Every family has different personalities, in-laws, faiths, and beliefs in some cases. That’s why it’s essential to have a personalized, custom your name here estate plan.

Dear Michael:

None of our children are farming as both of our daughters married non-farmers. However, one of our daughters married a fellow who loves to have the best of everything. If a new type of car comes out, he runs down to the dealership and trades. Also, of course, it has to be Cadillac. If a new kind of television comes out, he’s throwing out the still perfectly good old one and buys the new one. He seems obsessed with having something better than anyone else. Our daughter is working two jobs, and he has a good job.

With two kids, I still don’t see how they make all the payments they need to for the fancy house, the nice cars, etc. However, that is their issue, and we stay out of it. What is a problem is when we die, we don’t want our daughter’s inheritance squandered within a few years, or even months, after our death. Bad as our son-in-law is now, we can only imagine him buying all kinds of nonsense things to “be better than the Joneses.” We’d like to see our grandchildren get an education.

Our other daughter, on the other hand, is married to a very frugal person and they both have good jobs, believe in paying cash for things when they can afford it rather than financing. We don’t want to penalize her by not giving her inheritance to her when we die.

We’d like to see our farm stay together. How do we approach these two very different scenarios in our family?

– Two Different Paths Taken


Dear Two Different Paths Taken:

Perhaps you should be gratefully dealing with only two children. I’ve met many families with four or five kids going in five different directions and need an estate plan. It’s like herding barn cats! Every family has different personalities, in-laws, faiths, and beliefs in some cases. That’s why it’s essential to have a personalized, custom YOUR NAME HERE estate plan. One that encompasses all of your different children and your wishes for your assets upon your demise.

Too many people put off doing a plan because they feel like it’s too complicated – but those are the people who’s estates suffer the highest consequences – not just in unnecessary taxation (yes, taxation still exists on income), court costs, suits brought against the estate, etc.

In any case, in your particular situation, as you don’t feel much faith your son-in-law will be frugal, then it’s time to tell me more about your assets. Most people have two classes of assets when they don’t have farming children those being farmland and the rest being other such as machinery, savings, etc.

You stated you don’t want the farmland sold, so putting this land in trust for the benefit of the two daughters and their families would be the way to go. An irrevocable testamentary trust is something you design – you decide what goes in upon death, you decide what comes out (income and/or principal), and you choose when it comes out and to whom.

The best manager of this trust would likely be a commercial trustee who will receive a small percentage of the income to manage the asset and to distribute the revenue.

You could use one of your children, but this always leads to hard feelings over time with the other children.

If you don’t want the farm sold in any case, then the frugal daughter’s share staying in trust for her children shouldn’t be an issue for her. If she would prefer to separate her share into actual land descriptions, you can do that now, or have the trustee have some mechanism within the trust to allow for doing this. Most people get the property appraised and let the appraiser and the trustee divide the properties as evenly as possible.

As for your other assets, you can also put them into a trust if you feel like they may be squandered upon your death.

However, unbeknownst to the two daughters, one might receive income and principal (the frugal one) and the other income only and principal over time or life events, such as reaching certain ages.

None would be the wiser unless they shared this information between themselves. The good news is you’ll be dead so they may be angry, but you won’t have to hear about it.