Planning ahead to maintain your Nebraska legacy

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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) -- It can be a very difficult and complicated topic to discuss: What will happen to your family ranch or farm when you are gone?

That is why the Great Plains Health Care Foundation is hosting a conference about continuing your Nebraska legacy and keeping your farm and ranch in the family for the next generation.

The Health Care Foundation hosted keynote speaker, Dr. Ron Hanson, Harlan Agribusiness Professor Emeritus, formerly from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to speak to local farmers and ranchers, and small business owners.

Ag stats are sobering. Trending research shows if there were 10,000 family farms today, only 16 family farms would still exist four generations later.

Dr. Hanson said planning ahead is critical to making sure your family operation stays in the family.

"Most families never want to talk about the real life 'what-if' issues, but 'what-if' usually happens when you least expect it," Dr. Hanson said.

A sudden death, a tragedy, a divorce are all factors that can impact the future of a family-owned operation if you do not have a plan in place, or a vision in mind.

"There's a lot of producers that think they're going to farm forever, and letting go, sharing ownership, sharing control is extremely hard for a lot of folks," Dr. Hanson said.

Dr. Hanson said it is not a matter of 'if' something should happen to your farm, ranch or even a family member, but more of a matter of 'when' so it is very important to have a plan in place.

High land values, dishonest conversation, and sibling rivalry can contribute to a failed operation. That is why Dr. Hanson suggests you discuss these issues ahead of time, before it is too late.

"A lot of assets involved. There's a lot of feelings that can get hurt, so its very important to plan ahead," Mike Henry, with Great Plains Foundation, said.

M.L. Martin is a fifth generation rancher. She said she wants to make sure her son is the sixth, and her granddaughter is the seventh.

"You have to plan for that," Martin said.

Having these conversations could ultimately define the success of your family operation.

"It's never too early to begin the succession planning process, just don't wait until it's too late," Dr. Hanson said.