Legacy Planning for the Farm and Agriculture Community

David B. Bussolotta

Farmers and their families face unique challenges when they are planning for the succession of their businesses and the real estate associated with their farms.  Oftentimes, farms are successively held and then given to generation after generation of the same family.  Many farmers tie their legacy to keeping the farm in the family.

During the course of any one generation, a farmer is faced with challenges, big and small, some of which can trouble the sustainability and legacy of the farm and the matriarch or patriarch’s hope for keeping it in the family.  A farm is a business.  In today’s modern world, businesses face a myriad of rules and regulations that can make it difficult to sustain, let alone difficult to transfer to the next generation.  Today’s modern farmer is a jack-of-all-trades (mechanic, plumber, machinist, carpenter, biologist, veterinarian, scientist, and of course, farmer), not much different from his or her predecessors. 

Farms are oftentimes family businesses, but that does not exempt them from the rules, regulations, and government controls that apply to other businesses.  In fact, farmers often face more compliance and regulation than many businesses because their business involves agriculturally consumable products.  With that said, our lawmakers, over the years, have taken measures to give farmers and their businesses relief.  Much of the relief revolves around lower taxes and access to special financing to help farmers keep in the business of farming.  When it comes to a farm owner’s estate plan, there are a number of laws and regulations that assist the farmer and help families avoid having to “sell the farm to pay the taxman.”

In planning their estates and their family legacies, farmers should consider the following questions and seek out help in developing and executing their plans, and in answering the questions that can be difficult to answer:

  • What are your values, visions and goals for your farm during your lifetime?
  • What do you need to help you achieve the goals you have set?
  • Who do you want or have to ensure that the legacy of your farm continues?
  • Are the necessary people at the planning table for the discussion?
  • Have you set a plan in place to ensure continuous, uninterrupted business in the event that something happens to you?
  • Do you want to ensure that your farm is conserved in a manner that precludes development?
  • What should you do in the event that you do not have a plan because there is no one willing to step up to take it over?
  • Do you have the proper advisors?

The attorneys in Pullman & Comley, LLC’s Trusts and Estates Practice Group are committed to serving their clients and understand the unique challenges that farmers’ businesses present.  Clients and prospective clients with inquiries should contact us with their challenges.  Planning today helps avoid the problems of the future. 

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