Sustaining the Legacy: Estate Planning and Farm Transitions has been a partnership between SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion council since 2007. This project has traditionally developed conferences in various locations across the state. In the past, 4 locations a year have been targeted. These conferences provided Estate Planning and Transitions information to farm families. Topics covered include (but not limited to) communication, wills, probate, retirement planning, trusts, life insurance, and the SD long-term care partnership. The topics chosen have been used by many to create an estate plan that:
- Improves family communication.
- Provides for the continuation or planned dispersal of the operation.
- Minimizes estate taxes.
- Maintains harmony and family relations.
The addition of web based information and tools to the traditional Extension methods of education through face-to-face conferences also needs to be part of the educational equation. This method will allow the dissemination of high quality information and education to occur to a much larger audience across all corners of South Dakota.
The last component of the plan is evaluation. Monitoring the effectiveness of the program and the utilization of the materials needs to be done in order to ensure we are providing the right information, tools and methods to producer attendees.
Project Objective(s) and Goals and how they will positively affect SD Soybean Farmers: Objectives and goals for Sustaining the Legacy are to help producers begin an estate plan or improve what they have now by:
- Increasing the communication among the family. The first place to start and the area that causes the most problems is miscommunication and misunderstandings about the way we thought the transition of assets would go.
- Provide education about the many tools available to producers as they develop their estate and transition plan. Many times producers are unaware of the varied options available to them.
- Educate them on the tools. Just because there are many things you could incorporate into an estate plan doesn’t mean they all should be. Education leads to the right tools being incorporated in the correct manner to accomplish the goals of the family and the operation.
- Keep them motivated. Once the producers attend a conference, they are excited and ready to put into action all they have learned. Then life gets in the way with planting, spraying, baseball games, and camping and all vie for the producer’s time. By providing information related to the planning process during the months that follow the face-to-face sessions we hope to keep them moving ahead.
Evaluation of Sustaining the Legacy will be done the last day of the conference in each location. Additionally, 6 month and 12 month evaluations will also be compiled. During the summer of 2013 we would also like to do a more in-depth long term evaluation of the producers that attended some of our very first conferences (2005-2012).During the spring of 2012 a long term evaluation was sent out to attendees to determine if they are moving forward with their estate and/or transition plan. I have included that impact statement and you can read all the great impacts and changes that have been made to the operations across the state. The big take home message from them is that the vast majority of participants are moving forward with their plans-81% had made changes to their estate plans and 79% had made changes to their transition plan.
What is the benefit of this project for South Dakotans? The benefits are multifaceted. Through Sustaining the Legacy, either from face-to-face meetings, or utilizing the information found on iGrow producers have a huge increase in their ability to pass on their operations in a manner that accomplishes their goals. The communication portion of the program increases and improves family dynamics and encourages communication about tough topics. Education about the tools and the introduction to new tools help producers make decisions that are best for their operation, and they can question and interact with their advisory team. Finally, taking the last step to create a plan that accomplishes their goals is the largest benefit. Families that want the farm to pass to the next generation are able to do so with minimal interruption to the day-to-day activities of the farm because there has been a reduction in tax consequence, plans for retirement funding and long-term care needs are in place and off-farm heirs are taken care of. Those without children returning are making plans for their retirement expenses and determining the best way to distribute their assets to the kids or otherwise “dispose” of them. For many the greatest benefit is knowing they have the best possible plan in place for them. That alone helps ease their mind and allows them to do the things they really like to do –FARM.