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By: Ryan Conklin
Think back to your high school physics class for a moment. Do you remember Newton’s first law of physics? It states that an object at rest or in motion will remain at rest or in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.
Though not a law in the legal sense, Newton’s first law is going to give us some key succession planning talking points. Specifically, if your plan is at rest, it is probably going to stay at rest until an outside force enters the picture. By the time that event occurs, it might be too late.
For so many families and businesses, the hardest part of planning is getting out of that “rest” mode. Examples of “outside forces” can be an unexpected departure from the farm, financial stress, a farm accident, a health issue, or a family member passing away. Trying to plan in light of these issues is difficult to do, and it might yield a bad outcome.
Thankfully, there are outside forces that can be less tragic. Perhaps your son or daughter comes back to the farm, you attend a succession planning seminar, or you meet a professional at an industry event. These events allow you to be proactive with planning and act on your own terms.
Whether it is a positive or negative force that jumpstarts the planning process, keep the following tasks in mind:
- Identify your professional team as soon as possible, including an attorney, accountant, lender, insurance agent, and financial advisor;
- Be open and honest with your team, the more they know about existing issues the more they can plan around those issues;
- Create a list of farm or family goals based on your unique circumstances;
- Maintain accurate year-to-year balance sheets;
- Organize important documents such as deeds, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, business documents, and others in a file cabinet, binder, or other system;
- Once you start the process, don’t let that momentum die.
Though it is not a comprehensive list, these are the key items to keep in mind as your plan gets started.
Bringing in Newton one more time, once your plan is in motion it should also stay in motion. This means regular reviews of the plan by your family or business and acting upon major events. If your goals call for it, succession plans can be flexible and adaptive. As changes occur in your life, remember to take a moment to use that flexibility to revise your plan.
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 OhioFarmLaw.com.
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