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  • Anne has worked in agriculture since she was old enough to sweep the floor of the family machine shed. She writes about rural & outdoor life from the most remote county seat in the Lower 48, where she and her husband chase two children. Her experience ranges from picking apricots in 100 degree weather and working with Hutterite colonies, to discussing ag trade with the Ambassador of New Zealand and judging cured meats.
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Family Tradition

by Anne_Miller_mt ‎12-29-2013 06:06 PM - edited ‎12-29-2013 06:36 PM

     Holidays mean family time around the table and conversation with relatives rarely assembled together the remainder of the year. Traditionally, it’s a jovial atmosphere combined with the occasional cat fight over who gets to bring the holiday <insert special dish here> that, of course, ONLY one person knows how to cook correctly. All joking about Auntie Fay’s bean dish aside, the Yuletide season emphasizes togetherness and unity. Kidlet Cooking.JPG

 

     Therefore, it’s hard to imagine bringing up tough subjects at this point in time, like estate planning. Most people consider planning like this the complete opposite of unity, especially if the subject hasn’t been figuratively brought to the table in the past. Or maybe it has…with epic disagreements and you’ve buried the hatchet to enjoy the bean dish.

 

     My family steered hard around these conversations, because having them seemed to cheerfully say, “So, before somebody drops off the planet and fails to tell us what to do…..we need to have a little chat about how much each family member receives and how much paperwork is involved to get it.” It was awkward; we loved one another and nice families just didn’t talk about death and money. And, if you were of the younger generation, you certainly didn’t want to get caught referring to the *cough* older generation as (Heaven help us) the elders. And, being in my thirties, I’ve got a long long time before I am considered a ranch elder. Don’t get me wrong - it’s great that I can wear those tight leggings with sweaters and nobody questions it. But I’d rather be able to carry a little more clout with the decision-making beyond the wardrobe. So let’s just admit there’s a huge stigma here.

 

       The problem is that we think of estate and family farm planning as a DEATH issue when it really is a LIFE issue. Are you beginning to hear sleigh bells and happy music yet? I am.  It’s all about your perspective. In reality, broaching the subject of estate planning is really asking, “How do we continue our solid traditions and ensure that the family dynasty continues?” For this to work, people need to be frank about their skills and abilities. They need to be frank about finances. They need to be frank about what truly interests them. Most of all, they need to be willing to put family first and personal egos aside by sharing all of these things, which brings another point.

 

      Of the farm estate planning that I have seen, the families most successful at transitioning between generations began talking about it early. Maybe your son or daughter is in college now and you’d like to let them enjoy life beyond the hayfield for a few years. Maybe you want to gauge how important ag is to them before approaching them about the farm estate. Maybe, as in my family tree, the last generational handoff didn’t happen until “the elders” were in their 80s…meaning the new ones finally in charge waited until their 60s to get the baton and decide how to run the place. And maybe, as in my case, you’ve chased dreams in other states but still want to know what the plans are back home. You’ll never know unless you ask. Avoiding a stigma is not worth losing the opportunity to come together as a team, with each person offering different skills, perspectives and time. A stigma is certainly not worth losing the family farm.

 

      Family recipes become well-known because they are shared, handed down with the realization that there is no ONE person that cooks it correctly. The essential part is the instruction on that little card with everyone putting their own special touch on the final product.