Too many Ohio farmers are so busy running their businesses that they haven’t taken the time to consider what will happen to them after they’re gone or unable to run them any longer. Estate planning is important for just about everyone. For farmers, it’s essential.

The average American farmer is nearly 60 years old. It’s estimated that some 70 percent of farms will end up in new hands over the next 20 years. However, about half of all farmers in this country have no estate plan.

Many farmers plan to keep the land and the business in the family. Whether you have a child or other relative who is willing and able to take over or you’re planning to leave the farm to a friend or neighboring farmer, you need a succession plan.

Farmers who want to keep the business in the family may need to make some difficult decisions. You likely want to be fair to all of your children in your estate plan. However, they may not all have the same love and/or aptitude for farming that you have.

Leaving an equal share of the farm to three children when only one of them has an interest in running it can doom that child — and the farm — to failure. It may be best to find other ways to fairly pass on assets to all of your children without involving them all in a farm they may not be able or willing to manage.

Too many people put off estate planning until they’re in their senior years. That’s particularly unwise if you’re a farmer. Succession planning for a farm should begin at least a decade before you plan to leave the operations in someone else’s hands. It requires careful planning, and it shouldn’t be done hastily.

The first step is to seek guidance from an attorney with experience in estate planning for farmers and succession planning in particular. Succession planning is highly individualized. You want a plan that’s best for your farm, your family and others in whom you’re trusting the fruits of your years of hard work.