Several blog topics have entered, and just as quickly left my brain during the last few days. With a three-year-old in tow, nothing is sticking for very long. What has mattered to my grandson is my learning the names, and subsequent bandanna colors, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures. I didn’t learn them when my kids were young. Ah… what we do for our grand kids.
There is a possibility I have a good thing going. My grandson loves to run my vacuum. This morning he dropped a cracker chip on the floor and immediately asked me to get the vacuum out so he could clean up. Did the chip fall on purpose? I can’t say, but I do like the result. Thinking back to my kids and cleaning, though, I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath on this lasting into his teenage years.
Here is a topic that is weighing on my mind: how to pass along an estate without creating stress on the next generation. There are many methods and many of them seem to focus on avoidance: avoidance of taxes (that one split two generations apart), avoidance of thinking it through and deciding the kid’s can figure it out instead (that one split the kids apart), and avoidance of the consequences by doing nothing ( in that one everything had to be sold).
The only way to split things evenly is to put a monetary value on everything, and unfortunately, only money has an undisputed monetary value. Everything else is up for interpretation, resentment, and fights. In the case of a family farm, here are some of the dilemmas.
1) Farmers don’t make good wages considering the hours and the investment.
2) If one beneficiary has to pay market value in order to keep the farm together by buying out the other beneficiaries, he can’t afford it. If he pays less than market value, gives it a few years, then decides to sell out, he or his estate gets an unfair increase in value.
3) How do you keep the family farm and how do you make a living?
4) How do you treat all of your children fairly when there is land involved? Some of them are not meant to be farmers. .
5) Is “The Family Farm” an entity to be treated as sacred and above the interests of individuals? This is the toughest one of all.
My Native American ancestors had a good notion in believing no one can own the land. It’s everyone’s responsibility to honor and care for the land but when you pass away, you have already left your mark. No need for lawyers or estate planning. I wish it were that way now.