Nationwide’s Land As Your Legacy program has dedicated, experienced agents who are specifically trained at helping families transition farm businesses to the next generation.
Eric Brown, a Nationwide agent specializing in Land As Your Legacy and a Farm Bureau member from Huron County, is an expert in the process, including some of the challenges he helps guide families through every day.
“Everyone thinks that money is the No. 1, most prevalent issue,” Brown said. “They think money is the issue, property is the issue, equipment is the issue, but the No. 1 issue has always been a people issue.”
Families are all different, he said. Personalities can clash and long-held grievances can become large elephants in the room, especially when making plans for the future of the family farm takes center stage.
“It comes down to communication,” he said. “In the cases I’ve seen fall apart, the damage has been done because of a complete lack of communication. The longer that goes on, the more it will grow and fester and all of a sudden it’s this big deal.”
One particular family’s case comes to mind for Brown. The Ohio family is trying to plan for the future of a 2,000-acre crop farm. The parents are in their late 60s and there are several children, only a few of whom farm. Things are so strained among the siblings that three of them no longer gather to celebrate key family holidays.
Sadly, Brown said, this is not an isolated issue. He sees it all the time. His clients also struggle with a lack of leadership within the family.
“Mom and Dad don’t want to upset the kids, but the more definitive Mom and Dad can be (about decisions) the better off everyone is,” he said.
Another challenge is the transfer of business power from one generation to the next.
“Agriculture has become so complex, so sophisticated, so dynamic that the skills Mom and Dad have today aren’t the skills needed to keep the farm operational for the next 20-30 years,” Brown said, noting that there is a flipside to that as well.
“The kids have never had to have their own money at risk,” Brown said. “Some passing of responsibility has got to take place while Mom and Dad are still around to teach them how to run the farm.”
Five key elements make up the Land as Your Legacy program: succession planning, business planning, risk management, financial independence and estate planning services. Land As Your Legacy agents can help families navigate all of them.
Brown said he has done everything from being the objective third party at a family meeting to going with farmers to meet with their attorneys and “speak lawyer,” to help them understand the complicated legalities.
“I know the blood, sweat and tears that go into getting a farm where it is today,” said Brown, who operates a 1,000-acre grain farm himself. “Why on earth would you leave (its legacy) to chance?”
If you’re ready to start the discussion about transition planning, contact a Land As Your Legacy adviser at 1-844-654-5266 or [email protected].