Succession advice from farm families

Family Farm Succession
June 14, 2017
By Family Farm Succession
We've gathered the best succession advice from farming families who have been through the process. Here's what worked and what they would have done differently, given the opportunity. 

1. “All parties involved (including spouses) need to know the ultimate end goal of everyone. All aspects of the transition have to be transparent and make sense to all involved. Non-farming children don't need to know all aspects of the business, but should be made aware of the basic structure and what it looks like.” – Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

2. “Meetings! Make sure you’re having family meetings weekly. Sit and discuss what jobs need to be done that week.” – Kelsey Abel, Minnedosa, Man., via Facebook.

3. “Plan ahead. Ask the [next] generation what they really want – that is everything.” – Darryl Zamecnik, president of EZ Grow Farms in Langton, Ont.

4. “Anyone with a concern, no matter how small or big, has to bring it to the table to discuss. A small misunderstanding early on can make for a problem years down the road. Be open and don't hesitate to ask any questions. At the end of it, the succession plan has to be 100 per cent understood by everyone.”– Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

5. “Assemble a trusted team: your accountant, lawyer, farm advisor, insurance broker. It's so crucial to take time to execute the plan properly.” – Diane Rourke, Minto, Man., via Twitter.

6. “If I could do it again, I’d have us write things down a bit more; come up with formal timelines and goals within the planning process. If we could have broken things into smaller bites and really set timelines, everyone would have been a little more reassured about where things were at.” – Simon Ellis, Ellis Seeds, Wawanesa, Man.

7. “You need to instill the knowledge and lifestyle in your children, but then let them make the decision to come back to the farm on their own.” – Don Sundgaard, Sundgaard Poultry Farm in Standard, Alta.

8. “Give it lots of time – four to five years for a complete transition. Don’t rush into any decisions. Do things properly.” – Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

9. “We spent a lot of time making sure that our accountant, banker and lawyer met together regularly and conversed with each other. That probably made the whole process a lot easier because everyone on the team was on the same page from start to finish.” – Brent Oswald, Cottonwood Holsteins, Steinbach, Man.

10. “Quoting our succession planner: ‘Don't let the tax tail wag the dog.’ A lot of people get caught up in not wanting to pay tax. Although it is undesirable to pay tax, it is much more important to do things properly to benefit the family instead of the bank account.” – Trent Hilderman of Prairie Son Acres in Duval, Sask., via email.

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