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STORM OF LOSS: Succession planning should not be left to the government after you’re gone. Consider key tactics to protect your operation.

Help your family weather the storm

Plan now to protect your farm and its future from the devastation the end of your life will bring.

By Michael A. Dolan

When Mother Nature raises her ugly head and reminds us that we are clearly not in control of what happens around us, does it just frustrate us, or can we learn from it?

As I sat watching a spring blizzard immobilize northeastern Colorado, I was thinking of all of the things that need to be done as nature throws us a curveball. First, the news media needs to think up new creative terms for a snowstorm. Terms like “bomb cyclone” and “polar vortex.” While I’ve only been around just short of 60 years, I still think it’s just a snowstorm or a blizzard. But I’m not trying to motivate everyone to sit in their living room and stare at the television.

Preparation needs to be made when we face these periodic challenges in our lives. We tend to livestock, make plans for getting them feed and shelter. We develop a strategy to help, or protect, those animals that are calving or lambing. We make sure our family and neighbors are home safely. We do what we can, go out when we are able, and hunker down and stay warm when good old common sense tells us to stay put.

We do what we can for the things and people that we care about when we are needed. But are we doing what we need to do when a storm is brewing in our family?

Some studies estimate that as high as 78% of Americans fail to do any estate planning before they die. That’s an awful lot of folks trusting that the government has a good backup plan for their lack of planning. We wouldn’t sit in the house and let our livestock and family face the storm alone, so why do so many of us sit back and leave our family to face the storm upon our disability or death without any preparation or assistance?

Consider action

As things pick up this spring, and the busyness of your farm or ranch operation makes another year flash by, think about making a strategy for getting a good-quality estate plan in place to help your family face the storm we all know is coming. Think about putting a solid plan in place that specifically addresses what your family is going to need to ride out the storm — not just a document that divides it among your children.

Leave some guidance on how to divide it in a manner that works best for your children, their families, and their individual futures. Work to preserve your farm and ranch legacy, and good relationships among your family members. Leaving this to chance is like sitting in the house during the blizzard and assuming that what happens out in the storm will just “all work out.” Recommit to get your estate plan in place this year!

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. Visit his website at



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