One of our clients, we’ll just call him Jerry, was in the other day to sign his estate planning documents. He’s a good-looking guy in his early 40s, healthy, and in a great, successful family farming business. Paperwork is not his thing.
He would much rather be on the tractor than in an attorney’s office.
He has a lot of other things he could be doing. Things he would enjoy more. He mentioned to one of our associates, with a big smile of satisfaction on his face (as he was done signing all of his documents),
“You know, I hate doing this kind of stuff… It’s not fun to think of dying and taxes and where does everything go that you have worked so hard for all your life. I don’t like thinking of what if something happens to me; what if something happens to one of my partners; I just hate thinking about this stuff.”
He’s right, we don’t like to think about the “what ifs” that could occur in life.
Our associate said, “So, why are you here? Why are you doing this estate plan?” Jerry said that he had worked hard and he loved his family, and frankly, he didn’t want to be remembered as an idiot (a young, good-looking guy can say things like that).
“I don’t want my employees or my family thinking, “why didn’t he have this in order.”
I often say the “if onlys” are so much more painful than the “what ifs.” Jerry got that. He was willing to face the “what ifs” so his family and employees didn’t have to live with the uncertainty, expense, frustration and hurt of saying “if only Jerry had ….”
Signing day is always sort of a celebration.
We get to work with clients who value their family, their life, and their legacy. They have such a sense of accomplishment putting a plan together. Most often they find facing the “what ifs” isn’t so hard with proper guidance. We answer the “what if the surviving spouse remarries; what if our daughter divorces; what if land values go up and one kid wants to sell; what if my son wants a shot at farming; or what if my child isn’t ready to manage money.” Similar questions are faced every day. The reality is the answer to these questions and the peace that comes with putting a plan in place is closer than you think. We often find that in just a few hours, a family can have a pretty great road map in place for their family; it’s just a matter of taking the time, making it a priority and then facing the “what ifs.”
Addressing those “what if” situations through proper estate planning is a great way to avoid the “if onlys” later. In both my law practice and my life, I encounter people who have suffered major losses in their lives. So much of the pain, expense and family feuding could have been alleviated had the person faced the “what if.” I can tell you the financial cost and emotional trauma (the “why didn’t dad do that!”) can tear a person up. You can’t change it, and energy and emotion are wasted on frustration.
We lost one of our clients to an unexpected heart attack. He was 51. Although his wife was in shock (as were we) and grieving, she knew that her farm was safe. They had a plan in place, and she did not have to worry about those issues. The comfort of knowing she and her husband had addressed the “what ifs” allowed her to focus on her grief and not worry about how the farming legacy they had created would end up.
I then contrast that with another woman. She was in her early 70s, and she had also lost her husband. Sadly, they had avoided tackling their “what ifs” and so she found herself not just grieving the loss of her spouse but suddenly faced with how to manage and run a large farming operation, deal with possible estate tax implications, and try to protect the family assets. She is now, several months later, still dealing with those issues and finding herself dealing with the pain of the “if onlys” on a regular basis.
I am reminded of a story I heard, a challenge, sort of. The question was would you walk across an I-beam (that high rafter when they are constructing buildings) that is 50 feet off the ground for $20? Most people would say no, I am not going to risk that for $20. How about for $100? Probably not, your life and health are more important. Now, let’s imagine your 2-year-old grandchild was on the other end and needed to be brought to safety, then….YES! Most people would do what it takes to save their grandchild. The point I am trying to make is that when the goal is worth it, you will face whatever you have to.
Is protecting your family and your operations worth it?
You don’t have to walk across an I-beam: you just need to visit with an agricultural estate planning law firm who is committed to helping you. Tackling the “what if” questions doesn’t seem so daunting when you know the rewards: clarity, certainty and harmony for your family. Addressing now the questions with a qualified and dedicated agricultural estate planning law firm ensures that your family doesn’t have to deal with the messy “if onlys” later.
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