Author Chuck Kuster planned to write an historical novel based on his Irish heritage as his first post-retirement writing project. After a long career as a communications strategist and technical writer, Kuster thought he was finished with business writing. Then, his father, an Iowa farmer, died and Kuster found himself serving as executor of the estate.
"I was around farming and farmers my entire 45-year career. What surprised me was how unprepared I was for the executor role. Had I known what to expect, I would have insisted on sitting down with my aging parents to gather information," says Kuster. Seeking advice, Kuster interviewed friends who, like him, were raised on a farm but sought employment elsewhere. Most shared their own stories of difficulties dealing with estate settlements.
"Most farmers have wills and many established trusts years ago. Unfortunately, what happens is the farmers and their heirs assume that all the important preparation is completed once the legal work is signed. That's simply not true. There's all sorts of non-legal tasks to handle," says Kuster. "Preparation ought to start five or so years prior to death, which is difficult to predict, obviously. So start early."
Financial, personal and especially farm-related management information needs to be collected. Based on anecdotal information, a farm executor can expect to spend between 500 and 1,000 hours spread over two years to settle the estate. Trillions of capital wealth will change hands over the next decade. "Pre-work, such as described in the book, saves time, money and angst," says Kuster. Such preparation is even more important when there is no local heir to manage time-sensitive business affairs.
Recognizing a need, Kuster tabled his novel and penned this how-to handbook to help explain what happens after the death of a farmer or rancher from an estate settlement and property transfer perspective.
How to secure farm property
How to avoid common mistakes while keeping the operation running during estate settlement
Financial forensics tips
What farm and livestock management information you might need
How to compile a farm estate inventory
Farm lease basics
How to read a farm appraisal
How to get started with a farmland sale
The handbook is a quick-read, packed with watch-outs, tips and checklists.
Aging farmers concerned their heirs don't know what to expect will find the resource useful. People destined to become a farm or ranch executor will especially find this information a great planning and preparation tool.