Estate and Succession Planning – Know Your Goal

I am currently reading a great book by Neil Harl on Farm Estate & Business planning. I thought I would use this blog to share some of the ideas as I move through the book. One of the first things to understand is the importance of planning in general. If we do not do anything, we have a plan, it is just the default plan that the government has for us. So the question really isn’t: “Do I need a plan?” Rather, the question is: “Could I improve on the state’s plan?” If you believe that you can, you are ready to plan.In beginning an estate or succession plan, the first issue/question that should always be addressed is: "What are your objectives?" I have always loved the saying – “Begin with the end in mind.” I think it is absolutely applicable to estate planning. Harl says: “The chances are quite good that if one can identify his or her objectives then the law, in its enormous flexibility, can be used to accomplish those aims.” Spend time on thinking through those objectives. With a family business, such as a farm or ranch, is your objective to pass along the business or is it to pass along an inheritance? Your objective will greatly influence the legal tools that are used.While a succession plan will not guarantee the continuation of the business, it will certainly increase the likelihood. Further, I agree with what Harl says: “the greatest value comes from the process of working through a succession plan, not the final product.”