Estate Focus On Small Firms, Farms

August 13, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan State University Extension has designed an estate-planning workshop specifically for farmers and small-business owners.

The entire workshop, which includes such topics as how property taxes affect an estate and how to properly pass on a farm or business, takes place over three Wednesday evenings on Sept. 1, 8 and 15. But those interested can register for one, two or all three sessions.

“I think one of the important things they will learn from this is, what is the scope and magnitude of making plans to transfer their farm or their business from one generation to the other. There are a lot of things that go into that and I think this will give them a well-rounded, overall perspective and a place to start,” said Dennis Pennington, MSU Extension Agricultural Agent for Kent and Barry counties.

The transfer of property and income rights can be tricky and can become more important as both rise in value. At the same time, rising values can create a larger estate than a busy farmer or business owner might imagine that he or she has, and they may not have been able to devote enough time to keep their estate plan current or even to get started on one.

“Usually what we find is we find some folks who have been trying to do some work in the estate-planning arena and they come with kind of some pre-conceived notions of what they think might be the case, and when they get there they find out what is really going on and what are some of the other issues to deal with and think about,” said Pennington.

“What the workshop does is it gives them the chance to learn about a specific issue in a trust, or the way a will is set up, or maybe have some issue as to being fair to one of the siblings. This would give them another way of looking at ways to solve a particular issue or problem that they may have,” he added.

The workshop is divided into a trio of sessions. On Sept. 1, the topics will be developing an estate plan, what qualifies as an estate, and how property taxes affect one. On Sept. 8, gifts, trusts, probate procedures and wills will be discussed. Life insurance and passing on the business or farm will be explored on Sept. 15.

Kendra Wills, of the MSU Extension, said extension specialists, insurance agents and probate attorney Steve Tjapkes of the legal firm Law, Weathers & Richardson will be the instructors. Tjapkes owns a small farm in Alto and is also a veterinarian.

Each session costs $25, starts at 6 p.m., and includes dinner. All sessions will be held at the GainesTownship office in Caledonia. The Allegan, Barry and Kent MSU Extension offices and the Ridge Economic Agricultural Partners are sponsoring the workshop. For more information or to register, call Wills at (616) 336-3265.

“We designed this estate-planning workshop because we found that with small businesses and farm families, the linkages are the same,” said Wills. “They just really don’t have a lot of the resources that companies do to do the proper estate planning to ensure the future of the business.”    

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