Month: August 2014

Carrying on a Family Tradition: Passing the Family Farm to Future Generations

Attendees at a farm show in neighboring Minnesota heard important information about the special types of estate planning available for farmers to facilitate transferring family farms to future generations in the most advantageous way possible. Family farm owners here in Wisconsin face very similar concerns and challenges. Proper estate planning can provide key benefits not only to allow you to transfer your family farm to your loved ones, but also place them in the best position to keep the farm in the family for many generations to come.

One of the primary challenges faced by family farmers is that they may own a farm worth millions of dollars in land and equipment, but still be “cash poor.” This can present a challenge when the farmer dies, as it may trigger an estate tax debt. With proper planning, you may be able to defray or eliminate that tax obligation. This can be accomplished through a variety of techniques, including qualified transfers, gifting strategies or trusts, such as irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs).

One of the essential benefits of planning is the protection it affords family farmers. Many family farmers run their operations as sole proprietorship businesses. That means that all the farmer’s wealth is potentially at risk. Someone injured in a car accident could attack the farm’s assets as part of collecting on a judgment awarded to that person. Similarly, but in reverse, a disgruntled farm worker could, if successful in court, pursue the farmer’s personal assets in order to collect.

Estate Planning for Your College-Bound Child

August means “back to school” time for many families. That often translates to a lot of shopping, whether it’s new clothes, new books or new computers, especially if your child is preparing to go away to college. For those families, though, their focus should be on more than just providing their children with the tools they need to succeed in class. A child’s turning 18 carries with it significant legal repercussions and, especially if that child is leaving home for college, the need for estate planning becomes very important.

Estate planning may hardly sound like an urgent need for a young person in their late teens or early 20s, but some basic estate planning for your child can help avoid some extremely thorny and entirely avoidable complications should your child suffer a traumatic injury or illness. These events happen with some frequency on college campuses. The State of New Jersey declared a meningitis outbreak at Princeton University this past spring. A month earlier, a UW-Madison student died of the same disease.

Whether it is disease or injury, college students face a real risk of incurring harm that renders them incapacitated. If that happens, and the child has no estate planning documents, the child’s parents legally have no say in the child’s medical treatment, unless they obtain legal guardianship over the child by going to court. In fact, in accordance with HIPAA law, the child’s doctors may even refuse to discuss the child’s medical care with the parents at all. As a parent, you may be unable to even find out if your child has been admitted to a particular hospital. While medical professionals may sometimes be willing to speak with (or take direction from) parents, even without legal documents, having these documents prevents you from leaving this up to a doctor or hospital who may or may not choose not to cooperate.

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