Farm family’s often express that the legal system does not adequately accomodate the realities of owning and running a family farm, farm agri-entertainment business or farm related family business such as a pick-you-own orchard, ice cream shoppe, gift store or farm stand.
Yet the members in these enterprises are people, like everyone else, with similar family dynamics, an occasional divorce, second marriage, children, family politics, disability and illness. All issues that impact the financial structure, ownership, control and livelihood of all participants of the Farm Family.
Elders who wish to retain control until the very end will often put off implementing any Estate Planning, Buy/Sell Agreements or other legal vehicles due to the fear of giving up control before they are ready.
There are stories passed around how after a divorce, the farm was lost; Or after the death of the Elder farmer, the children became at odds, litigated, and everyone lost – money, farm and family. Unfortunately, these stories are true. But they do not have to be your story.
In the agricultural setting, farm families work hard. Really hard. Dawn to Dusk, and then some. Sitting around a table discussing what they want, need or hope for is not high on the list. But without some discussion, the Elder may make decisons without the input of those who will be impacted, now and at death. Mediation is the solution.
By having a mediation session with the Attorney-Mediator, who understands about Agriculture (undergraduate degree in Pre-veterinarian medicine), family dynamics and the law, as well as years of experience mediating and facilitating among farmers in the farmer market venue, these issues can be put on the table, dealt with and life can go on. And at death, life for the remaining members of the Farm family, can continue as a Farm family.
Just as with the Inter-generational mediation, the session can be mediation (Attorney-Mediator is Neutral) or facilitation (meaning Elder or other family member would be the represented client). Either way, all parties come to the table, have their concerns, needs and desires put out on the table, and a solution can be reached with input from those directly impacted.
Sometimes this type of discussion cannot occur in an Attorney’s office due to geographical issues, farm schedules, etc. When this happens, arrangements are made to have the mediation at the family farm. The goal is that everyone impacted who may feel they should have a say, can have input.
In the Farm family situation, this includes the children of the owner of the farm, their spouses, their children, siblings of the owner of the farm, and even long term employees who believe their contribution should be considered in any planning if an integral part of the running of the Farm enterprise. Solutions can be reached. And the options are not locked into a few legal vehicles; they can be as creative as the participants choose to be. After all, your a Farm family – you know how to adjust to the many challenges working the land brings! Protect it for your future and for those you may leave behind.