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Minnesota farming families and estate planning battles

Minnesota's farming community has shrunk rapidly over the past few decades, as big agricultural corporations increase their holdings and new generations decide to give up the family business. However, many Minnesota farmers are trying to keep the business in the family. This can be tough, however, without an estate plan, Minnesota law will distribute all farm assets equally amongst the heirs, which can create unexpected tax issues or even a family squabble.

Luckily, there are options for farmers who want to pass on their estates to their heirs and keep the farm from withering away. For almost a decade, the University of Minnesota Extension's Farm Transfer and Estate Planning workshops have helped families prepare for the transfer of family farm from one generation to the next. The Extension claims that it has helped families transfer more than $355 million.

A lack of a solid estate plan can lead to disagreements among families. Some family members may want to continue farming, but cannot afford to buy out the other family members' shares, and are left with a share of the farmland that is too small to be profitable. Other family members may have chosen other professions and decide to sell off the land. In these cases, family members' disagreements over their inheritance can tear families apart. These disagreements can lead to hurt feelings, resentments and, of course, lawsuits.

For these reasons, it is important for older Minnesota farming family members to understand the value of estate planning before they pass away. It is also important for younger family members to plan for the future; both of these can be accomplished with the help of a knowledgeable attorney. Nonetheless, when the disagreement has already turned heated, it is important for these Minnesota families to get the help they need in understanding their rights and their legal options.

Source: Minnesota Daily, "Some things never change," April 16, 2013.

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