Who Is In Your Team's Bullpen?
It’s baseball season and every coach knows their “go-to person” in a tight situation. For example, a relief pitcher is the person the team relies on when the star pitcher isn’t able to perform. Having a relief pitcher for any business sounds like a good idea, right? Who is your farm operation’s relief pitcher? Do they have the tools to do the job?
Your first response might be your spouse or children. This is probably a good idea, but there are a few questions you need to ask yourself first.
- Do they know your plans for them? Is this something that they want to do?
- Do other family members know your plans and agree with them? Not letting everyone know the plans can cause undue hardship and angst when you need everyone on the same page.
- Do they have the legal authority to step into the role if you become incapacitated today?
- Do they have the experience to be successful?
Chances are you couldn’t answer yes to all of these questions yet. If you haven’t done so already, you should began finding and training your “relief pitcher” today. If you have a successor, make sure you have covered all of the bases with them to make sure they are ready to take over the business when the time comes.
I read an article a few years ago where all of the family members were gathered at the kitchen table along with their attorney. The father told his family that they were going to play a game for the next few hours. He said, “From this moment, assume I’m dead and you must run the farm without me.” He would be there to listen and observe, but they couldn’t ask him any questions. Over the course of the next few hours, he listened to them discuss items that none of them were prepared to answer. Some of these questions included:
Did they want to continue to farm or did they want to sell the farm?
Who would be in charge and what roles would other family members fulfill?
How would they market their crops?
How would they pay the bills on hand?
Should they downsize the operation or grow it?
How would inheritance taxes impact the operation?
How would they convince lenders and landlords that they could handle the operation?
How to prepare for farm transition
There are things that you can start doing today that won’t cost you a thing. First, along with your family, decide who would be the best person to “step up to the mound” and take over. Start teaching this person today. You probably learned by doing, so this person probably will learn the same way. Just remember that they are going to make mistakes just like you did. Use those mistakes as teachable moments, rather than a time to criticize.
Make sure there is another authorized signee on your account(s) at the bank and make sure you discuss with your banker your succession plans. Meet with your attorney as soon as possible to put your wishes in writing to make it easier on your family in the event of your death.
It is hard to face our own immorality, but putting off making these important decisions will put undue stress on our loved ones during an already difficult time. Make sure you know who will come in and pitch for you and that they are prepared to take on the responsibility.
Kathy Daily is a Senior Vice President of First Financial Bank, and is in charge of the Bank’s Farm and Ranch Division. (www.ffb1.com) Mrs. Daily has been an agricultural lender for over 25 years. Contact her by phone at 888-398-4119 or by email at [email protected].