Family farms often pass through multiple generations. The land that you live on now and have farmed for decades to support your family once belonged to your parents or grandparents. You dream of passing it down to your children or grandchildren, but you might worry that your loved ones would sell the farm instead of preserving it and working the land.
Some farmers invest a lot of time in the creation of a detailed will that divides the farmland in a certain way or grants it to the one family member that they think would still work on the property. However, uneven inheritances could lead to challenges in court, and there is no guarantee that the person who inherits the farmland won’t sell it when they retire.
How can you protect the land that you love when creating your estate plan?
Consider creating a trust
When you give land to someone as a direct inheritance, they can do whatever they want with that property. If you hold the land in a trust, you can leave instructions about the use of the land. You can allow family members to farm it or rent it, while forbidding certain behaviors, like breaking up the farm into multiple parcels and selling some of it to property development companies.
Trusts allow you to create more restrictions on the use of the property and to prevent one person from derailing your legacy plans. Trusts can also be harder to challenge than basic wills, which means that unhappy family members will have a harder time undermining the plans you created to preserve the farm.
Talk to your family about your wishes
Maybe there is someone in your family who is on the fence about whether to fully invest in farming or try a different profession. If they know that keeping the land and the family is a major goal for you, that might influence their decision. More importantly, you can reduce the likelihood of your closest family members challenging your last wishes because they feel dissatisfied with the instructions you left.
Thinking carefully about your most important asset can help when you want to draft an estate plan that protects your family farm.