It is amazing how many people become experts after something has happened and suddenly they’re willing to offer their opinion on what should’ve been done. It’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight, but imagine if you could have 20/20 foresight? I’m going to give you some actual situations that I have observed and then I am going to ask, “If you had known what was going to happen how would that have affected your decision?”
What if your parents had specifically told you that you would be inheriting a certain part of the farm and buildings? You had waited a lifetime to inherit that property but right before they passed away, you found out you had cancer. So right after they passed away, you deeded it to your farming heir because you felt that was the right thing to do for the farm legacy. You literally owned it for 10 minutes. If you had 20/20 foresight, would you have still given that deed to that child if you knew that they wouldn’t even say thanks for the million dollar gift that meant a lot to you?
What if you had a child that rarely came home over the past 30 years, but while estate planning you still felt obligated to give them something, so you gave your farm heirs most of the farm, but you still gave this child a nice piece of land and $1 million? Would you and your wife still have done that if you knew that child would not even come to your funeral or your spouse’s funeral?
What if you had a 55-year-old child that had worked off and on all their life and had a net worth under $200,000? Now your estate plan gives them an inheritance of $2 million. Would you still give them the $2 million if you found out later they would be telling people they got screwed by “only getting $2 million.”
What if you gave your farming heir as many breaks as possible but for some reason, they were still disgruntled? Then after giving them all you could afford, your son and his wife will not let you come over to see their children, including their newborn babies. Would you still give them all those breaks?
What if you had signed a very favorable long-term lease for both your farm land rent and machinery lease and then within a few years the land rent payment was always late and the machinery payment was not made at all while your son and his spouse enjoyed some nice vacations? Would it change your decision on the agreement?
Would you change your plan if you knew that at your funeral, your daughter-in-law would be asking the executor how quickly the assets would be distributed?
Would you give away shares of your farming entity during your lifetime if you discovered that only a few years later, your farming heir would be leaving the operation due to a chemical dependency problem?
What if you and your spouse had decided to gift a piece of land to charity when you both passed away? Would it change your mind if you would have known that the charity would be at your wife’s door step the day after your funeral asking if they could have the land now rather than waiting for her death?
A person can’t predict every bad thing and bad outcome that could occur, but with a few these I felt like the chances of an adverse outcome were high. Why? I think sometimes parents know something bad could happen, but their love for their children is often blind and optimistic. What is the solution? Sometimes people shrug their shoulders and say “that’s the way it goes.” Sometimes planning could involve recourse for bad behavior. Sometimes there needs to be more rewards for those who are honest, hardworking, thankful, appreciative and respectful.
No, foresight will never be 20/20 but often times there are some very observable concerns leading into some of these problems if people are just willing to take off their blinders.
Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or email@example.com.