Top of Mind: The "If-I-Die" List

September 16, 2016 03:11 PM

Earlier this summer, my husband headed to Colorado to climb a few mountains. Since he was off the grid for a handful of days, I fielded all of the calls concerning our several rental houses. Beyond a leaky faucet and a spastic garage door, everything was fine. 

But it made me think: What if something happened to my husband and I had to wear the landlord hat on a full-time basis? 

Because my husband is proactive (and can broach the topic of death much easier than me), he started an “if-I-die” document not long after we were married. It includes everything from bank account information to insurance policies to key contacts to passwords. Although I hope to not be forced to use the document, it provides both of us with peace of mind.

Contingency Considerations. Planning for an unexpected death or disability is far from fun or quick. Yet it can save your family and team members significant emotional and financial costs. 

“Top managers spend time thinking about ‘what-if’ scenarios and developing contingency plans,” says Danny Klinefelter, professor and Extension economist at Texas A&M. “They don’t dwell on the negative, but they consider what could go wrong and what they’ll do if it does. It’s no different than what successful coaches and generals do when they develop game or battle plans.”

How do you start the process? Shannon Ferrell, ag law professor at Oklahoma State University Extension, suggests asking yourself: If we lose one of our important players tomorrow, what do we do?

His advice is to create a clear and straightforward plan that’s easy to follow. Prepare it in advance and in plain English (no need for fancy legal or technical terms). Include current records, where to find resources and whom to ask for help.

“I also suggest you journal what you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis,” Ferrell says. This document will tell whoever takes the reins how to keep the trains moving during a likely turbulent time. 

Challenge your key employees and farming partners (regardless of age) to do this with you, and hold one another accountable. On the bright side, having this work done can also make your farm operation run like clockwork when you take a long vacation. “Don’t be scared of this process,” Ferrell says. “Be prepared.”

Here To Help. Contingency, succession and estate planning can be easy to postpone. Make it a priority by joining us Dec. 8-9 in Kansas City for the third annual Legacy Conference. The two days will be packed with best-in-class speakers and information.

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