Transferring a farm business to the next generation, or from one person to another, can be a challenging task. Legal matters, communication issues, tax laws, and personal differences are some of the many issues that families and others confront in determining how and when to transfer farm assets and business management control. Listed below are some resources that may help with the farm transfer and estate planning process.


Farm transfer planning

Listed below are some introductory as well as more in-depth articles and guides about farm transfer planning.

Getting started - an introduction to some of the issues and ideas

Going further - expanded guides with more details, worksheets, and self-assements

Additional resources

  • NJ Farmland Preservation Program - Some farm owners enroll their farms in farmland preservation as a part of their farm transfer process. Taking this step can make the land more affordable, generate additional income, and help make it easier to pass the farm on to the next generation. For more information on the Farmland Preservation Program, contact the State Agriculture Development Committee at (609) 984-2504.
  • NJ Farm Link Program - Some farm transfer processes take place between farmers who are not related, such as when a family does not have a member of the younger generation to take over the farm business. In these situations, the Farm Link Program may be able to help. One function of the program is to help connect farm owners, who have farming opportunities available, with new and established farmers, who are seeking access to farmland and farming opportunities.

 

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Communication during the transfer process

Sometimes the hard issues during the farm transfer process are the so-called "soft" issues - the ability of both generations or parties to discuss, understand, and respect each other's expectations, goals, desires, and plans. Listed below are some resources that may foster good communication during the farm transfer process.

  • Who Will Get Grandpa's Farm? (Purdue University) - FAQs about the tranfer process, as well as short videos depicting family communication in six different farm transfer scenarios
  • Transferring Your Farm or Ranch to the Next Generation - (Montana State University) - Discussion about family/business goals and expectations, as well as several worksheets, e.g., "Identifying What Is Important"
  • Farm Succession Risk Management Checklist Online - A short yes/no survey to help farmers assess their current farm succession risks, along with suggestions for subsequent steps to take, including having family discussions
  • NJ Agricultural Mediation Program - The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) sponsors a free mediation program in which trained, impartial, and certified mediators are available for helping families and others manage and resolve agricultural issues. Mediators do not have decision-making authority, but rather serve as skilled facilitators for helping families and others discuss and address difficult issues. Mediation can result in better understanding and better communication between the parties, which can foster a more successful farm transfer process. For more information on using one of the program's mediators, contact the program at (609) 984-2504.

 

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Retirement and estate planning

Farm transfer planning also includes planning for retirement (e.g., what the senior generation will do, be it farming or something else; sources of retirement income; and health coverage) and planning for the estate (e.g., the final transfer of assets). Listed below is a selection of resources that may be of assistance with retirement and estate planning.

  • Later Life Farming - Information and tools for helping farm families make retirement planning decisions. This resource from Rutgers Cooperative Extension is a series of short, online modules with links to additional information.
  • Farm Transfer and Estate Planning - Factsheet on estate planning from the American Farmland Trust (AFT).
  • Your Land is Your Legacy: A Guide to Planning for the Future of Your Farm. Also available from AFT, this guide provides further detail on estate planning advice for landowners and their financial advisors. "You can't take your farm with you when you die," says Jeremiah Cosgrove, an attorney with AFT who co-authored the guide. "But proactively planning for the future of your land - before you retire - gives you a stake in its outcome." (Cost: $10.50)
  • New England Farm Transfer Network - Links to additional retirement and estate planning resources.

 

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Finding farm transfer consultants and professionals

Looking for an attorney, family counselor, mediator, accountant, financial planner, or other professional who can help during the transfer process and be a part of your farm transfer team? The programs, organizations, and resources listed below may be able to help.

  • NJ Agricultural Mediation Program - The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) sponsors a free mediation program in which trained, impartial, and certified mediators are available for helping families and others manage and resolve agricultural issues. Mediators do not have decision-making authority, but rather serve as skilled facilitators for helping families and others discuss and address difficult issues. Mediation can result in better understanding and better communication between the parties, which can foster a more successful farm transfer process.
  • Farm Credit East - The staff of Farm Credit East includes farm business consultants who can help farmers on their estate, retirement, and farm business transition planning. Farm Credit East has two branches in NJ, one in Flemington (Hunterdon) and one in Bridgeton (Cumberland).
  • NJ Farm Bureau - The NJ Farm Bureau may be familiar with business consultants, estate planners, counselors, and others who can assist farmers with their transfer plans. The Farm Bureau and Farm Family group of insurance companies also periodically sponsor estate planning and farm succession workshops.  For more information on these workshops or professional referrals, farmer members should contact Farm Bureau. While this support is provided to farmers who are members, NJ Farm Bureau is also open to new members contacting them for this type of assistance.
  • Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) - RCE county offices are staffed by County Agricultural Agents who can help to answer questions about agricultural marketing, production, business planning, and more. Some county agents may be familiar with local accountants, attorneys, family counselors, and others who understand agricultural issues and have experience handling farm transfer planning.
  • Selecting an attorney - PA Farm Link's Resource Library has an Attorney Checklist to help select an attorney.

 

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Farm transfer case profiles

  • Transferring the Family Farm: What Worked, What Didn't for 10 New Jersey Families (PDF) - This booklet tells the real life stories of 10 New Jersey farm families, with each profile highlighting the successess, challenges, resources, and learning experiences of a different family.

    The profiles are designed to provide farmers with information and ideas to consider as they evaluate their own situations and embark on their own transfer processes. While they are not intended to provide legal or tax advice (farmers should contact professionals to assess their individual situations), they offer strategies that farm families and others may find helpful in developing their own transfer plans. For a free printed copy of the booklet, please contact the SADC at (609) 984-2504.
  • Farm Succession Guidebook - Chapter 5 of this guide includes a compilation of farm transfer case profiles.

    For more information on these resources, contact the Farm Link Program at (609) 984-2504.


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