Kelly Brakefield Moore

Succession planning is a family affair

by Kelly Brakefield Moore, Attorney
Wright & Moore Law Co. LPA

We often hear about farm succession planning and immediately think of will, trusts and business entities. However, farm succession planning also includes a family component that is just as important as the legal and business aspects. As the sole female attorney in our firm and the wife of an off-farm heir, I am able to look at succession planning from a unique perspective. The following are some of my observations over the years.

The spouses of your off-farm children may not understand farm succession. In my experience, the persons we receive the most pressure from are usually the in-laws that are not from farms. In the farming community it is understood that sometimes the farming heir receives more assets or is treated more favorably in a parents’ succession plan. For farmers this makes perfect sense – the farming heir helped build the farm and cannot buy the farm and have a viable farming operation.  

People who grew up outside of the farm community are oftentimes surprised to see one child treated differently than another. In fact, this was me. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina but am not from a farm. When I had just started my legal career, I discovered that it was common for a farming child to receive more inheritance than a non-farming child. My initial reaction was why would parents treat their children differently? As I started working with farmers, it quickly became apparent to me that there are very valid reasons for treating children differently in a farm succession plan. The vast majority of the farm succession plans that I now design and implement provide favorable provisions for the farming heirs in some way.

Most of our clients with farming heirs do understand the need to have a different plan for on-farm and off-farm children, the challenge is determining an equitable plan. This is where understanding the family can help. For example, if a non-farm heir could use some money immediately to help pay college tuition or start up a business, we can have them get the liquid assets (cash) and fewer or no farm assets. Or, if a non-farm heir would still like to own farmland, they can receive land subject to a long-term lease to be sure the land base for the farming heir is protected. Even if the farming heir receives more assets, we can still design a succession planning to address the needs of the off-farm heirs as well.  

If you are unable to decide how to incorporate family dynamics into your succession plan, give us a call. We have many tools and ideas to help design a farm succession plan that works for your family and farm.

Wright & Moore Law Co., LPA has a rich heritage in Ohio agriculture. Since 1988, our firm has proudly assisted farmers, rural residents, and landowners from all over the state with their farm succession planning and agricultural legal needs. We would be happy to discuss your family goals and how to meet them. To learn more about Wright & Moore or schedule a meeting, call (740) 990-0750 or visit