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Don’t Make This Tragic Farm Estate Planning Mistake


In the past couple months, I have had many farmers and ranchers who are just starting to work with me at the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management share some experiences that are weighing on my mind. They have had one thing in common: A parent or parents who did not want to work on an estate plan or take out a life insurance policy. Let me rephrase that, they did not start working on an estate plan or life insurance policy until it was too late — death happened the day before they signed the paperwork for the life insurance or the parent ended up in a nursing home before the estate planning started.

Some people may see this as a sign of why these plans should not be discussed.

I see it as waiting too long to take care of important business.

I lost my mother at a young age and it was devastating for my father. However, out of that tragedy, my father learned something valuable — to take care of his children. When he passed away many years later, he had ample life insurance and annuities, along with a funeral planned down to the songs and how we were to dispose of his estate. He remembered how hard it was for us to make those arrangements when my mother was killed, so he made sure his children did not go through that again.

After seeing the distress of the producers when plans are not made, I cannot stress enough that the older generation needs to get some plans in place. By planning, you are not telling God or your family you are ready to die. You are helping alleviate stress for your remaining family members after you are gone, which could be 50 years from now! It is better to have a plan and not need it for many years than to have to make decisions under duress.

I have heard producers say, “I don’t care after I am gone, it won’t be my problem.” That is not what I would call a loving way to take care of a spouse who has shared your life, or children you have nurtured since birth. I will not say that estate planning is easy, but it is necessary. With the complexity of current operations, it is probably more important than ever. If you are worried your children will fight about the plan, it is more important to bring in an experienced estate planner to work with everyone.

If you need to make an estate plan but don’t know where to start, give me a call. Part of what we do at the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management is help farmers and ranchers make connections with services they need. We can also help get finances in order so that you have essential information for making management decisions.

Source: Lori Tonak, Farm Progress

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