As we head into a new year it is perhaps a time to reflect on the choices we have made in our lives and what plans we have for the future.
I am someone who always likes to take a look back as I think about what lies ahead.
In recent years, I have seen some very good farming friends pass away. When you are younger you think it is only old people who die, but you soon realise that is not the case.
I do not want to sound morbid, but we must all recognise we are not going to live forever. What is even more real is the fact that no matter how much property you own, when we are gone all of it will belong to someone else.
Some will say that it is OK for me as I have three sons and I can pick and choose whom I leave my belongings to. That may be so, but you still need to make plans for the future or someone else will make those plans for you.
I had a friend who died a few years ago. He was not married and owned a bit of land and cattle. When he was alive, he would have called me regularly to help him out with farming activities. He had no close relations and he relied on his friends and neighbours for help.
He died suddenly, and had not got round to making a will. It took a couple of years for the solicitors to sort everything out. Eventually the farm and livestock were sold, and it was all divided among his far-out relations. There were dozens of beneficiaries from his estate. I often wonder if he had a chance to live his life again would he have made a will. I can understand that it is hard to think about someone else picking over your life’s work. But to be realistic, if you do not make the plans then someone else will do it for you.
There are plenty of farmers who are not married or have no family to inherit their farm. For anyone in that situation, burying your head in the sand does not really help.
You might think you have worked all your life to grow this farm to what it is today, and cannot stand the thought of someone else coming in and changing everything. So the easiest thing to do is to put it to the back of your mind for another while and re-consider it again in a few years.
I have advised a few friends to make wills. It is not an easy conversation, and there is always the fear that some might jump to the conclusion you are looking for something from them.
One example from a few years ago was two farmers I knew who were in poor health. I eventually plucked up the courage and asked them if they had made a will. They said no. My advice to them was to get it done as soon as possible.
A few weeks later they told me that they had made a will. They actually willed their farms to each other, but the important part was that they had thought about it and put their wishes down on paper.
They died a few years later but because there was will, there was smooth transition without any ill feelings.
I have seen several other farms transition to the next generation after the death of the main farmer, and it is an extremely easy and smooth process with a will in place.
In my own situation, I have given the issue some thought and have a will in place, although it is highly likely that I will make changes to it in the future. I would strongly urge every farmer (young or old) to have a good think about the future, and if you haven’t got a will in place, make that your New Year’s resolution for 2023.