All too often, attorney Maria Schmidlkofer has seen farm families face unintended consequences due to faulty estate planning — or no estate planning.

“The first problem is that farmers frequently fail to do an estate plan,” said Schmidlkofer, of Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, who specializes in estate planning for farms. “When that happens, Oregon actually writes an estate plan for you, and Oregon law will control how your individually owned assets are passed to the next generation.

“Many times, that will have unintended results,” she said.

Schmidlkofer is a featured speaker at this year’s Northwest Ag Show. Her presentation is sponsored by Harvest Capital.

She said the best way to avoid unintended consequences is to work with an estate planner who specializes in farms.

“That, in my opinion, is the way to go to avoid mistakes with assets passing to somebody that you don’t want them to go to,” she said.

Another problem that farm families face when a farm owner dies is that they have a plan, but it doesn’t work as intended.

“They might have a will or trust in place that says I want to divide everything equally among my family or provide for one person to inherit the farm, and then something goes wrong,” Schmidlkofer said. “Say they didn’t have the farm properly titled, so it doesn’t pass through the will or the trust in the way they think it is going to.

“I see that a lot,” she said. “There is a lot of potential for unintended results that makes it extremely important for farmers to work with an estate planner.”

Schmidlkofer said a poorly devised estate plan can lead to discord among family members, as well as a dissolution of farm assets.

“I always say my goal is that the family can still have Thanksgiving dinner together and to keep the farm in the family, if that is what they want,” she said. “Figuring out how to make both of those goals happen can be tricky sometimes, but it is important.”

Schmidlkofer will speak from 1 to 2:15 p.m. on Jan. 15 in the Santiam Room of Cascade Hall.

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