Farm Transitions: Maintaining Ownership and Providing Retirement Income

A common quandary for heirs of senior landowners is how they can maintain ownership and operation of the farm while providing retirement income for their parents. Often the farm assets represent all of the retirement savings. Not only may there be an extended period of retirement without earned income, but eventual nursing home expenses may be great enough to consume the value of the estate.

This can be a complicated situation to plan, with taxes, Medicaid rules, and differing goals of each family member. But it does take planning to make the best outcomes possible.

Several documents on our website can help you start the planning process. Estate and Medicaid information is here. You are likely to need specialized advice from tax and estate planners and attorneys. These documents will help your family think of options and allow you to ask informed questions of advisors to reduce the time and expense of designing the processes to protect assets and to care for aging relatives. Advisors may be available in your University Extension system or through private estate planners.

Sometimes a family member who hasn't been active in the farm operation wants to return. If this describes you, several options are available to learn how to manage crops or livestock. A mentor farmer would be valuable to advise on daily management. has many introductory-level publications on production and marketing of crops and livestock.

State Extension services have many publications and specialists on all aspects of raising and marketing crops and livestock. Some schools, like NE College of Technical Agriculture, offer both hands-on technical training and business management coursework.

ATTRA lists internships where you can learn alongside a farmer for a season. It also lists organizations that sponsor farm tours and workshops where you can see what works and meet others doing what you want to do.

And you can employ a progression of training. You can cash-rent the farm to a neighbor and watch the farm practices. You can rent on crop-share so you share the production expenses and receive a portion of the crop as payment for you to market. You can hire custom farmwork to be done at your direction. You can lease equipment to operate yourself. And you can own and operate all the equipment.

If your family is facing this situation and you have questions, please let me know - Wyatt Fraas,