Fiona Ashworth, who leads the Wills and Estates team at Thompson Smith and Puxon, discusses the importance of succession planning for farming families.
Words often cannot describe how difficult it is for farmers, and other family business owners, to write a Will. A Will must be written that not only provides for the continuation of the family business, but also ensures that any future family rifts are kept to a minimum. Over the years, many parents have failed miserably at this task, causing, in some cases, untold grief for their children, and future generations.
Succession Planning: What is the most important consideration?
When setting out on this succession planning path it is important to work out what are the most relevant factors to consider. Is the priority:
- your own family, children, grandchildren and future generations?
- the farm, or the family business?
- your employees and their families?
The future structure of the business, and its impact on other family members who may not be a party to the business, will be vitally important. Sibling rivalry is often intense and, in this materialistic world that we now live in, it is becoming more important for the older generation to consider the family as a whole, so they do not treat their children unfairly. Remember it is not only your children who may, or may not, get hurt, forgotten, ignored or left out; the potential impact on your grandchildren should not be underestimated.
Grandchildren often spend many a happy summer holiday on the farm, helping with harvest, or feeding baby animals, generally feeling very secure in the family unit. Later in life, they may find that they are no longer welcome on the farm, or they can no longer visit without permission, because suddenly ownership of the farm passes to one child, who is not their parent.
Grandchildren, who in my experience can be very sensitive, often get forgotten when Wills are drafted, leaving them emotionally insecure later in life. They may agonise over why Grandpa or Grandma did not consider them important enough to inherit part of the family farm or business, and it could have a huge impact on their lives.
Succession Planning: Take advice!
You need to decide what you are trying to achieve before your solicitor can advise you on the best route to succession success. Almost anything is possible, provided that your solicitor is given the opportunity to consider all the relevant family and business information and apply the law to those facts. Achieving an outcome that causes the least harm to the family unit, whilst maintaining the family wealth through tax reliefs and exemptions, will no doubt be your objective, but do consult professional advisors to ensure that you do not get it wrong.
Fiona has extensive experience in estate planning and advises clients on their Wills, Powers of Attorney, the administration of estates, tax and trust matters and Court of Protection cases. Her farming background has helped her to develop a significant agricultural client base. She can be contacted on 01206 217057 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org