Begin Legacy Planning Before It’s Too Late

04:16PM Aug 12, 2019
Family Meeting
Create a plan for your farm so it can grow forward.
( Charles Johnson )

Without a doubt, farmers are under a considerable amount of pressure. Every season your time is pulled in competing directions, but are you taking time for one of the most important aspects of your life: your legacy?

If you haven’t, take time this year to sit down and plan your legacy — who will get the farm, how it will be divided and address any potential conflict head-on.

“Let go of procrastination,” says Elaine Froese, transition adviser and author of multiple legacy planning books. “Where can you get clarity on what your family wants? When do they expect it to happen? What do you want?”

  • Keep asking questions. You’ll need to set some ground rules for your conversations around these topics, Froese says. Come from a place of curiosity. Find out what’s motivating the others in your family.
  • Don’t just ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Drive to the heart of the issue by asking open-ended questions. Really listen to the responses and try to understand their interests and feelings.
  • Ponder and perk — don’t prod. Be mindful of the body language and responses of your family. Recognize their boundaries and be careful not to push past them.
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of trust. This means everyone should respect privacy when needed and allow others to feel safe enough to give their honest opinions.
  • Be forgiving. When conversations get tense, don’t hold grudges. Whether it’s family or coworkers, you’ll likely have to see these people again.

Involve Key Stakeholders

Be willing to receive open, honest and candid feedback as you discuss important topics, says Shannon Ferrell, ag law professor at Oklahoma State University Extension. Also, invite all stakeholders, including spouses — anyone with an emotional, financial or managerial connection.

“No one will cause you more trouble than someone with an emotional stake who isn’t included,” Ferrell says. “At least one time, you need to have everyone there.”

Then select a date for the meeting. “Do not have this conversation at a holiday,” Ferrell says. “Yes, it’s convenient, but there’s enough emotional charge around holidays.”

Choose a neutral location free of distractions. “Pick a comfortable place, but not anyone’s home,” he says.

“We make time to go to funerals because it’s important. Planning your future is important, too,” Froese says. 

Save the date for our Legacy Project Conference Jan. 28 in Chicago, Ill. To learn more and register, visit