My primary focus is one on one meetings with farm families, but over the years, I’ve also written many columns for several magazines and spoken all over the place. Writing and talking about taxes, estate tools and distribution strategies can almost become numbing unless you know why you are writing or talking about it. So before getting into the depths and details of farm estate planning, it’s important for me to explain to you why I do what I do.
For myself, I was living the dream until I was about 7 years old. Then some things changed. My mom’s parents both died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years apart in their 60s. To say things fell apart for Grandma and Grandpa’s farm would be an understatement. The farm was divided, the family was divided, and years of bitterness ensued.
My dad had starting farming on his own and then the mid-1980s hit. I was finishing high school and the high interest rates and an untimely land purchase left me wondering if there would even be a family farm to come back to.
As a result, I started my working career as an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser. I started to observe the importance of learning how to explain things and also that I was consistently meeting kids to see their projects on “grandpa’s farm.”
Then my dad’s parents passed away. In many ways, it was a repeat of what my parents had experienced on my mom’s side. Family relationships that once had been friendly were severed and the farm was divided. Those family relationships have never been repaired.
I then started connecting the dots as I identified the issues and recurring problems with farm transitions. The wheels continued to turn, and the next thing I know, I’m retiring from teaching and starting to do farm estate planning.
Now every day I wake up with a new set of challenges and appointments. One would think that after 20 years and thousands of clients, everything would be easy, but it’s not. I smile when I meet with someone and they say, "I bet you’ve seen it all." Well, I’ve seen a lot, but I know I have not “seen it all” because every day something new, crazy, amazing or weird happens.
Regularly, we are getting new plans in place for families that will prevent the disasters my parent’s families experienced. I call that proactive planning. We also regularly get phone calls where conflicts, fights, divorces, deaths and ugliness have already occurred. I call that reactive planning.
Every day I live the challenges that all of my clients do. Like my dad, I started farming on my own. It has been an ongoing challenge for 30 years, but now with 1,000 acres of corn-on-corn and contract finishing both nursery and finishing pigs, I am back to living my dream of farming. All along the way, I have been doing farm estate planning exclusively with farm families the past 20 years because I don’t want other families to have their farms and families ripped apart due to poor planning.
My hope is that when you read this column in the future, you will understand why I do what I do. It’s not a job. It’s a passion. In the future I hope that this coluum will provide you with all kinds of ideas, stories and examples that are relevant to your farm and family. The struggles of former years have led me to search for better days through better ways. I believe in the future of agriculture.
Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.