A farm is a valuable, always necessary, ever-growing, and expanding asset. A family farm adds emotional value and importance that can’t be bought or sold. Unfortunately, many family farms are impacted by inheritance disputes. These disputes are compounded by the emotion and economic value involved. Differences of opinion, feuds, and failures to implement succession plans can lead to farm inheritance disputes.
When a farm inheritance dispute arises, the experts at Heban, Murphree, & Lewandowski are here to guide and support you with experienced, dedicated legal representation.
A farm is much more than just a piece of land. A family farm is a business complete with assets like a home, barn, agricultural equipment, valuable property, and livestock. Add in the sentimental value of a family farm, and you can see why there’s so much at stake when it comes to farm inheritance. Legal, emotional, and financial complexities will arise without a proper succession plan that addresses inheritance concerns. With those complexities come conflicts that can tear families apart. Without proper guidance, conflicts can result in financial ruin or a family farm falling into neglectful or bitter hands.
In the absence of a clear will or a well-structured succession plan, family farms can face a range of inheritance disputes. These disagreements often involve questions about management, decision-making authority, and division of inheritance. Here are key instances where such issues typically arise:
These varied scenarios highlight the complexity of farm inheritance disputes and underscore the need for skilled legal representation to resolve them.
Sometimes, a dispute can’t be foreseen. For instance, a stepmother or stepfather undermining the deceased’s final wishes can cause problems for all parties. A sibling may also claim that they only worked on the farm due to the expectation of inheriting it in full or that inheritance promises were made to them. However, many steps should be taken before these problems occur.
First and foremost, making a will should be a priority. A documented testimony regarding the deceased wishes for the farm can mitigate or entirely prevent a majority of farm inheritance disputes. If a particular person or sibling is benefited or excluded, a supporting letter of explanation can help settle issues or avoid fighting family.
The farm owner should also communicate openly about their plans and avoid any promises that they don’t intend to fulfill. As a beneficiary, keeping well documented written evidence of conversations with the farm owner regarding inheritance can help when inconsistencies or disputes arise.
As a farm owner, you should have a transparent conversation with your heirs long before you are on your deathbed. Some heirs may want to have no connection to the family farm or may already be economically secure. A family meeting can be held as well, just make sure trusted advisors, like a lawyer and accountant, are present to facilitate and answer questions.
With open lines of communication and experienced legal representation, a dispute can be settled without an extensive court case or bad blood between family members. Before a trial begins, there is an opportunity to settle matters with mediation. A purposeful mediation can avoid a potentially stressful, bitter, and costly court battle between family members. A quick, mutually beneficial resolution to a problem that doesn’t involve deceit or other ill will is always the preferable option.
If you are seeking legal guidance to help settle a farm inheritance dispute, be sure to contact our team of experienced attorneys in Toledo, OH today!