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Leave a how-to manual

March 23, 2009

You have lots of important business information stored in your head and in files all over the place. It would help to have this organized so when you die, your family knows what to do.

Before you read this column, grab a pen, paper, or your laptop. We have some serious work to do.

Many readers are aware that our family said farewell to Mom Froese in January 2009. It was a hope-filled journey for us to hear her blessing in the hospital while she could still talk. The family gathered all her important documents over the four months she was palliative. We had time to ask her questions, and fulfill her wishes.

My sister, age 23 and my mother, age 65, both died very suddenly without any time to say goodbye, or to double-check their wishes for their affairs and their funerals.

When you die, does your family know what to do?

My speaker friend Jolene Brown (at www.jolenebrown.com/whatwantag.com) has a very powerful article entitled “What do you want done with your body when you are dead?”  Grainews printed this article on page 50 of the October 20, 2008 issue, but you can print it off again from her website. (I have her permission to do this) It will help you get organized.

Jolene spent a 14-hour road trip with her hubby, listing all the important details that her family would need to know upon their deaths.

You don’t want to deal with this do you? Our children have asked us to get a binder in place for them, so that they know who to call, and what suppliers and advisors we use to run our life and our farm. This makes an excellent spring project while you are waiting for the snow to melt and can find the path to the burn barrel.

Funeral plans can be laid out. Call your local funeral director for planning tools. Wes’s mom belonged to a funeral cooperative, which worked really well for her.

Make copies of important documents, including driver licenses, SIN cards, birth certificates, etc. Throw away the irrelevant stuff, and feel lighter as you de-clutter.

Buy a labeler to make files and tabs you can read in large print. Beauty in organization creates energy, and you’re going to need energy!

Think of a great reward for yourself once you finish the project. For me, a massage sounds like a great treat for hard work bent over a messy filing cabinet.

Many of us in the sandwich generation have power of attorney for our parents, and/or siblings. I have a binder started for my dad, and I also have had a long chat with my single sister, whose estate I will be responsible to execute.

If you love to surf the Internet, I’m sure that there are executor checklists, and “Save our stuff” checklists that you can alter to fit your needs. The main thing is to act, and get the documents in order. The next thing is tell several family members and especially your executor where the important papers are. You might be smart to copy the binder, and give it to your executor. Financial planners and lawyers have checklist tools that you can seek out from your trusted advisors. The important thing is to collect the details or your life in a centralized location.

“Conversations are not a contract,” as Jolene Brown says. In the days I have spent in front of farm audiences, I continue to be amazed at the number of people who don’t have wills, or decent written operating agreements with their farm business partners. Your wishes for your funeral and burial need to be written down. Start a funeral plans file. Set a date to complete the binder of documents and details.

ACT NOW

When I die, I want my family to know what to do. I don’t want to have a phone call from readers telling me in a few months that this column was a really great idea, and then discover that nothing was done about it.

“Talk does not cook rice,” says a Chinese proverb. If 2009 is the year of the Ox, quit being a stubborn ox, keeping details of your life and death wishes secret. Grab the bull by the horns and get to work. The journey of thousand miles begins with one step…start the project!

Let me know when your binder is finished, and that you’ve had your family meeting.

Ask me if my binder is finished. I need accountability partners, too.

When you die, I hope you have time to say farewell to your family. As our son Ian has said, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.”  I hope your family embraces the hope of heaven. I will be delighted to know you have given them the gift of clear direction, so that when you die, they know what to do.

Remember, it’s your farm, your family, your choice.
____________________________________________________________________________________
Elaine Froese is a catalyst for farm families to make sound choices for new chapters in their lives. Her specialty is creating a safe space for families to talk about tough issues in farm succession. She farms near Boissevain, Manitoba with her husband Wes. Order her award winning book “Planting the Seed of Hope” and visit www.elainefroese.com.

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“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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