No Substitute for Communication

As I am preparing for a presentation on succession planning for farms and ranches, I am reminded again about the importance of communication.  Whether it is planning an estate for a family or planning for the succession of the business, there truly is no substitute for good communication.  I find that even if a child disagrees with how Mom and Dad have set up their estate plan, that child is much more likely to accept the plan if it has been communicated to them by Mom and Dad, while they are still of sound mind.  This results in greater family harmony and a decrease in the likelihood of litigation.Beyond preserving family harmony, good communication will allow your trustee or personal representative the ability to administer your affairs far more efficiently and with much less cost.  They will be able to do so because they will know your wishes in advance, they will know where documents are kept, and they will know where information concerning your assets is located.  Good communication will also allow those charged with handling your medical wishes to truly know and understand what your wishes would be in a particular circumstance.Finally, when it comes to succession planning for a family business, a failure to communicate can be the death of the business.  It is not unusual for me to sit down with a family to discuss a succession plan and have it be the first time any of them have ever communicated as a group on the subject.  If you trust that your son or daughter can run your business, you must trust that you can have a dialogue with them about how the process will play out – as equals.  Communication will allow reasonable expectations to be established and eliminate the anxiety of not knowing.So whether you are planning for your estate or the transfer of your business, commit now to a process that involves open communication.  If you do so your chances of success have increased significantly.  The documents are important, but so too is the communication.