“Don’t sell the farm,” or “I wouldn’t bet the farm on it,” are well-known idioms, and for good reason: They are a very fair representation of the high stakes that accompany such a venture. Over the last decade in Nebraska, with a growing number of farmers and landowners at an advanced age, knowing how to go about selling their farming enterprises or passing them down to their children is fraught with difficulty, and there are many issues farmers must take into account when going about estate planning and passing along their life’s work to the next generation.
One such issue that must be taken into account is quite obvious, but often overlooked: Do the children actually desire to carry on the family farm? Often, this fact is simply assumed, and parents make arrangements early-on, only to find out too late that the sons or daughters have very little interest in farming. If this is the case, it is in the best interest of all involved that they hire a professional farm management company or sell the asset to an interested party, so that the money is able to benefit the family and allow them to pursue their own aspirations.
Many experts advise that parents sell—rather than gift—the farm to their kids. This ensures that the kids do, in fact, desire to farm since they are buying it with their own capital. This way, there is “skin in the game,” and the farm benefits as a result.
Perhaps the largest factors affecting the sale of farms are the tax consequences. Navigating the myriad federal and state capital gains, estate and inheritance taxes is tricky. Inheritance taxes, aka the “Death Tax,” can be an especially difficult tax to handle, especially for small businesses and for family farmers and ranchers. Often, those on the receiving end of farmland from the previous generation are forced to sell that land in part or whole just to pay the taxes. Nebraska is one of only six states nationwide that has a separate state inheritance tax, so Nebraska farmers must contend with this extra tax as well. Experts emphasize the importance of seeking sound legal counsel as well as to obtain advice from those with expertise in farm management in order to minimize the often crippling tax burdens that can accompany the inheritance of the family farm.
Above all, it’s important for farmers to have a plan. It’s never too early to start planning one’s own future business succession, and it’s simply another part of farm management. If working with a farm management company, have copies of reports sent to adult children, so they can learn about the farm before the parents are gone. A lack of planning can put huge amounts of stress on families, and even sometimes tear them apart due to bickering among siblings about what to do about the farm or land that they’ve inherited, in part or whole. This plan will need to be reviewed often, and perhaps will change many times due to varying outside factors, but at least there will be a plan in place to guard against such instances.
If you need assistance managing your farm or transitioning your land for the future, please don’t hesitate to contact us at United Farm and Ranch Management .