Estate Planning for Agribusiness

In the popular media, the romance of “city girl falls in love with farmer” seems to be spreading and is quite captivating. Penelope Trunk, founder of Brazen Careerist, wrote about how she fell in love with and married a farmer. Book author and food blogger Ree Drummond, who founded, fell in love with a cowboy, married him, and now lives on a working cattle ranch.

A recent New York Times article explores the issue of agritourism and how many small family farms are now offering farm stays as a way to add income and hold on to the family farm. The online game Farmville has over 37 million monthly active users on Facebook. More and more of us buy our food at Farmers’ Markets and participate in Community Supported Agriculture, so we can get our food fresh from the farm.

Americans seem to have a growing fascination with farms. Maybe, because life on a farm is so different from our daily experience, yet ironically the farm feeds each of us everyday.

The Farm Legacy

For farmers, ranchers, and other agribusiness owners, making a living from the land is not only a business; it is often a family legacy. The business has been passed down one generation to the next. And each generation must decide if they will continue that legacy, how they will do it, and if they can keep it profitable enough to survive and pass down to their children.

Land ownership issues and the roles of siblings often come into play. How was the land transferred? Did the parents have a will? Will the children inherit land in equal shares? What if some of them don’t farm? Do the siblings have to form a partnership to operate the farm together? What are the tax implications? What is a Testamentary Farmland Trust?

There are many issues to consider and many families are not prepared to answer these questions. When it comes to farm transition, very specific advice is needed and an agricultural estate tax attorney licensed in your state should be consulted.

The Legacy Project

Farm Journal Media’s goal is to ensure that there is multigenerational success in the agricultural community. Their plan over the next decade is to raise awareness, provide education, tools, and advice to help with their mission.

According to the website, “The median age of the U.S. farmer today is 58 years, yet only 20 percent of farmers report being confident in succession plans for their businesses while 80% plan to transition it to the next generation,” explained Andy Weber, president and CEO of Farm Journal Media. “The need for succession education and tools cannot be overstated in its importance to individual farm families of this country and to the long-term viability of the U.S. agricultural system as a whole. There is nothing more core to sustainability in agriculture than the ability to provide succession to the next generation.”

The Legacy Project is also following three farm families over time and showing how they work through the process of succession planning and land transfer.

By: Lisa C. Johnson, Esq.


About AfterSteps

AfterSteps is an online end-of-life planning platform with educational resources and tools to create your plan, store it, and transfer it to your designated beneficiaries.
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