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As Mother’s Day arrives in this Great Pause of 2021, many of you are caught in the messy middle of family dynamics. Let’s jump in and start dealing with the issue of entitlement on your farm team.

 I use the word “deal with entitlement”. It’s that Undiscussabull, the bull in the middle of your farm family transition plan that many folks are avoiding talking about. That stops today.

Help for dealing with greed and entitlement is needed for the founders, the successors, and your widowed mom who is being bullied by strong voices who are not happy with how to farm assets that may be transferred or sold.

Entitlement is defined as “I deserve this special treatment.” Greed is defined as “wealth desire in excess of needs.” The sense of entitlement may come from a farming heir who has put in a lot of years and hours on the farm with the promise of being compensated when parents leave, die or let go of management. Greed rears its ugly head when a non-farm heir kidnaps grandma, the widow, forgets her father’s gift of property worth $1M, and starts feeding grandma new options for changing her will that used to forgive the farm debt upon her death. I am not making this up, this is a true current scenario that I have permission to share.

“Money is personal,” says financial psychologist Dr. Moira Somers. It affects relationships, comes with feelings of high emotion, fuels our hopes and dreams, and gives us a sense of well-being. It also plays with our ego and self-esteem. “What does money mean to you?” is a great conversation starter to get a handle on why you are fighting about inheritance expectations.

Farms in 2021 are perceived to be the Golden Goose, giving great net worth to the successor. The problem is increasing land values does not mean there is more cash in the bank. The land is not intended to be sold for decades or never, as the farming generation needs land to service debt and grow.

Entitlement is fueled when there is regret from generation 2 for leaving the farm, and they now have changed their mind on what they left behind. They seem to think that mom should hand over wealth now to make things more “fair”. Does this resentful heir also want to help pay off the $5M his farming brothers owe on the new barn? (another true story).

Founders fear the next generation will flip the valuable land and cash out. Lawyers can mitigate this with “poison pill” strategies (lawyer Mona Brown’s term) to prevent one heir from having a financial advantage. There is also fear around divorce and the spouse going after farmland, which too can be managed with marriage contracts.

Fighting over land, houses, and machinery transfers has to recognize that agriculture has a history of being patriarchal in nature. The girls get cash, are expected to marry well, and the boys get to land. Where is that written in 2021? Mix in disrespect for the ag-trained women who run farms and the secret promises made to favored adult children and you have a recipe for great conflict. Greed and scarcity thinking are like adding diesel to the fire. You really need to challenge the money scripts of family members that are not workable.

Here are some helpful questions to consider to grab the bull by the horns.

  • What do you need to be successful? This addresses my thesis on fairness, it is helping everyone be successful. The answers will be different for each couple.
  • What does money mean to you? Do you feel that a large gift of money will mean you are valued as a member of this family? What amount of inheritance are you hoping for?
  • What is your true desire for the future success of this farm? How do you want to relate to the farmyard and your childhood home when we are finished transferring management and ownership to your brother/sister?
  • Do you realize that your sibling has delayed gratification for 11 years, waiting for ownership in this farm business? What farm finances would you like to know about, how much financial transparency do you need?
  • What is the story you are telling yourself about how you will feel when we say “No” to your unrealistic expectation?
  • Do you realize that I am not DEAD yet? (This was the key learning for an 88-year-old widow who thanked me profusely for reiterating this point in a heated family meeting. She needed a nice place to live and wanted a new car.)
  • What is enough? For some folks, just a little more than the rest. For some, whatever you give is never enough. It is what is it. Use my phrase that pays: “That was then, and this is now. My financial status requires that I protect my wealth for decades to come, and I cannot liquidate assets that I may need when my health changes. Dad is gone, and I need to live.”

Do it yourself thinking may work for building your garage, but not dealing with tense anger around entitlement.

Don’t keep breaking Momma’s heart. She truly wants family harmony and the ability to see all of her grandchildren.

Seek help. Recognize that conflict avoidance is not going to create solutions.

Express your emotions respectfully in a facilitated Zoom farm family meeting.

Use a lawyer now to update your will, make an enduring power of attorney, and ask about marriage contracts for married successors and common in-law partnerships. John Goudy, a CAFA member and farmer who practices law says it is wise to have a lawyer in the pro-active stage, not just when things start down the litigation path.

Do not accept bad behavior or bullying. Have a united front as parents.

You can purchase my seminar on dealing with entitled siblings at Arlan Academy. Mom won’t mind if your gift is digital this year. She’ll be thrilled that her family cares as much as she does about finding harmony through understanding. Or grab a copy of my newly printed book, Farm Family Insights here and I’ll mail your mom a signed copy.

Guard your heart. Don’t break Momma’s.


Elaine Froese, CAFA, CSP, CHICoach is a trailblazer for agriculture. Elaine Froese wants all farm families to be rich in relationships. Visit www.elainefroese.com

Did you enjoy Stop breaking Momma’s heart…deal with your entitlement issues You might want to check these articles out too:

Spoiled Farm Children and Farm Succession: How to Stop the Temper Tantrums
How to be Prepared for Planning Your Farm Legacy
Who Needs to Have a Voice at Farm Family Meetings?

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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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