Farmers can’t afford to bury their heads in the sand over making a WillAugust 4th 2020
FARMERS have so much to deal with that tackling paperwork is never likely to be top of their agenda.
But the coronavirus outbreak has been a wake-up call that there’s some tasks they simply can’t afford to bury at the bottom of their “to do” pile.
Many farmers have been prompted to take action and ask for expert legal advice to ensure they are protecting their interests and their families.
Nicholas Devlin, at leading legal firm Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, said: “Wills are not always top of the agenda for farming families. It’s all too easy to leave things like making a Will on the back burner.
“But the current situation has brought things into sharp focus. Forward planning is always helpful and farmers have been updating their Wills and generally sorting out their affairs.”
And it’s not just for peace of mind, that making a Will is important, there are also significant financial benefits involved.
Nicholas said: “Given the value of land it’s extremely important that farming families get expert advice.
“The price of land has accelerated rapidly over the years. What farmers think their farms are worth and what they are actually worth are often very different.
“Big farms are big businesses, and given the values involved – we can be talking from £2m to £5m – if you don’t get your financial affairs sorted, there could be a huge tax bill involved.”
Nicholas says the advantage of dealing with a firm like Cartmell Shepherd is that there are experts on hand in both the private client team and the agricultural law team which gives farming families benefit from a complete overview.
“When making a Will you need to look at all your assets which can include land, stock, buildings and machinery. But there may be a limited company involved, or a farming partnership. We might find there is no formal partnership agreement. At Cartmells we have the breadth of experience across the firm to provide expert advice to help with any issues that may arise when making a Will.”
As well as Nicholas, and Cartmells private client team, experienced agricultural property solicitor Mark Jackson is on hand to offer his guidance on the farming side.
Nicholas and Mark agree a regular Will review is always advised for anyone and especially farmers, both because of changes in legislation, and also changes in family circumstances.
“Some people who have made a Will years ago just forget about it, thinking that’s all done and dusted,” said Nicholas.
“But circumstances change. Grandchildren might have come along since a will was made. It is in farmers’ interests to review their will at least every three to five years.
“For those who haven’t made a Will, it’s really important to do so, not least for financial reasons and to ensure other family members are looked after. The rules that apply for those without a will (known as intestacy) may not work in the way people expect.
“It may be tempting for some farmers to think that they will leave everything equally to their surviving family members though that might not be as straightforward as it sounds. To ensure a viable farming business is left difficult decisions sometimes have to be made. It is not always possible to treat everyone equally and keep a farming business going. We can help families work through these issues”
Mark said: “Who owns what and is it tax efficient is also an important part of any review.
“We will also involve accountants to advise on such issues as Agricultural Property Relief (APR) and Business Property Relief (BPR) to make sure the right questions are being asked.
“It’s important to plan for a variety of things as it makes sure everything is done in the right way and in a structured way.
“Many farmers in their later years have been through a lot with foot and mouth and BSE, and may feel they are very well able to cope with a situation like COVID-19. But given the nature of the current pandemic it’s really important that they take this opportunity to make sure all their affairs are in order.”
Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors has ensured continuous service to clients throughout the coronavirus lockdown with many of its team working remotely from home.
Nicholas and Mark stressed that appointments with farmers can be done in a safe socially-distanced way on the farm, face to face, or over the phone, or by video call.
Jonathan Lee 32West
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