Estate Planning Isn’t Just For the Elderly

Rincker Law Estate Planning, Food & Ag Law Leave a Comment

I was excited to see Julie Patterson and her beautiful family on the cover of the American Agriculturalist last week. You may recall that I am the Founding Member of New York Agri-Women. Julie was instrumental in helping get the organization off the ground. Patterson Farms, by the way, has its estate/succession plan in order. Just ask Julie.

Let’s face it.  Estate planning is easy to push off.  What’s another week… another month… another year… another five years… After all, I’m healthy.  My spouse is healthy.  We don’t have kids.  We don’t have a lot of assets.  I don’t care if what-little-I-do-have follows the rules of intestacy (i.e., the “default rules” if you die without a Last Will and Testament) in my state.  I cannot afford to pay an attorney for a fancy estate plan- maybe next year after I get that raise… or maybe the year after that (after I take my wife to Hawaii like I have been promising…).

I get it.  It’s easy to put off. It’s hard to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to estate planning.  Plus, who wants to be all doom and gloom all the time– it’s much easier to have a positive attitude that we are all going to live long, prosperous lives…. Estate planning is for the elderly or for the ultra-rich.  But it’s not for me (or at least not right now).

However, I urge you to change your attitude.  Even though someone who is over the age of retirement may be in a better financial position to hire an estate planning lawyer, a much younger person/couple with a significantly smaller estate may have a greater need for an estate plan.  In the words of Neil Harl in Farm Estate & Business Planning:

“[a] young couple with minor children is generally least able to afford a breakup of property interests among heirs, the complications of property ownership by minors and erosion of family capital to pay debts and estate settlement costs in addition to ownership interests in a family business that are likely to pass to their off-farm brothers and sisters.”

So let’s not wait another week…another month… another year or five years.  I urge farm and ranch families across the country to speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction about your estate planning needs.  It’s not just for the elderly or ultra-rich.  Estate planning is not something you want to think about on your death bed.  It’s a life-long process that will morph along with the changes that life brings.  If you have an estate plan, please revisit it every few years or when there is a major life event (e.g., marriage, divorce, children, selling/buying major assets).

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