As we all look to the slowly dying crops and patiently wait for them to hit the optimum harvest condition, it is a good time to remember we are all slowly dying. Everyday, every hour. Yet we will never know when we reach optimum harvest time and depart. Like harvest prep, we can however, get our affairs in order to make transition as orderly as possible. Time to be blunt.
First, everyone, regardless of property status, wealth or relationship with children, needs a health care power of attorney and a general power of attorney. These documents are essential if you are incapacitated and need to have something done for you medically or financially. Everyone needs to pick a pinch hitter and a back up to the pinch hitter. Failure to do so will result in expensive court proceedings to name a pinch hitter. Do not leave it to guess. Name your spouse, name your child, name your neighbor (with their permission) but leave somebody in line to take care of your bills while you cannot.
A will is often the last directive a person gives. If you own real estate or have over $50,000 in assets you are going to need to have a directive on what goes where. If you do not, you will have the state of Iowa take guess for you. This can result in your second cousin that you never did like at the family reunions going out to eat on what is left of your retirement nest egg. Do not let the state give your stuff to your terrible 2nd cousin. Make a will, pick winners and losers and decide who gets the farm.
Don’t punt on tough decisions. Decide if your kids can own the farm together or decide who should get the farm and give the other children other assets. Do not expect the children to magically set aside their own personal goals and desires and do whatever it is that you hope they will. If you have a goal, invest in will/estate plan that makes those goals possible. If you have an adult child that is a perpetual criminal, spender, or has a physical /mental issue that impacts their ability to make a living, blindly giving them assets is not really planning at all.
12 percent of a plan is better than no plan at all. If you are not sure, get a base line plan and then modify it as you determine if your daughter’s desires to farm match her ability. Make the plan well before illness sets in. When you have trouble hiding your memory loss, its is too late to make a plan.
If you are single or divorced and thinking about getting married, whether you are 18 or 80, nothing says I love you like a prenuptial agreement. This document can be wielded like a club against those who whisper your partner married for money or land and make parting ways when thing don’t work out so much easier. Further, a prenuptial agreement can quash the concerns of adult children from the first marriage and hopefully stopping them giving the new partner the side eye at every family get together.
Tell your children your plan. So many times, people litigate because “Pop would be rolling in his grave and would never want Mom to reward the on-farm child with more assets than me.” If Pop spent an hour explaining to his son who moved away to South America when he was 29 why his sister gets more than 50 percent, it might save two lawyers, a judge and some witnesses from cluttering up a court room to figure out if Mom had he and Pop’s plan overridden by the sister.