Cari Rincker

Cari Rincker

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It’s easy to procrastinate on completing a big task if there are a lot of little parts to get together. But progress is made by doing a bit at a time. So it is for estate and succession planning, said Cari Rincker, a family and agricultural lawyer in east central Illinois.

“It’s really important to have something done,” she said.

Some people want to wait until they have time to do it all at once. Others want to work on some and massage it to perfection before completing it. Instead, she suggests starting with a part of the plan and executing it. Then add to it and update it as needed.

In order not to be overwhelmed by the process, Rincker suggests getting a game plan in motion and then addressing what needs to be modified on a regular basis.

If you don’t have a will and other documents put together, the state will do it for you, said Joe Buhrmann, with Country Financial planning support.

“It might not be what you expect,” he said.

He agrees on the importance of planning, quoting Dwight D. Eisenhower about D-Day, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” When you hit “the beach,” adjustments can be made as circumstances require.

Buhrmann said Ron Hanson, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska and a professional speaker on farm legacy planning, will be speaking at events in south, central and northern Illinois this month. Find more at www.ilfb.org/farmplanning. Hanson’s message is to plan by design, not by default.

“The choice is yours,” Buhrmann said.

Rincker advises making a timeline to get started.

“Try to create a deadline,” she said.

Rincker encourages farmers to set a time for family meetings about estate planning and succession.

“This is a conversation that will continue for years to come,” she said.

Rincker has law offices in Champaign, Illinois, and New York City. She grew up on a beef cattle farm near Shelbyville, Illinois, showing cattle with 4-H and FFA. She sees that farming includes both financial and the lifestyle choices which need to be considered in planning.

A successful farm includes a business plan, estate plan and succession plan. The work for all three intersect, Rincker said. The business plan may include actions to take advantage of marketing opportunities, tax planning and federal programs. Estate planning may include setting up a will and designing advanced directives. And succession planning focuses on how to pass the farm to the next generation.

“All three need to be discussed,” she said, adding that every farm needs to work with professionals in those areas.

Professionals, for example, may help design attractive financing options to help the next generation buy in, Buhrmann said.

When the conversations start, they should include everybody involved: the in-laws, “outlaws,” on-farm and non-farming family members, Buhrmann said. The family members who are active in farming may include people ages 22 to 92, he said.

“It’s great to see a family have those conversations,” Buhrmann said.

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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.