How to Have Better Communication with Your Farm LawyerLawyers are the brunt of many jokes, but if you want to have a great succession outcome you better have a great communication plan with your farm’s lawyer!

Ontario lawyer, Sarah Jacob shared her experiences at a CAFA (Canadian Association of Farm Advisors) update. Would you like to save time and money in front of your lawyer?

One of the great difficulties facing farm families is that assumptions are made about what everyone wants and needs. Jacobs encourages clear communication to alleviate unexpected conflicting desires, needs, and expectations.

Questions to Ask Yourself

What does each person want?

Have you been open with the next generation about finances and your plans? Jacobs says likely not!

Do you have life insurance, what kind, and what are the payout terms? Farmers hate to waste money, but Jacobs believes as I do that life insurance can solve many problems, with cash flow and estate planning to deal with the fairness to non-farm heirs issue.

Have you thought about your children’s interest or commitment to farming? What is your deadline for a response of dedication to coming back to the farm? For us, we told our son we needed to know by the time he was 27 if he was committed to partnering with us.

Do you foresee conflict amongst the generations or siblings? How are you prepared to deal with this?

What inheritance obligations have you signed up for? Jacobs wants to know what promises the parents have made to any of the adult children. Promises create resentment and a sense of entitlement.

What do you owe your “ex”? Jacobs mentioned that people tend to forget past painful contracts and commitments such as life insurance benefits going to an ex-spouse.

“Decline is not fine,” says Jacobs as she reflects on the fact that many folks have a widespread reluctance to engage in planning for transition because of existing or inevitable decline. We all need to face the fact that planning helps decrease future conflict, makes us more tax efficient and decreases the stress of “not knowing.”

[Tweet “#Farmers, here’s how you can avoid #succession frustration by better communicating with your #lawyer.”]

Do you have a favorite child? Jacob thinks that most parents do. How does this bias your planning, or keep you avoiding conflict?

How much do your children’s opinions matter to you as parents? Some folks take an insular approach and make decisions as a couple, while other families want to have a clear understanding of the opinions of the entire family. As a farm family coach, I think you will have great success when you are clear about your needs and wants as a couple, and also survey the needs and wants of your adult children. No secrets and no surprises is a great way to have better transparency for great planning.

Do you have a clear picture of everything that you own? Farm assets may be in a neat inventory list, but what about the cottage, boat, non-farm real estate, financial portfolio, and shares in other ventures? Be very clear about your net worth statement, and remember to include all your non-farm assets. Review your asset base and refresh the whole family’s memory.

Some of Jacob’s strategies may be hard for you to swallow but should be considered.

5 Things to Consider

1. Get life insurance when you are young and premiums are more reasonable.

2. Look at the value of non-farm assets.

3. Accept that various inheritances will not be financially equal and remember to honor your promises for time and effort.

4. Talk to your children!

5. Ask better questions and do not assume. You do not know until you ask.

Find your will and call your lawyer for an update. Make sure you have an alternate for your power of attorney now that your adult children are farming with you. We have our son as an alternate in case we are incapacitated in a car accident together as a couple. Feel less stressed out knowing that you are taking steps to get your affairs in order. Have a family meeting to scout out the expectations of all of your adult heirs and hear their perspectives alongside their spouses. When you all meet in the same room together at the same time, there is nothing lost in translation!

Lawyers are professionals with a great deal of experience and wisdom. They have seen many successful scenarios for planning and can help you create a great plan for a transition that meets your unique needs.

Lawyers cannot read minds, so you need to be prepared when you meet with them with the best awareness of all the needs, wants, and assets clearly outlined. Do your homework long before you meet in the lawyer’s office, and save time, money and frustration by being well prepared to address your unique circumstances.

If you are fearful of costs, ask for a quote or range of fees for services. Be clear about the timelines for the preparation of documents. Good communication with your professionals is a two-way street. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what your lawyer is telling you. There is no such thing as a dumb question, just ask them to explain things in a different way.

When you find a great lawyer who communicates clearly, tell your farming friends. The lawyers who are part of CAFA have a passion for serving farm families well.

And finally, don’t procrastinate. “You cannot start planning too soon,” says Sarah Jacobs. If you are in a second marriage, get independent legal advice and use prenuptial agreements. Remember you get to share with your advisors “what you think you would like,” and you need to know what that is before you visit the lawyer’s office!

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

Book Elaine
for your next event

Contact Elaine to start the conversation.

+1-204-534-7466 | elaine(at)

Contact Elaine