Family demands and can they be managed better?

With my work in the rural sector, I am becoming increasingly amazed at the children's demands and pressure that is being put on parents to "move over", give equity and so on. Matrimonials are also an area of increasing discord.

Let's explore some of the issues.

Farms are becoming more valuable every day.

With only 39 days of stored food in the world (less than in the 70's, when we had about 18 months to 2 years), it is clear that those who own land that produce food, will continue to be more wealthy. Nobody is talking about the short supply of food, but soon the reality will strike home. This demand is pushing up product prices which in turn will push up demand for land, with an obvious result.

The clamour for a share in the wealth and assets of farmers is going to increase.

Families are arriving home, whether from the city or overseas, wanting to find free residency on the family farm and free food. I know of one case where the children moved back home to stay with their ageing, farming parents and demanded food, lodgings and money. The insistences got so great they became physical and then they got the parents' cheque book and wrote themselves cheques. The police were called and could do nothing, advising it was a 'civil' matter.

These parents are not on their own. I have heard of similar cases where children have been involved financially and wanting a bigger share of the cake. Companies have been formed and unequal equities been put in and equal shares in the company expected and taken by the children.

Another issue of concern that I have encountered is the number of cases where the father has worked the farm all his life, made a huge asset for everybody, started to slow down, only to then be confronted with a lot of unresolved family issues. Maybe he was always out working (highly likely), maybe he didn't have such a good relationship with his family and as a result his wife was much closer to the children. To be compliant and to try and build the relationship, he may have appointed them as Trustees, Company Directors and so on. He then wants to make some decisions, buy more land, refinance, buy a beach house, go for a big trip or whatever, only to find his own family is blocking him.

More than that, by now his wife may be supporting their children's decisions to block him, she has had the ear of the children for many years and may be resentful of the lack of care or time he may have afforded her. Consequently, he may have the concerns about the longevity of his own relationship! It almost seems that the father gets put out in the 'Bull Paddock', so to speak, and the family takes control with the support from mum.

This often happens in marriage breakdowns too. I know because it was absolutely frightening to be on the receiving end, I can tell you.

Now I do need to be clear, this does not happen all the time and I can only salute women and their contribution to agriculture and the family but allowing our children to override us does seem to be an increasing trend.

So what are the solutions?

Well I think that the 'system' may have watered down the father figure's authority and leadership role. There is a large body of thought that men are becoming more feminine and women more masculine. Maybe men lack good masculine examples of leadership in industry and farming.

We all say that we want our children to have a better life than we did so what do we do, we give them more and they expect more and then they start claiming ownership of our assets. I mean, there is a whole new generation out there who are demanding everything from their parents.

The lawyers see it as a commercial opportunity for fee charging when wealthy farming families get into dispute. They are doing as instructed of course, but it is all money spent elsewhere.

Trusts are also a clear way of holding assets for the next generation.

The only way that I can foresee to improve these situations is for fathers to have meetings with the family. Set clear guidelines and explain exactly what they want and expect. This may include that the structures are in place for their retirement and the assets will only go to the children once they have both departed from this life. Make it clear that the children are not to interfere in the running of the assets and so on.

It may be advisable to have 'Professional Trustees' who can make logical and non emotional decisions and not to appoint your children as Trustees!!

In summary, transmission of wealth from one generation to the next is being accelerated as family start demanding and claiming ownership earlier.

We need to be really clear on what the issues are for us and lead, have meetings and clearly state our position and expectations. We should think carefully before we give interest in property to our children and be very careful about making promises to them about giving them property and so on.

We need to think about all this and plan to stay out of the "Bull Paddock" and try to lead and maintain the respect of our children.
More so, we need robust structures in place to take the property to the next generation without interference from them whilst we are alive.


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