Estate planning encompasses many different segments of the populations—from “ordinary” folks through the rich and famous. In fact, we’d contend that everyone needs to think seriously about estate planning—but estate planning needs can vary greatly from one segment of the population to the next. The agrarian business is a good example of this, and one that’s close to our hearts. There are some specific needs involved with estate planning for farmers, and in particular the agriculturalists in our neighboring Napa Valley.
Many farmers and ranchers are reluctant to talk about what will happen once they retire or pass away—and one of the prickliest issues of all is land sales.
There are various reasons for this. A lot of farmers inherit their land, and have a certain sentimental attachment to it; it’s family land, and they wish to keep it that way.
Other farmers paid for their land themselves, and don’t want their children or grandchildren to have to follow suit—so it’s especially important for them that their farm lands remain in the family.
All of these issues can pose unique challenges with regard to estate and succession planning for farmers and ranchers.
That’s not the only land-related issue that can impact estate and farm transition planning for agricultural producers. Another consideration is that many ranchers and farmers work land that they don’t actually own—for example, they may work under a sharing agreement, or they may rent from landlords who don’t cultivate the land but do share in the profits.
In estate planning, it’s critical to clarify which pieces of land are owned outright, and thus can be declared as assets, and which aren’t. This is something that should always be considered in estate and succession planning for farmers and ranchers.
It’s also important to consider outdated land agreements when doing succession planning for wineries and vineyards.
Maintaining updated land deeds and titles is one of the key points of interest for older farmers, especially because they do not keep updated copies of such titles. We encourage farmers to keep the most recent deeds and titles to determine how much their land has changed over the years, which helps ensure accurate representation in the books.
This makes estate and farm transition planning for agricultural producers much easier.
One final issue that makes estate planning for farmers and ranchers difficult is their strong desire toward secrecy.
Specifically, many farmers want very much to keep their financial statements close to the vest. This is an understandable impulse, but during the estate planning process it can become counterproductive.
It’s vital for farmers and ranchers to find an estate planning attorney they trust, and to be open with their attorney even about some of the more confidential aspects of their finances.
Estate planning is vital for farmers of all stripes—including the winemakers and ranchers here in Napa Valley. Through the proper estate planning process, you can ensure that your land stays in the family, even if something happens to you out of the blue.
We encourage farmers to discuss any concerns they have with a veteran estate planning firm—ideally a firm well experienced in helping agricultural producers. Singh Law Firm more than fits the bill, and can provide a wealth of expertise in business succession planning. We can help keep your assets out of probate court, and assist with documents ranging from wills to irrevocable life insurance trusts. Contact Singh Law Firm today and ask about unique approaches to transferring farm assets.