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Unequal Responsibility, Fair Treatment

If a family farm or business is getting passed on to several children, but one child assumes responsibility for the day-to-day work, how do you devise a “fair and equitable” agreement?

Polly Dobbs, estate planning attorney at Dobbs Legal Group, LLC, has experience drafting such estate succession agreements for her clients — and for her own family farm succession.
A Farm Journal Legacy Project TV segment tells the story of how the 150-year-old Westleigh Farms in Peru Ind, has been passed down six generations and is now owned by Polly Dobbs and her siblings.

The youngest of five children, Polly admits that she “ran away from the farm,” went off to law school and began practicing law in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, her dad was getting older. So when her dad brought up the idea that he was looking for someone to manage the farm, all the older siblings declined the offer, since they had grown roots elsewhere.

But when Polly’s father suffered a stroke, she saw it as a ‘shot across the bow’ — a warning of what could happen if a family farm succession agreement was not in place. That’s when her years of experience as an estate planning attorney kicked in. “We’ll be happy to come, and we’ll step in and bring our family here, but only after we have things down in writing,” she says.

Their Solution for the Family Farm Succession

Sid Kubesch in Tractor Cab

After consulting with her parents and siblings, Polly created a succession agreement in which she and her husband, Steve, live on the farm and Steve manages it.

But since “the entire family inherited the family farm,” all five siblings are factored into the agreement and have a say in several issues regarding the operation, including any decision to sell the farm.

Polly’s wealth transfer mantra is to “ensure family harmony by helping clients treat their family members fairly, not necessarily equal.”

For assistance with estate planning for a family farm or family business, consult estate planning attorney Polly Dobbs at Dobbs Legal Group, LLC. You are also invited to learn more about estate planning by downloading our free eBooklet: “Tell Me About Estate Planning.

Source: Farm Journal Legacy project