Part 4 of our Succession Planning Series
A similar post initially appeared on the Pfister Land Company Blog

At the Western Landowners Alliance Legacy on the Land event, Howard Weiss from the US Trust broke down succession planning and governance to their component parts.

Succession planning has many elements. Expressed as a formula, succession planning = farm and ranch management + ownership transition + estate planning.

There are many strategies for succession planning, but the three most common are:

  1. single majority owner / operator;
  2. equal active owners; and,
  3. passive shareholders.

Governance differs from succession planning. Expressed in a formula, governance = business enterprise + family leadership + decisions and operations.

The most common considerations with governance structures are the roles various family members or unrelated third parties can play including managers, directors, and shareholders. Each serves a different role and has their own set of rules and responsibilities.

When thinking about future ownership of a property and related business there are many ways to structure the ownership interest. Three of the more common include:

  1. outright transfer - fee simple ownership;
  2. split interest (QTIP interest); and,
  3. charitable interest. In order to transfer the land and the business into new ownership, owners have a long list of options. Four of the more regularly used transfer mechanisms include installment sales, lifetime gifts to heirs, buy-sell agreements at death of an owner, and business interest gifts in trusts (common with split interests).

Weiss’ overview of succession planning and governance summarizes some of the more common structures and considerations; however, there are countless combinations that can be utilized to meet the needs of current and future generations when considering succession planning for a working ranch.