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Farmers urged to consider legacy planning

MORRIS – Local farmers gathered Wednesday night at Terry and Carol Seggebruch’s farm to learn about legacy planning, so their farms aren’t lost when they’re passed on to the next generation.

“Families think about planning, wills and estates or the transfer of assets,” said Darren Frye, president of Water Street Solutions. “They aren’t looking at the future transfer of the managerial side. They aren’t preparing our next generation of farmers.”

Legacy Planning Director Ben Metzger said if farmers want their farm to continue in the future, they should put everything in place to ensure that happens.

Tom Tesdal of Morris said talking with the next generation of ownership is important. Otherwise a farm can end up in court for years before the matter is settled.

“If mom and dad want the farm to stay in the family, they need to make these plans,” Tesdal said. “Otherwise, with prices what they are now, the kids will sell it.”

Tesdal said the old way involved leaving the farm to the family in a will. Now, a plan must be in place.

Metzger and Frye told the 71 people present Wednesday that tough decisions need to be made, including whether the farm will continue.

“If you want it to continue, you have to have someone in the family willing to take it over,” Metzger said.

Next, parents need to decide between what is fair and what is equal. Oftentimes, what is fair isn’t equal to each child.

“If the farm isn’t going to continue, it’s not as difficult to decide between fair and equal,” Metzger said. “You look at the skill set of the next generation. It’s a hard, but important, discussion.”

Matters differ from family to family, but many issues should be considered. Were promises made? Did one child return to the farm to work while others went on to other things? Is there sweat equity owed to those keeping the farm working?

Conflict often comes into play when a farmer believes the way he is running the farm is not just the best way, but the only way, they said. In that case, they do not share management decisions with their children.

This problem manifests after the elder farmer dies and the child who inherits the farm doesn’t have enough experience to make decisions and manage operations.

They said it is important to understand that a parent’s wishes matter when it comes to the future of a farm, not necessarily the kids who are the recipients.

“I’m all behind legacy planning,” Tesdal said. “My parents didn’t share with us their wishes.”

Tasha Bunting, Grundy County Farm Bureau manager, said members attending felt positive about the discussion.

“I’ve talked to a couple of members who were thankful for the presentation because it gave them a different perspective,” Bunting said. “They know they need to start at an early age having the discussion and looking at how they need to approach it.”

She said the biggest message was communication and making sure everyone knows who they want to see the farm pass on to. She hopes those attending took that message home.

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