Advice to tackle tough succession talk

26 Oct, 2014 01:00 AM
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Presenters Jamie Hodgkinson (left), Haynes Robinson Lawyers, Belay Consulting facilitator Maree Gooch and RSM Bird Cameron accountant Joanne Gilbert tackled the tough but important topic of farm succession planning at the WIFE Annual Seminar last week.
Presenters Jamie Hodgkinson (left), Haynes Robinson Lawyers, Belay Consulting facilitator Maree Gooch and RSM Bird Cameron accountant Joanne Gilbert tackled the tough but important topic of farm succession planning at the WIFE Annual Seminar last week.

A LITTLE communication can go a long way for many WA farming families, as the succession planning discussions continue to be avoided.

Presenters Maree Gooch, Joanne Gilbert and Jamie Hodgkinson took steps towards addressing what can be an "emotionally charged" topic at the Women in Farming Enterprises (WIFE) annual seminar.

The trio tackled the topic from a variety of angles for the group of 100-plus women at the Varley event last week.

Ms Gooch, Belay Consulting, regularly meets with farming families to help them have this discussion and plan for the future.

She said starting the conversation was the biggest hurdle for many clients.

"It's not a conversation or process that is going to happen organically, it is something that you need to address," she said.

"Many people have never even touched on the subject, but not doing so can have on-going repercussions."

Ms Gooch recommended each family member with a stake in the farming business spell out their expectations as older generations move towards retirement and the younger generation begin to take the business's reins.

The next focus was the financial aspect of succession planning and RSM Bird Cameron accountant Joanne Gilbert said it was important to structure the business appropriately.

She said finances were always a "difficult" discussion, but planning now could ensure a smooth future.

Ms Gilbert highlighted a number of farm business structures, with a focus on ensuring the chosen structure would be adaptable as farming roles changed.

Mr Hodgkinson, Haynes Robinson Lawyers, reiterated the need for communication within the business.

"It's really all about each party getting an understanding of exactly what each person expects as far as farm operation, finances and assets," he said.

Mr Hodgkinson said for many people, the catch was ensuring the conversation occurred early enough so the succession plan could evolve to allow for variables such as debt and new parties to the business through marriage and acquisitions.

FarmWeekly

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