Given the rising age profile of farmers, it is worrying that so few have a succession plan in place. This not only puts farmers’ own financial security at risk, but it also potentially lines up problems for their families and successors.

As with all business decisions, the starting point for succession planning is clarifying your long term aims. Do you want to continue to be involved in the farm; Have you a successor in mind? Having a family meeting can be a good way to tease matters out and ensure that the decisions you make are known and agreed by everyone involved.

There’s a lot to consider and it can seem overwhelming at first. But if you think of succession planning as a process instead of an action, it makes it much less daunting.

You know what your own concerns are, but how about everybody else? It can be helpful to get an understanding of how others might be feeling by getting your family around the table at a family meeting.

Are you the outgoing generation?

Having worked on the farm all your life, you’ll need to prioritise your own financial security before transferring assets. You’ll need to think about the following:

  • Your timeframe to exit the business?
  • What level, if any, you wish to continue to be involved on the farm?
  • Will you need or want to continue to draw income from the business?
  • What will happen to the farm dwelling house?
  • What are your wishes for your other children?

Are you the incoming generation?

If you’re the incoming generation, you’ll need to think fully about your own situation and your life goals and aspirations. If you have a partner or spouse, their views are really important also. You’ll need to consider the following:

  • Can the farm afford to support your desired lifestyle (and possibly the outgoing generation’s)?
  • What’s your expectation on working hours, holidays, time off etc.?
  • There may be additional benefits to your wages that should be examined from a reward point of view e.g. use of jeep/car, fuel, electricity, health cover etc.
  • Can the farm meet your parents’ wishes to support siblings if applicable?

What if there’s no successor?

If there’s no willing successor in the immediate family, there are other options that you may wish to consider:

  • Partnership
  • Transfer to niece/nephew
  • Leasing
  • Possible sale (part or full disposal)

Some of the above solutions may be an option where the landowner wants to take a step back from the day-to-day management of the business or in situations where an interim solution is needed until a successor becomes old enough to take over the farm.

Father and son on a farm

A key decision will be whether the transfer of your business will take place during your lifetime or after your death. We in conjunction with your accountant will explain your options and help you choose which is best for your business.

If you decide on a lifetime transfer, you will need to protect your personal financial security and ensure that you will have adequate retirement income for you and your spouse/partner.

You can then decide what provision to make for your children.

Strongly think about what level of involvement, if any, you’ll want to have once the farm’s been handed over to your successor.

Regardless of how and when you intend to transfer the farm, once you know your objectives, you can document a sensible succession plan that will protect you, your family and your business. You will then need to update your Will to reflect the decisions you have and put an Enduring Power of Attorney in place should you become incapable of managing your own affairs due too illness or an acquired brain injury.

For further information on how we can help,  please contact us on 028 82 242 177 or email

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.