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What Next? Planning Out the Succession

Succession planning has a whole lot going against it. It can seem daunting, and no one likes to talk about it because it usually means the loss of a loved one. One truth, though, is that we won’t all be around forever. If you have a farm or ranch, you should be prepared for most things, and the future of your farm, beyond you, is key. You work long and hard for your farm, and what happens to it when you’re gone is part of your lasting imprint and your legacy. So even if you feel hale and hearty, succession planning should be on your radar. You may even find that going through the process will help you run your business now.

This article is part of a series taking you through some resources from the Farm Journal Legacy Project to help you with the process. Last week, we talked about how to bring up the conversation with your family.

Sucession Planning ScorecardThis week, we’re helping you think about the next steps. Here’s a handy scorecard to tell you how ready you are to deal with succession.

Answer 20 questions, ranking each on a 1-5 scale, tally up your scores, and you can get a feel for where you sit. Are you aware of the complexities, ready to take other people’s thoughts into account, have the ability to work as a family for a positive outcome? Asking yourself these questions will help you think more about the process.

Now, think of everyone involved. You, your spouse, your children. Take a look at each of your individual goals. How do each of you address things like

How long should the succession process take?
Would you divide the farm or operation if it helped keep the peace?

Can a son-in-law or daughter-in-law inherit or take over the farm?

Should the senior generation get financial support from the farm?

You can each answer these questions, and compare where you each stand. You may find a lot of overlap, but you may have pretty different thoughts as well. Either way, getting the topics out there will help.

Here are questions you can ask when interviewing potential advisors.
Here are questions you can ask when interviewing potential advisors.

Once you have an idea of what you are moving toward, it is helpful to have an advisor. You may be lucky enough to have a great resource through your local Extension service. Or your accountant or banker may be really well versed in the transition process. If you are looking for someone new, you’ll want to get someone qualified. This simple list of questions will help find that person. Working with someone knowledgeable and someone you can trust will move the process forward.

Here’s hoping you are farming for as long as you want to be. Planning for the future should help now, and down the road.

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Rachel Gilker
Rachel Gilker
Rachel's interest in sustainable agriculture and grazing has deep roots in the soil. She's been following that passion around the world, working on an ancient Nabatean farm in the Negev, and with farmers in West Africa's Niger. After returning to the US, Rachel received her M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science from the University of Maryland. For her doctoral research, Rachel spent 3 years working with Maryland dairy farmers using management intensive grazing. She then began her work with grass farmers, a source of joy and a journey of discovery.

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