December 1, 2003
Communication key to avoid difficulties in family farm transfer
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. With positive communication, farm families can avoid conflict during the farm transfer process, according to Sharon DeVaney, a Purdue University retirement planning specialist.
While interviewing 40 farm families about their retirement plans, DeVaney found that many families had difficulty talking about farm transfer.
"At times, younger people don't want to initiate the topic of an aging parent, or older parents fear losing authority if they give up the title to the farm or start to discuss farm transfer," DeVaney said.
DeVaney offers the first Web site to approach the topic of farm transfer and communication strategies for family members. The site offers information and frequently asked questions concerning transferring farm ownership, a presentation guide, videos involving a farm family in Delphi, Ind., and an interactive quiz.
DeVaney said that conversations on farm transfer should be respectful of each participant's opinion. Rather than have one person control the discussion, the group should work together to solve the issue, allowing for equal input.
"This will allow each participant of the farm transfer process to have an equal say, thereby avoiding argument and conflict," she said.
DeVaney said older adults need to retain some authority. In many cases, the younger adult feels the need to "take care" of older family members. DeVaney said that in this instance the two parties need to be respectful of each other's opinion and not force anything upon the other.
"In farm transfer cases it is helpful to include an adviser, such as an attorney, to assist the family with the succession planning process," DeVaney said. "It is important to help the older person understand how their estate planning actions affect those who are left behind such as a spouse and children."
Farm operators should begin to make estate plans by the age of 50 to 60 while they are in good health and not when they are coping with an illness.
"It will be easier for the family to discuss the process if everyone is healthy and fully able to discuss the future of the farm," DeVaney said.
DeVaney also advises farm families to hold meetings to discuss the future operation of the farm. Participants should discuss the purpose for holding such meetings and what they hope to accomplish.
Another sensitive issue is deciding who will be successor to the farm, especially if there is no family member to designate. If there is no family member to operate the farm, an alternative to selling could be to find a beginning farmer to bring into the operation.
DeVaney said some states provide programs that help match older farmers with beginners. From this point, the farm operator and beginning farmer can discuss possible transfer strategies.
Development of the Web site was funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education. DeVaney's work was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service and the National Endowment for Financial Education.
Writer: Meggie Issler, (765) 494-8402, email@example.com
Source: Sharon DeVaney, (765) 494-8300, firstname.lastname@example.org