Will indecision be your estate planning decision?

Not making a decision is a decision.

Not making decisions for estate planning is a decision in and of itself — and one that can hurt an operation and a farming heir. Liz Harder / Harder Stock

Right or left? Time to Sell? Time to buy? Stop or Go? So many decisions!

“Forget it, I am just going to wait and not do anything right now!”

Several years ago, I was working with a farm family in southern Iowa. They were clearly in need of some estate and financial planning. As we were going through their plan, they recognized the issues and acknowledged that they should do something. There was a significant difference between what their current plan would do and what they said they wanted their plan to do. They had both tax and continuation issues that they said concerned them greatly. I laid out several options for solving those problems and they agreed to the changes. At the conclusion of that appointment, we developed an action plan of the most concerning issues.

We prioritized the list and then I asked them when we should meet again. There was a slight pause and then the husband said, “Well, we will have to think about it.” At that point, I glanced at his wife and saw her jaw drop in disbelief, and then she followed with an elbow to his midsection and she asked, “What more is there to think about?” He then said, “I need more time to make a decision.”

This couple had a good sense of humor so my role at that point was to sit back and listen to their dialogue. They humorously bantered back and forth for a short period of time. Then the discussion came to a screeching halt when she turned and looked him right in the eyes and she made her “closing statement” on the discussion. She said, “Honey, when you make a decision not to make a decision you just made a decision.”


The room went dead quiet. I sat there for a moment repeating in my head what she had just said. After a moment of silence, the husband looked up, smiled and said, “I guess we are ready to start with this plan right now.”

So, when is the right time? If you are in your 80s and reading this, what are you waiting for? If you are in your 60s and 70s, it is also time, recognizing you are probably at least slowing down a little. You probably have also observed a few people in your age category passing away. So, what if you are in your 40s and 50s? Is that too young to plan? Even though it seems somewhat premature at the time, death unfortunately comes prematurely as well, at times.

So, who usually “leads the charge” for planning and making sure it gets done? Every family tends to be a little different. For some, the husband has always been the one in control and suddenly feels a sense of urgency to make sure that the farm stays in the family. Sometimes the wife is the one who is ready to get the plan done because she knows the problems that would arise should her husband pass away.

Two other people typically have concerns with getting a continuation plan done. One of them is the farming heir. When mom and dad get to their 70s and the farming heir is 45, they recognize their occupation and farming career may be out of their control without a plan. Another unique key person that is frequently influential is the farming child’s spouse. Although they do not always come to the front vocally, they hear about all the concerns from their spouse daily. They know the stress that uncertainty puts on their spouse.

So here are the questions. Have all the important decisions been made and communicated? What decisions still need to be made? Will indecision be your decision?

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or

What To Read Next
Reports of moisture and higher than expected exports were friendly to markets to start February off on a positive.
We could all use a good laugh to start out the new year.
The author recalls a time when the only thing that really mattered was putting food on the table and sharing it with others.
Leadership takes honest reflection and thinking about the needs of others, Jenny Schlecht writes. With that in mind, do we have the right leaders to get a new farm bill passed by Sept. 30?