Mom's Legacy

What happens when Mom dies? 

More and more, I am getting desperate calls from either fathers or mothers in their late 70’s whom a decade ago thought they had done their farm succession planning. 

When these parents had spent $10,000+ on accounting and legal fees for succession planning, they thought they had their affairs in order.   Sure they had figured out how to split the pie, but there was no thought put into how siblings would work together thereafter.  The kids had always gotten along and there was no need to worry… 

But what no one realized was that one parent was the “lynch pin” that had allowed siblings to have a solid business partnership.  A kind or sharp word said here or there, kept things together.  But without that insight, things go off track quickly…

Often when Mom dies, both the business and the family’s relationships go off rails...

In my humble opinion, every family matriarch should be instrumental in setting up monthly (or at least quarterly) formal business meetings with a third party chairing these meetings to discuss both farm business and family business issues.   It’s simply a matter of setting up farm corporation business meetings, from being an informal useless legal exercise performed annually to fulfill the farm’s corporate charter to be an effective process that improves how the family makes decisions together. 

For many, planning life after death is difficult.  It’s tough to go to the funeral home and plan your funeral.  However, what color of casket you are buried in, really matters very little.  Yet how your family functions together after you are gone should matter.  Leaving such affairs to a vacuum of chaos and confusion won’t help…

This month might be the time to actually start the discussion with your family about how the kids can continue to farm together when your gone.  Setting up the framework for who/how the family will mediate family disputes in the future is something every family should think about/plan.  Getting your family into the habit of having regular family business meetings to resolve disputes and prevent problems is the first step.  Being gone someday, isn’t something that you want to imagine, but what is the sense of building up an amazing family and farming empire, unless your heirs are able to manage it TOGETHER after your gone?

Almost every farm family will miss their Mom after her funeral.  Obviously, how much she is missed is a reflection of how much of an impact she had on the lives of each family member.  That is a good thing.  But leaving your family with a vacuum in how the family members and the family business functions is a very bad thing.  Think about your neighboring families that become nearly dysfunctional after their mother wasn’t there to mediate relationships.  How can you help your family overcome this issue?  It starts with a family conversation today…