Farm Succession Planning

Duayne and Monica Wetherell sat at a small conference table, mapping out a plan for their current farming reality and planning for its future, whatever it may look like.

At the other end of the table was the Illumination Financial Group father-daughter team of John DuBois and Jackie Coniker in Steubenville, who specialize in all types of retirement planning but particularly working with farm families as they navigate the next chapters of their lives by using Nationwide’s Land As Your Legacy program. They are part of the Ohio Farm Bureau Select Partners program.

The Wetherells lament that they didn’t go through this exercise sooner. The couple was one of the members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Young Ag Professionals State Committee 20 years ago. Duayne’s been on the Jefferson County Farm Bureau board in one capacity or another almost constantly since high school. He currently serves as its vice president.

“It amazes me how long it took,” Duayne said, shaking his head. “Me being on the board, and I’ve heard of Land As Your Legacy for years; we should have done it. We should have done it 10 years ago.”

Monica nodded in agreement, noting that there is always that “one session” on farm transition planning those who go to the annual YAP winter leadership conference should attend.

“When you’re 20 or 25, you’re sitting there thinking,’Dad’s not going to talk to me about that,’” she said. “That’s where (the reluctance) starts. Then you’re 40 and we’re going, ‘oh, now we can’t talk to Dad. He’s passed away.’”

Duayne Monica Wetherell family
Duayne and two of their five children

That’s exactly what happened. Duayne’s father passed and his mother was left to figure out the next steps with two sons – one who farms and one who doesn’t – and the Wetherell’s five children, ages 20 to 6, to consider.

“Communication doesn’t happen a lot of times on the farm like you think it does because you’re working with your family members,” Duayne said. “You’re right beside them, but you’re not honestly verbalizing (future plans) to each other. You just kind of take for granted (what) they were thinking, and maybe that wasn’t what they were thinking at all.”

So, at a Friday night high school football game last fall, Duayne spotted DuBois in the stands. The two had known each other for years, from Farm Bureau events and the fact that the Wetherell kids all have had DuBois’ wife as a teacher over the years.

A half hour and half a football game later, Duayne was convinced that at least going through a conversation with Illumination Financial was worth exploring.

A few months have passed since that first discussion, and the Wetherells are currently in the middle of completing a farm transition plan that is agreeable to all parties involved – Mom, Brother and themselves.

Going through the process

Illumination Financial Group takes clients all the way through the process, initially starting with the free Land As Your Legacy program. Eventually when lawyers and accountants get involved, the work is not free, but DuBois and Coniker operate as a team with their clients and the outside resources every step of the way.

“We recently sat down with another farm family, two brothers in business together,” DuBois said. “We sat down together with their CPA, with Ryan (Conklin of Wright & Moore Law Co., LPA) and his co-attorney, and the brothers and their wives and all together at one table were collaboratively working on the best results for that family,” DuBois said.

The planning goes beyond the financial aspects as well, DuBois said. Something as simple as where to locate the water shutoff in a dairy barn and who is in charge of taking grain to the elevator on the day of a funeral are also discussed.

The number of farm families that need to start these types of planning conversations is vast.

Duayne and Monica Wetherell, Jefferson County
Duayne and Monica Wetherell, Jefferson County

“It’s the same thing all across the state,” Duayne said, drawing from his experience on Farm Bureau boards. “Every farm, no matter what size, what shape, they all deal with the same thing or something similar. The ones you think are huge, you think they’ve got to have some kind of plan, but half of them don’t have a plan either.”

Or as Coniker notes, “Not having a plan is your plan. Your plan is chaos.”

Knowing how they can invest to secure the future, while also recognizing that the plan is adaptable as the business changes, is what gives the Wetherells peace of mind. Besides the farm, there also are oil and gas assets, which are very prevalent in the region, to consider.

“As stressful as it is to go through it all, it’s actually kind of like weight lifted off your shoulders,” Duayne said. “You’re like, ‘it’s gonna be alright.’ We can do this. It’s like taking (the planning) in little chunks.”

They’ve seen the impact that peace of mind has had on their family as well.

“We kind of see it when you talk to your mom,” Monica said, nodding to Duayne. “You know, for years she watched her husband and husband’s brothers not communicate well and nothing happened, and so it’s just the way it is. But now you can tell that she’s like, ‘okay, like there’s an avenue forward.’”

Online Extra

Land As Your Legacy

Nationwide’s team of legal and tax professionals can help ensure the successful transition of a family business from one generation to the next and preserve the legacy that’s been built through its Land As Your Legacy program.


Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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Mandy Way

Way Farms

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Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

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Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

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Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

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Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

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Hardin County Farm Bureau

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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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