Estate Planning for Virginia’s Family Farms

Images"With the aging of the farm population, and particularly with the rapid appreciation of land values and the assets, there certainly is a need to plan how those [farm] assets are going to be transferred and if you want the business to continue," said Ron Durst, a tax specialist at the USDA's Economic Research Service.

Farmers simply have to plan more than most folks. Regardless how big and industrialized modern farming has become, success or failure remains tied to the ebb and flow of the seasons, or the water patterns, or the health of the livestock. Then again, farmers also have to plan more for their own sake, too.

Estate planning is simply essential to farmers and the family farm itself. Unfortunately, estate planning is too easily overlooked with all of the day-to-day work to be done.  An article in USA Today, titled “As farmers age, planning for the future of their business grows,” explored this common problem.

Land is one of those things that seldom loses value. Agriculture, by definition, requires land (and lots of it) to operate on a profitable scale these days. Consequently, modern farms find themselves racking up a potentially hefty future estate tax bill on the basis of their land values alone.

Problem: When the land value represents the lion’s share of the estate value itself, then what happens when the estate tax bill comes due with only the land to pay the tab? Selling the farm would be akin to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs for the farming family. To make matters worse, the owners of family farms are getting up in years, and so time is of the essence when it comes to making plans to save these family farms.

The good news is that today, unlike for much of the last half decade or so, we have fairly firm estate and gift tax laws. Therefore, farmers and their advisors can make estate plans based on more than gut and intuition.

So, how do you pass on the family farm? Even more important, how will you pass it intact and who will run it after you do? These are questions that need an answer, sooner rather than later.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference: USA Today (May 19, 2013) “As farmers age, planning for the future of their business grows:


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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
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Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.