3 Important Issues When Dealing with the Family Farm

We’ve all heard the stories about the heirs to a family farm struggling with what to do next. Farmer McDonald (Dad) passed away several years ago, and just recently his widow Mrs. McDonald (Mom) died; now their seven children are faced with the challenge of “dealing with the family farm.”  In one fell swoop, siblings that might only see one another on holidays are now having the conversations; “Do we really have to do this?  “Can we just get it over with?”

Families faced with this once-in-a-lifetime challenge are not alone.  Many families work through it and come out of the situation in a better place, while others end up on the other side of the scale, with permanent damage to sibling relationships. There is a time and place for the Bank Trust Department, attorneys, and appraisers to be involved, but taking into consideration everyone’s view on how to divide the family farm is crucial.

Dealing with Disagreements

Farm families should know that disagreements are common when dealing with estates. The more siblings there are, the greater the chances of this occurring.  Emotions can run high when we dealing with our home, where we grew up, and family history. Taking into account the family members who live close to home, those that moved away and those that may have continued to farm the land is vital to overcoming any disagreement that may take place.

Identify What’s Important

There is often a laundry list of important factors that must be addressed, usually unique to each family member. Personalities, lifestyle, financial needs and sentimental values all relate to the stress of owning the farm. Consulting with a third party to identify the goals and objectives for everyone involved is a necessary step in the right direction.

Improving the Outcome

There are ways to improve the outcome, if the family is willing to try.  Each family member has a perspective must be heard and this is important in finding the path that makes everyone happy. Consider a third party that has dealt with these situations before, factors in the interests of each person involved and is a great listener.

What’s best for everyone to move forward?

This question is tough to answer as sibling rivalry and family division can unfortunately be permanent. There many ways to move forward, each with its pros and cons. What’s important to remember is that it starts with a conversation, determining the farmland value, and knowing it will take time and those with experience in this sensitive area are willing to help.

About the Author

Ed Geswein began his career on the Purdue University staff as a County Agent for ten years. Since 1977 he has been consulting with families in the land and commercial property business. With a BA and MS degree from Purdue, he remains a farm boy at heart. Commentary and Articles written by Ed can be found at www.PrairieFarmland.com/blog


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