“On the Eighth Day,” Paul Harvey famously said, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”
There can be little doubt that feeding a hungry planet is the very definition of the Lord’s work, but–as Arkansas farmers know too well–for every glimpse of the Divine Inspiration brightening his day, there remains that shadowy Devil, lurking out there in the details.
Arkansas’ farmers can (and should) take enormous pride in the work they do, taking raw soil or raw livestock and turning it something transcendently valuable for themselves and the world, but they also ought to know that, without careful estate planning, all their hard work could come undone.
In no particular order, here are some details about Arkansas farms, and what separates stable and prosperous posterity from a rather nasty unbundling:
1. There are more than 13.7 million farm acres in Arkansas. That’s breathtaking in its scope, but it also means there’s plenty to argue over in probate court.
2. About 97 percent of Arkansas’ 49,346 farms are family owned. That’s a terrific testament to the values of our farmers, but it also offers all sorts of potential problems: Without a carefully laid out will or trust and business plan, say, a farm can spend years in litigation amongst feuding relatives.
3. More than four-fifths of Arkansas’ farms are sole proprietorships. That’s another testament to that brave individualism of our farm families, but-yet again-it’s an invitation to legal problems. Under Arkansas law, sole proprietorships die with the sole proprietor. That means the farm can’t be passed on until its debts are settled and its estate has been lawfully divided.
4. The average Arkansas farm is worth more than $658,000 for land and buildings, another $90,000-plus for equipment, and it generates more than $160,000 in revenue. Again, that’s terrific news, but-you see where we’re going with this?-it may just mean more assets for heirs to fight over. Even if the succession is friendly, the fine folks at the Internal Revenue Service know just how to spoil a good inheritance: you think you’re leaving your loved ones a gorgeous, lasting legacy, when they’re only really getting a big, fat bill.
5. An Arkansas farm averages more than $124,000 in expenses. For those unlucky few whose farms are underwater, it means that their next-of-kin could be left drowning in debt. A careful business plan can help ease the burden on relatives.
6. The average Arkansas farmer is 57 years old. That suggests a longevity and toughness that any other tradesman should envy (the median age for a carpenter is around 42; the median age for a lawyer is almost 46-these kids today!), but it also demonstrates that we’re an aging population. The time to get your affairs in order is now.
7. More than one-quarter of workplace fatalities occur in agriculture. Every farmer knows that it’s a dangerous occupation-even the heartiest and hale farmer knows how just how risky the job can be.
8. Arkansas law allows executors or estate administrator’s to charge up to 3 percent of any estate valued above $5,000. If you don’t have a clear estate plan, the court gets to pick your executor. Just think of the headaches that could cause.
Want to protect your farm’s legacy? Our Arkansas farm planning attorneys can help. Get your free consultation by calling us today at 501-221-7776. We can give you the peace of mind you need and deserve.