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Deciding the future of a family farm requires open and frequent communication

Gone are the days when small family farms were plentiful and dotted the landscape of Lucas County. Today, the majority of Ohio residents work jobs in large cities and the surrounding suburbs. Most of the farms that still exist in the area are small family farming operations that have been passed down through generations.

Families who have a farm often cherish the acreage they own and the possibilities it affords. That being said, farming isn't for everyone. While some sons and daughters who grew up on a farm may follow in their parents' footsteps, others likely prefer a different career choice and lifestyle. Parents who own and operate a farm would therefore be wise to discuss their future wishes and estate planning goals with their grown children.

When it comes to estate planning decisions, it's best to communicate openly, honestly and frequently. This is especially the case when there is more than one child and parents own a farm, land or a family business. Parents who fail to relay their plans to children about the future of a family farm may ignite a feud among surviving heirs.

In cases involving a farm inheritance, parents and siblings may have varying opinions about keeping or selling the farm and land. Matters involving decisions about whether to retain or sell a farm and land can quickly become emotional and contentious. In cases where one sibling wishes to keep and operate a farm and the other two do not, some sort of buy-out solution will need to be worked out.

Estate planning matters, particularly those related to the succession of a family farm or business, are complex. To avoid potential tax liabilities as well as family feuds and legal disputes, it's wise to seek the advice and assistance of an estate planning professional early and often.

Source: Farm Futures, "Don't Start a Farm Family Feud," Rich Dunn, June 24, 2014

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