You put hard work into your ranch, and the financial and practical decisions you make are key to making your business a success. However, it is just as important that ranchers plan for a day when their ranch will operate without them. With careful estate planning, you can provide for your family and protect the investments you have made in your ranch.
You may want to consider a wider variety of documents for your estate plan.
For many people, a will offers enough protection for their estate. Ranch owners, however, have more specific needs to consider. For example, your estate plan will need to address not only your land but equipment, vehicles and livestock. As Beef Magazine notes, a well-rounded plan will provide additional information on your livestock, including how they should be cared for or sold. A livestock trust can help address how your cattle should be fed and cared for after your passing, pay your workers and help your heirs understand how to value and market your cattle in a sale.
In addition to the stock you own, your ranch is a business, and a succession plan can also be key to protecting the business you have built. Even if your family agrees that one of your children will operate the ranch after you pass away or that your children will divide the land among themselves, having that plan in writing ensures that the plan you discuss today will be the plan you use in the future.
Planning for illness or accidents may help keep your ranch in operation.
What if a fall or truck accident leaves you unable to work your land or to make decisions about how your ranch will be operated? If your cattle need to be sold while you are incapacitated, who will make that sale? Who is in charge of paying your hired men if your ranch needs extra help during calving season? Having a power of attorney in place allows you to name one or two people you trust to make these financial and legal decisions on your behalf.
Reviewing your estate plan may be just as important as having a plan.
Whether you have purchased grazing land, added to your herd, built new outbuildings or liquidated some of your property, your ranch can change significantly over time. If you have not updated your estate plan to reflect those changes, you run the risk of missing important information or leaving some of your heirs with less than others.
Your family may have changed, too, as your children grow, make decisions about whether to continue the family business and have children of their own. For example, if one of your children has decided to pursue a career outside of ranching, you may want to have a plan in place that allows your other children to buy their portion of your land. In other cases, you may want to name new beneficiaries if you welcome a new child or grandchild to your family.
Because of the unique needs that ranchers have in planning their estate, it can be especially important to work with an attorney that has experience in agricultural law as well as estate planning. They can speak to the unique needs of ranchers and ensure that their estate plan protects their livestock, their land and their loved ones for years to come.