“I wasn’t able to talk for years about what happened with my grandfather,” a young farmer confides about a bitter land transition battle.
Leaving a farm legacy isn’t just about money and land. Legacy involves how you wish to be remembered and and resolve conflicts before death. Do you want a family tree flourishing? Do you realize grandchildren are just as passionate as you were in your late twenties?
What is stopping you from gifting with a warm generous hand rather than a clenched fist?
I have my hunches.
Money equals security — You are afraid that you won’t have enough to live on for the next 20 years, even though you have $500,000 in the bank, and shares in the company.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “your health is your wealth.”
Your pension income, your debt free living, and your personal wealth will keep you going. Why not transfer those farm assets and see the pride of ownership shine on your grandson’s face?
Losing control is hard — Your friends are all dying, and you certainly can’t control that. Facing death is hard for you, so you deny the invitations to update wills, and invoke the power of attorney that’ll protect your affairs with your trusted advisor now. Is holding on for you the only thing that gives you a sense of power and control over your own destiny? Yikes.
How about extending the hand of forgiveness and forging a new reconciled chapter in your family? How about dying without any regrets?
Hard times could happen again — You recall the depression as a young person who struggled. You are proud of the wealth you have built. You might sense others see you as greedy, but you don’t care anymore. Your heart is so hardened that not even your wife’s pleading for family connection and harmony can get you to budge. Your word rules the day. You think interest and debt is evil, but do you realize that transfer of assets could be a big boost to debt servicing capacity of the next generation. Your young grandchild can get young farmer rebates and loans that he or she can manage. Please trust them!
Communication is hard to restart once broken — You are desperate to have some form of communication.
Workaholism and family dictatorship isn’t a badge of honour. If you don’t wish to help grandchildren get started in building equity with transfers of your assets, they’ll seek non-family joint venture partners.
Character and legacy — What do you want written on your headstone? How would you like to be remembered? There is a song that says, “when it is all said and done, things will just not matter.”
Our rural towns need strong families and farm businesses to be sustainable and thrive. Imagine if every farmer in their 80s took their legacy to heart and did the things to finish well.
What would it look like to have grandparents celebrating the success of their farming children and grandchildren?
It’s not all or nothing — Wealth can be transferred in stages, but a plan needs to be legally binding and well thought out for tax planning and meeting expectations of all generations. It is not a “you win, I lose” type of scenario. Farmers are fiercely independent entrepreneurs. The new crop of leaders is going to use a collaborative approach, team up with non-family and seek out innovation.
It’s not cool to be a laggard — Remember how good it felt to finally get that new or “gently used” piece of equipment to make your farm tasks easier and be more efficient in your work? Early adopters are the ones that see profits first, long before the laggards, the last ones to change or even know what happened. Be cool. Be ahead of the game, rather than the unwise one who is left behind. Use common sense and your wisdom to be adaptable and trust your team of advisors to help you finish your farming career well.
There’s still a place for you on the farm — You will never fully retire but your role as you age is now different. Be an elder mentor. Be the fellow who folks like to come for a historical perspective on how to be resilient.
Let go of equity and finish well grandpa.