Their faces were contorted with fear as I spoke about the importance of a well-crafted will. At the lunch break the farm woman confessed that her husband was being sued by 5 greedy siblings, under the guise of taking care of a demented dad’s interests. I asked quietly if they had a good agricultural lawyer, and she said she was disappointed by the lawyer’s lack of understanding of farm business.

At the farm kitchen table a very astute and innovative farmer confessed to me that he did not have written land lease agreements with his many landlords, because “having things in writing attracts lawsuits.” I was shocked at his beliefs !

Another farmer approached me to reveal that she is now motivated to update their wills, noting that 30 years has passed since the last will was signed. “Where did the time go ?”

Hearing or reading horror stories of wills gone wrong, families disintegrating in court, and fear of being taken to the cleaners in court are not going to make you bust the beliefs you have about agricultural law. I suggest that a face to face visit with a great ag. lawyer is really what is needed for you to face your fear, and sign the written agreements anyway.

April is wills month, and every day is a great day to take the next step to get your affairs in better order. Don’t strive for perfection, just get it started and revise the documents as your situations require. There is a certain freedom in knowing that you have outlined your concerns and wishes to your lawyer, checked the scenarios that other successful farm friends have employed, and then signed the completed drafts.

One woman was particularly delighted to start understanding that she and her husband really had to take care of their own personal needs first, and not get hung up on what the adult children expected or desired. She had let go of her belief  that the will had to be “perfect”. It also became clear to her that should could direct the lawyer with the vision of what she wanted, and then trust her advisor to craft the appropriate terms and clauses.

“Elaine, how do you know you are getting good advice from your trusted advisor?”

Ask. Ask for referrals of your successful colleagues for names of advisors that they trust and are pleased with performance. Interview a few professionals in person before you chose the one that “feels right” for you to work with, and ask them for names of folks you can chat with to qualify their work habits and expertise.

Be sure to ask for a quote or fee range of expected expenses or charges for the total cost of getting your will updated. Don’t be cheap ! Invest  the time, money and thought it takes to craft a sound plan in your will. I don’t need to tell you that a great will can keep you out of court battles with siblings. I can’t guarantee against greed, folks can still be nasty and challenge the wills.

I do need to tell you that my bias is that conversation is the best insurance against contested wills and conflict in the family. Let there be no surprises. I am a big fan of giving “with a warm hand”. Let the parents see the value of giving gifts and transferring assets while they are still of sound mind, and happy to hear “thanks Dad and Mom” from appreciative children and grandkids.

Don’t let the folklore of wicked families keep your clan stuck. Grab the bull by the horns and take charge of getting your affairs in order.

Celebrate with a nice meal and laughter after you have signed the wills and the power of attorney documents.

I write this on the plane, returning home from a 4 day speaking tour in B.C.

The land values in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island bring out the greed monster when the non-farming heirs realize that the farm they left 30 years ago  has inflated value due to rising land values, and they dearly want some of the gold.

Unfortunately, farmland is also being encroached upon by large housing pressures along with restricted usage policies of  the agricultural land reserve. Whether this is good or bad depends on whether you have a personal “wealth bubble” that you can draw from for your family lifestyle needs in those 20 years before death. An island farmer confided in me that he was very well off with his personal assets and was just intending to “give” or rollover his farm assets to his farming child. The sad thing is that I know more about the farm dad’s plans than his children do. I would really like him to have a family meeting to talk about his intent for the rollover, and not let there be any surprises.

I encourage all of you to read your wills to your spouse, and then read them to the children, your adult children. Let there be no family secrets, and let the heirs understand your intent in the decisions you came to with your will. Explain the “why” behind your will’s clauses.

Can you give to one child and not to another? Yes. It has been done, because the one left out knew the intent of the parent who wanted all assets to continue in the struggling farm. The “left out” child also knew they were deeply loved, and they continue to this day to be the glue of holding the family together with celebrations and gatherings. Giving money or withholding money is not necessarily an indication of the emotional bank account of the parent-child relationship. You can bless your children with education, love, gifts  of time. Talk about your expectations.

I encourage you to read Randy Alcorn’s book: “Money, possessions and eternity” to challenge your thinking on what is healthy for inheritances and gifts to family.

Please don’t call me in six months  to announce that you are going to court. It has happened to me as this columnist before, and I really want you to act, not complain about how you “wish you would have acted.” Get it done !

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

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.


Rave reviews

“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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