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Preparing to meet with your transition and estate planning team

Quick facts

  • It is important to develop a prioritized list of goals for your business, your family, your retirement and yourself as an individual.
  • It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the questions you may have. Instead, focus on creating your goals list as a first step.
  • Share your goals list with your transition and estate planning team of professionals (attorney, accountant, financial planner, banker, insurance agent, etc.).

Your business transition and personal estate plan is your road map into the future. The process necessitates discussion between involved individuals resulting in a prioritized list of goals for your business, your family, your retirement and yourself as an individual. It clears up questions and potential misunderstandings between family members. It is the document you take to your transition and estate planning team to begin the process. Without this list, your team cannot begin their work. They need to know what you want to have happen to your assets and more importantly what you do not want to have happen to your assets.

The entire process must be based upon your individual, family, business/retirement goals. See preparing to transfer the farm business.

Who should be involved in preparation process?

All parties exiting and entering farm business must be involved in the preparation process. This includes spouses and in-laws. Spouses and in-laws, who are informed about the process and actively involved in the process, are more supportive than if not involved in the process. They also bring a unique perspective to the process and often ask the kinds of questions needed to be addressed to accomplish a fulfilling result.

How to get started

To prepare to meet with your transition and estate planning team, there are a number of steps and questions to address. Focus on completing your prioritized goals list for your business, your family, yourself and your retirement. Do not get mired down in the details of all the complex items around business transition and estate planning: which business entity should I have, do I need a trust or a will, how does capital gains tax work and how do I avoid the tax, etc. Thinking about that detail will frustrate you, confuse you and ultimately keep you from moving forward with your business transition and estate planning.

Step 1 is to focus only on completing your prioritized list of goals. Step 2 is to call the attorney and make an appointment. It is as simple as that.

To aid you in your preparation, here are some items to think about which may help you clarify where you want to go and also help clarify your preparation process. These items can also be used to develop your goals list.

  • How will the land be rented? What are rental rates and payment dates? How will rental rates be determined in the future?
  • How will the machinery be transferred-gift, sale, lease with piecemeal buyout or exchange of labor for machine use? Who will pay the insurance, fuel, major and minor repairs? When will the machinery be transferred?
  • How will livestock be transferred-lump sum sale, gradual sale, shared income for a few years, or livestock share lease?
  • How will buildings and the house be handled? Use rent free? If not, what rental rate? Is it included with land rent? What arrangements are made for the transfer, sale, gift, or tax free exchange of real estate? Who will pay for insurance, real estate taxes, repairs, and utilities? Does the plan make maximum use of the Minnesota Homestead Credit?
  • Are arrangements made to improve the security of the entering farmer-life insurance on parents, a buy-out provision giving the option to buy assets later, parents’ living trust or Will to bind other heirs to sale terms?
  • Will land be sold? If so, when and how will price and terms be determined? Would a buy-sell agreement be in order?
  • Have adequate and acceptable housing arrangements been made for the long run? Is everyone happy with those arrangements?
  • If parents will be working for their children, what is the method and rate of compensation? How much will parents be expected to or want to work on the farm after retirement?
  • If families will be working together through several transition years, who will be responsible for what segments of the business? Who will be responsible for and manage the livestock, crops, machinery, marketing, farm records, employees, etc.? How will work be divided? Are hours and vacation times agreeable to all?
  • What are the arrangements for transition of management and who is responsible for overall decision making? In other words, who has the final word and when does that right transition to the next generation?
  • How will the debt be handled? Does the entering farmer assume the existing debt, borrow elsewhere and pay off old debt? How will this impact existing farmer’s tax situation?

When should you begin the preparation process?

The sooner a plan is established and implemented, the more confident the participants will feel. Once you decide to transfer the farm, the planning and preparation process should begin.

The process and resulting plan should provide for the complete transition of the business. Depending upon your situation, this may have to cover a period of 10 years or more.

As your goals, business or family circumstances change, the transition and estate plan should be reviewed and revised when necessary or appropriate. Also, the exiting generation does not have to stop farming the minute they sign off on the plan.

Put it in writing!

Put your goals and other thoughts in writing. If not written down, details are easily forgotten and often misconstrued as time goes by.

After a first draft, all farming parties should review the goals list and any other thoughts in the list. As soon as the document has agreement from everyone involved, a final goals list can be completed. Once the goal list is agreed upon, you are ready to meet with your transition and estate planning team.


Caution: This publication is offered as educational information. It does not offer legal advice. If you have questions on this information, contact an attorney.

David Bau and C. Robert Holcomb, Extension educators; Gary Hachfield

Reviewed in 2023

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