lack of planning on our part result in others taking control while we are still able! We should commit to take appropriate steps now to plan for when we will need help later in life. This is the only way we will remain in control as long as possible and help our caring family members more effectively provide the help we will need. They won’t have to jump in and start from scratch when the inevitable emergency situation arises.

Planning can make this next season in our lives one that can be enjoyable for everyone involved. Resisting it, or trying to avoid it, is just not a good option. Seasons in our lives come and go, whether we want them to or not.

Dolan, an attorney, helps farm and ranch families achieve comprehensive estate, succession and legacy planning objectives. He is the principal of Dolan & Associates P.C. in Brighton and Westminster, Colo. Learn more on his website,


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