Over the years, when clients struggle with fairness, I have encouraged them to at least get the above stated basic estate and succession planning documents established. My experience is that once clients get the basic documents in place, then they are more easily able to drill down deeper and tackle the fairness issues. Most importantly, these documents can be amended over time so as to ensure fairness adapts to changes in circumstances.
“…once clients get the basic documents in place, then they are more easily able to drill down deeper and tackle the fairness issues.”
Fairness in estate and succession planning comes in many shapes and sizes. I have had clients treat all children equally, leave practically everything to the farming children, and do everything in between. Getting to fairness generally will require some of the above stated estate planning tools. This is because farm assets are often times difficult to divide, especially among several heirs.
In closing, keep in mind that it is perfectly permissible to put a plan in place that is initially not what you may think is fair to your children or heirs. Once the main components are in place, you can easily modify the plan to get to a point where you do believe fairness has been achieved.
John J. Schwarz, II, is a lifelong farmer and farms with his family near Stroh, in Northeast Indiana and has been an agricultural law attorney for 12 years. He can be reached at 260-351-4440, our contact form, or visit him at www.farmlegacy.com. These articles are for general informational purposes only and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship. This article and others can be found on Farm World Magazine.