Protecting the Family Farm

Protecting the Family Farm

How prenuptial agreements can safeguard your legacy

Farmers are not only tremendous assets in our Lafayette community, but they’re the backbone of America. They work tirelessly to see their farms flourish and their blood, sweat, and tears help keep our economy strong. For many farming families, the commitment goes far beyond paychecks and economics. Often farmers are managing farms that have been in the family for generations. And they hope to pass on a thriving operation to their children someday as part of their legacy. Most agribusiness owners make succession planning a priority, preparing for the inevitable when they come to the end of their lives. But sometimes we shy away from or forget altogether, the importance of planning for unexpected relationship complications which end in divorce. No one likes to think about a marriage ending this way, but failing to plan for this unfortunate outcome could mean complete devastation for the family farm.

Prenuptial agreements for farmers are critical, especially since farmers tend to invest most or all of their wealth in one spot—the family farm. A dissolution of marriage could result in a non-familial ex being entitled to a significant portion of the farmland and assets, potentially dooming an operation that’s been in the family for decades. Because there’s so much at stake here, let’s walk through five reasons why a prenuptial agreement just makes sense in farm families.

  1. It’s business, not personal.
    We have to start looking at prenuptial agreements as business decisions, not personal ones. These documents are necessary legal instruments that should be part of a farm’s risk management and succession plan. And taking the emotion out of the discussion can be a helpful way to reframe it.
  2. Prenups allow you to take the law into your own hands.
    Prenuptial agreements allow you to state your wishes for how finances and assets from your farm should be handled in case of divorce. Without one, you essentially put division decisions in the hands of the court, should you find yourself in a divorce situation.
  3. The process puts everything on the table.
    Entering into a marriage without full disclosure of current finances and financial wishes for the future can spell trouble down the road. Communicating about finances is a key part of any marriage, so starting early just makes sense.
  4. Keeping family relationships intact.
    Often farming parents will ask their children to pursue prenuptial agreements prior to getting married. Even children who aren’t likely to become active members of the family operation often stand to inherit land or assets. Handling this business decision before it becomes a source of contention is the way to go.
  5. Prenups protect your legacy.
    A family farm is more than just a business, it’s a legacy. And divorce can destroy generations of hard work and memories—a true generational treasure. This is something worth protecting.

Yes, the thought of talking about prenups with your spouse-to-be (and possibly even extended family) can feel uncomfortable. But it’s time the stigma surrounding these helpful legal tools gets broken. Prenuptial agreements are truly meant to unite and protect—not to cast suspicion or doubt. Starting the conversation early and honestly can make all the difference. If you need a hand navigating the discussions and putting the appropriate safeguards in place for your farming legacy, we can help. Reach out to Cecelia Neihouser Harper at 765-637-9175.

The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.

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