Last week’s blog post focused on succession planning– this post will focus on farm estate planning by using wills and trusts (both equally important and can be easily confused). Let’s first look at the advantages and disadvantages of a will. A big advantage of a will is that it can be changed or revoked until the testator loses capacity to make, change, or revoke the will. It also can appoint an executor-someone who oversees the probate process. However, Last Wills and Testaments can be problematic because the probate process is lengthy. This is a problem for food and agriculture businesses & farms where assets may stay in a state of uncertainty (especially if multiple states are involved).
A Revocable Living Trust is another valuable estate planning tool for farmers. This trust can be revoked by the trustor (hence the word “revocable” vs. “irrevocable”). There are two big advantages to trusts – they skip the lengthly probate process and pass immediately by operation of law and they are private and never become public record. Farms (in most circumstances) should utilize a combination of a Last Will & Testament & Revocable Living Trusts.