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What I learned from the Farm Transition – Will and Estate Pre-Planning Tool

4 min read

Lorne McClinton is an agriculture writer and retired farmer, who remains a silent partner in a grain crop operation in Yellow Grass, Sask, where he owns approximately 320 hectares. 

Most Canadians don’t have their final affairs in order. According to a 2023 National Institute of Aging survey, 74% of those over 55 have a current will. This percentage significantly drops for those 54 and younger. 

Considering that the average Canadian farmer is 56, it’s safe to say most of us have one. But just because we have a will doesn’t mean our plans are clear.  According to the 2021 Census of Agriculture, only 12% of farmers had written succession plans. FCC Business Advisor Joel Bokenfohr says these numbers show how uncomfortable many farm families are having frank discussions about their wills and farm succession.  

Farm Transition - Will and Estate Pre-Planning Tool™  FCC partnered with Dr. Tom Deans to adapt his Willing Wisdom Index platform to reflect the needs of Canadian farm owners.

That’s one reason FCC partnered with Dr. Tom Deans, an intergenerational wealth transfer expert, speaker and author, to create the Farm Transition - Will and Estate Pre-Planning Tool™ reflecting the needs of Canadian farm owners.   

I recently tried the tool and spent about 10 minutes answering 60 questions. On my first pass, I scored 78/100, and the confidential report generated gave me a median score of 46.5. This puts me well ahead of the curve (here’s a sample report).  

Here are my top 4 takeaways using the tool 

1. There are no wrong answers 

It’s intended to help farmers think about goals from a high level and encourage us to start the conversation with our beneficiaries.  

The tool begins with questions like, “Do you have a signed, current, legal will prepared by a lawyer or notary?” and goes from there. There are also questions about your plans to disperse assets, whether this involves setting up a trust, whether your beneficiaries are aware of the content of the will, if a power of attorney has been set up and what type of experience your executor has.  

2. Take time to provide thoughtful answers 

Some questions seemed basic if you already have a will prepared, but a few made me stop and think like: How will the increasing value of farmland inheritances impact my beneficiaries’ net worth and financial independence?   

It was also a bit uncomfortable answering questions about beneficiaries’ or their partners’ spending habits, addiction issues and concerns about protecting assets in case of a marital breakdown. Still, they’re meant to help us plan for worst-case scenarios and our answers are completely confidential.  

3. Wills and estate planning is ever-changing 

The tool states that your will and succession plan are living, evolving documents that must be reviewed regularly and adapted as assets or circumstances change.  

It also reinforces that your beneficiaries, accountant, financial planner and lawyer must be aware of any changes. If they don’t have copies of your will, list of assets, investments, insurance policies and other documents, they need to know where to find them if you’re not around. 

4. Use it even if you think you don’t need to 

Having done much work on my will and estate planning, I was disappointed that I only scored 78%. I’d thought I had my ducks in a row, but I’m not as prepared as I thought. One of the biggest shortcomings it highlighted was a lack of preparation for my later life care. While I prefer to think I’ll remain sharp and physically active right up until I die – I need to be prepared for any eventuality.  

Overall, I’d encourage farmers – in any stage of the transition and will and estate planning process – to give the  Farm Transition - Will and Estate Pre-Planning Tool™ a try. It’s a quick and easy way to start the conversation, helps reinforce what you’re currently doing, and highlights any gap in your plan.  

Looking for more ideas to help you with will and estate planning? Check out the resources and tools at fcc.ca/transition

Article by: Lorne McClinton 

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