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Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Will a Trust Help?

Aug 20, 2013

Ranch   Microsoft PhotoFrom Legacy Moment (08.16.2013).
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A trust? What are you trying to accomplish?  

To many, the holy grail of succession planning is found in the technical jargon and platitudes of some professional discipline. They think that an expert has certain credentials and hails from far away. The collective thought might be, since so much rests on legal documents, tax forms and financial matters, a person must be endowed with a special acronym to help the family plan. I think that's another form of resigning power, or to put it another way, rendering yourself powerless.

Please don't ever forget, you're in charge! You control the outcome. Though a defined planning process should be followed, the plan itself must be based on your goals and help you to realize your dreams. All too often we fall victim to the aura and the charisma of a professional title. My aim is to reinforce your power and put you squarely in charge. I've been offering you the information, tools and experience you need to achieve success through the Farm Journal Legacy Project for more than four years. With that offer comes a reciprocal responsibility for action.

Throughout the years, I've found people don't struggle with what is a trust [noun]; they struggle with how to trust [verb]. They don't struggle with the tax implications of a sale/gift; they struggle with the who, how much, and when. They don't struggle with the dollars available for retirement; they struggle with when to retire and how best to prepare the next generation. Though a multidisciplinary team of professionals is necessary to help you weigh your options, select the right course of action and implement a solution, the plan must be based on your goals, not some professional's level of competence.

Your professional advisers should have the right qualifications, which include (among other things) an understanding of farming, business, family, management, leadership, succession planning, legal issues, tax implications and financial matters. Though each professional on the team will not be fluent in every subject, they should be comfortable in how each works together to achieve success. It will be helpful if the advisers are at ease in a family meeting and allow a free flow of conversation. They should understand the value of setting common goals and the need to work through certain thorny yet necessary issues.

Don't ever forget—it's your plan. Your future, the family and the farm depend on the decisions you make and the actions you take.  

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