What Do We Owe Our Kids?One of the toughest things to talk about is “how do we treat our children with our assets?” I’ve added some of my farm family coaching experiences to  Donna Hasting’s (former family living specialist ) tips:

1. In Theory, You Don’t Owe Your Children Anything

You gave them life, education, love your values and your vision. It’s amazing what young adults will tell their parents about this when they are asked directly. I have heard the children say, “Dad and Mom, please enjoy yourself for once, enjoy what you’ve worked for all your life. I don’t expect any money from you now!”

2. Put Your Thoughts on Paper

Putting your thoughts on paper is a great way to reflect on these ideas and scrap the ones that don’t seem to work. Move slowly on these decisions. Think of it as a work in progress…knowing each draft gets you closer to the finished product. Writing things down doesn’t cast them in stone, but it gives you a perspective to re-visit and ponder. I recommend using a binder that holds all the planning papers .

3. Make Sure Both Spouses Agree

It is crucial that that spouses agree with each other before the children are brought into the discussion. You want to avoid the “family triangle” of pressuring one parent against the values or choices of the other parent. Don’t set dollar values on assets for sale unless you intend to stick by them. Changing prices and changing expectations mid-stream creates a lack of trust.

4. You Both Want to Do the Right Thing

Your children also have some ideas about what you or the farm owes them. Your ideas and your children’s ideas may not agree, but, remember, it is your estate and you built it. Ultimately you make the decisions about who gets what and when. Also consider, that you will likely live another 20 or 30 years and need a great retirement income stream!

5. Consider the Wishes of the Children

Ask them to write a letter indicating what part of the farm, family heirlooms or non-farm estate they are interested in or not interested in. Ultimately it is not what each person wants but what each person can live with that will solve this puzzle.

6. “Why Do I Want to Give This to This Child?”

Doing the right thing can be very tricky. Ask yourself, “why do I want to give this to this child?” Don’t do it if it is because you feel guilty or want to correct a wrong or fix something that happened in the past.

7. Keep Your Children Informed

Once you think you’ve got it figured out, tell your children what you are considering. The feedback you get will give you valuable direction in “tweaking” the final draft.

8. Don’t Keep Secrets

Don’t keep it a secret. Once you know what you are giving the children, to charity and to your retirement…tell the kids while you are still alive to explain- why you did it the way you did. It could save a lot of heartache, unanswered questions and hard feelings after you are gone. Keeping wills secret is not a good thing. In today’s culture, the families who communicate their intent openly will be leaving a greater legacy of understanding with their family.

9. Make Sure Family History Goes With Heirloom Items

If you are giving away heirloom items, or any items, make sure the family history goes along with it. It will mean more to the new owner and help instill a sense of belonging.

10. Ask Your Farming Community

Ask other farm family business owners what they think they owe their children. Listen to their rationale. Read. Consult outside advisors to ask the difficult questions to move the parents and the children along.

Use this outline to guide your children’s thoughts on paper: “Letter to my folks”

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am very grateful for everything you have already provided me with. I am especially thankful that you….

My biggest hope for the transfer of your estate is that….

These are some of the memories tied to things that you own, that I would like to keep as a reminder of our family.

Family heirlooms:

Just stuff that’s important to me:

Farm assets or property:

Non-farm estate items:

I would also like us to find a way to plant a special tree, make a scrapbook, or take a special photo of the farm. Something to mark this new chapter in our lives.

Thanks for your most priceless gift,  your love.

Signed __________________  Date:___________

The Chinese have a saying that “talk does not cook rice.” Talking is a good place to start, but ultimately we have to act on our intentions. I also realize that some of you reading this may be 55-year-old children who don’t know what your mother’s will says, and also have 30-year-old kids of your own who want to know what the next plan for your farm business is!

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

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Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


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“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.”
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“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.”
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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.”
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