Farm Succession Planning Phase 3 - Creating the Road Map

THE COUNSELOR

Volume 8 • Issue 9 • October 2018

The Counselor is a monthly newsletter of Hallock & Hallock dedicated to providing useful information on estate planning, business succession planning and charitable planning issues. This month’s issue is the third in a four-part series about the farm succession process. If you are interested in learning more about the ideas and processes discussed in this newsletter, please contact us for an initial consultation.


This month’s newsletter will discuss Phase 3 and the steps used in creating the road map, or game plan, to move the farm succession process from where it is now (Phase 1) to where you have determined it needs to be in the future (Phase 2).  Success in Phase 3 presumes that you have taken the time and done the work required of Phase 1 and Phase 2.  This includes identifying who will be the successor and when you anticipate he/she will take over.  If you don’t know where you are or where you want to be, it will be impossible to create an accurate map.

The Road Map

The road map is just what you would expect it to be.  It is a written document, a farm succession plan, that outlines the steps that need to take place to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  The road map will be used to take you through the four steps of implementation:

  1. the testing phase;

  2. the commitment phase;

  3. the established phase; and

  4. the withdrawal phase.

These phases will be discussed in greater detail in next month's newsletter regarding Phase 4 implementation, but to introduce the ideas, here is a brief description of each phase.

The Testing Phase

The testing phase is the period where the incoming owner and the departing owner work together to determine the compatibility of the relationship.  In many farm transitions, this phase has already begun, albeit without intentionality.

The Commitment Phase

The commitment phase begins when the testing phase concludes.  The commitment phase begins when both the incoming owner and the departing owner have committed to continuing the farm operation.

The Established Phase

During the established phase, the successor will likely be providing more of the work and will have taken on substantial management responsibilities.  The transfer of assets is likely underway during this phase.

The Withdrawal Phase

Withdrawal is the final stage.  By this point, management of the operation should be fully in the hands of the successor.  This stage addresses the ultimate transfer of assets.

The road map should take the parties through each of the phases by setting concrete steps and actions.  The road map should establish a specific timeline for achievement of each of the benchmarks that can be relied upon by each of the parties.  The road map will set forth a schedule for regular family meetings throughout the various phases to ensure continued, open communication as well as opportunity to make adaptations that may be necessary.

An Experienced Guide

A Farm Succession Coordinator is an independent neutral that works with a farm family to help manage and direct the succession process, but not the outcome.  While the coordinator is responsible for the process, the family is still responsible for the outcome.  A good coordinator is like an experienced guide that will help the family work through defining roles, establishing goals, and creating a process that will lead to the family's desired outcome. The succession coordinator works to make all parties feel that their voice has been heard.  The coordinator is there to help establish the road map, or game plan, and then help the farm family put a team in place that can execute the plan.  If your farm family is stuck, consider utilizing a certified Farm Succession Coordinator to assist you in taking the next step toward successful farm succession planning.

People use guides for many things: hunting, fishing, river rafting, etc.  Even great explorers like Lewis and Clark brought along experienced guides.  How things turn out often depends upon the quality and experience of the guide.  As you prepare to embark on the journey of farm succession planning, an experienced coordinator can lead you through the perils and pitfalls of planning to a successful end.

There is and always will be a benefit to using an experienced guide.

Conclusion

With a roadmap (the written farm succession plan) in hand and an experienced guide (the farm succession coordinator) by your side, you are prepared to move into implementation of your plan and ultimately the successful transition of your farm or ranch operation to the next generation.


This Newsletter is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between Hallock & Hallock and the reader.