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Ohio's family farmers are aging. Are they ready for what comes next?

There were nearly 67,000 family farms in Ohio in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is 88.7 percent of all farm operations in the state at the time. The USDA reports, too, that the average principal farm operator in the state was just shy of his (or her) 57th birthday.

Overall, the data shows that while the number of family farms was on the decline, the average age of the operator was on the rise. What will happen to the farms as this generation moves on to the next phase of life?

Most workers are considering retirement by the time they reach their late 50's. Some are looking at downsizing their family homes or relocating to a warmer climate. They are fine-tuning their estate plans, selling off items that the next generation has no interest in, making sure they are managing their assets in a way that will secure both their and their heirs' futures.

For family farmers, retirement may not be an option, but that does not mean they shouldn't be thinking about estate planning. Farmers often have their capital tied up in their operations. There are barns and other outbuildings, there are machines and heavy equipment, there are the crops or the livestock -- and, of course, there are the family homes.

For farmers, managing assets is not a matter of investing in bonds rather than the stock market, and writing an estate plan is not a matter of dividing the possessions equally among the children. A farm is a single entity -- it makes no sense to leave the land to one child and the equipment to another.

Developing an estate plan for a family farm can be a difficult and delicate task. If it's not done right -- or, worse, not done at all -- the result can be a dispute that pulls the family apart just when they need each other the most.

The attorneys at Zigray Law Office LLC have the experience necessary to avoid or to resolve a family farm dispute. We work with probate litigation regularly, and we understand how the law applies to family farms. We pay close attention to the details that farmers may not have time to attend to on their own.

If you are concerned about the disposition of the family farm before or after the current generation is gone, please contact us for a free consultation.

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