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Dear Michael: I don’t know if this problem is normal or not, but I have a father who refuses to do anything about our farm business.

We have an incredibly diverse business with farming and a trucking company. We farm during the summer months and truck year-round.

My dad has had two heart attacks already, and yet every time we take him somewhere to talk to someone, he finds a reason not to continue the process.

Dad keeps a lot of the business details in his head – especially the trucking company and, to a large degree, the farming business.

Why would someone wait to do something when they’ve already had these two major health scares? – Worried Son.

Dear Worried Son: I’ve come across this “phenomena” a great many times. A person you would think with all kinds of health problems and every reason in the world to make an estate plan, just won’t do it.

I think there might be a variety of reasons.

If they had a health scare and came out the other side somewhat unscathed, maybe he believes that he is somewhat invincible and that it wasn’t his time to die. Perhaps he feels that if he had done a will, the powers that be would have decided, “Yes, it’s okay for him to die – let him go,” and that would have been the end.

Maybe if he doesn’t do a will, then this will keep him from dying because he’s not ready yet! He hasn’t done his will yet and this is a talisman against death.

Another reason might be this – especially for those men who like to keep everything in their heads. They know full well that if they die, this information and resource dies with them. And yet, even with all kinds of health scares, won’t put that information to paper.

For these men, I think a large part of it is retaining the power of running the farm operation. If he were to explain all the details of his farm business or other businesses via an estate plan, then he would lose the power of you having to come to him every time there’s a decision to be made. Once those secrets are out and written down in an estate plan, he might feel like he is losing his grip on the power controls and he doesn’t want to feel that way.

Did I mention most of the reasons for men not doing an estate plan are illogical?

Last but not least, many men fear that if they have an estate plan that makes things go smoothly upon his death, they are worried that it might go too smoothly. The neighbors don’t hear of any troubles, the wife doesn’t get too stressed out, and all the kids agree on how things were handled.

Why would this be a problem?

Because most men want to leave a lasting impression on this world. If everything in his estate goes too smoothly, he’s probably thinking after a couple months he’ll be forgotten. He wants the event of his death to have some magnitude – in his family’s life, in the neighborhood, with his friends. So, why put together a plan that eliminates any and all problems? The event of his death won’t leave any impression, let alone a lasting impression!

My advice to you is you have to reassure your father that if he should die, that he won’t be forgotten and you will always honor and treasure his name.

He will be remembered as the father who did all the right things, set up the right plans and will be remembered as such. Remind him as long as he is alive, he still has all of the power in running the operation, other than what he gives to you now. You are not going to replace him.

Make time to have these conversations with your dad and, of course, you’ll have to turn all of this into words that you and he are comfortable with.

But if you know the starting point, it’ll start helping you add little bits and pieces as you converse to allay his fears

Michael Baron provides estate planning guidance at Great Plains Diversified Services in Bismarck, North Dakota. Email him at KeeptheFamilyFarm@gmail.com.

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