Succession Planning, Part Two – Engaging your heirs

by Cate Moore on March 23, 2014

Disclaimer: We’re not claiming to be experts, but CCFA can certainly act as a clearing house for stories, ideas, problems, questions and so forth as we explore the topic together.  We think that if we each share the little bit we know, across all of us we can find most of the answers we need.

So, while we will be publishing articles in the newsletter and online, but we hope this will be a two-way conversation.  Give us your stories, ask us your questions, and by all means, tell us when we’re blowing smoke.  We’ll provide contact information at the end of the article.

Succession plans don’t work if you don’t have someone who is ready and willing to receive your property and make it work.  Are your heirs ready for the job?  Do they even want it?  One of the very early jobs in succession planning is engaging your heirs so that there is someone waiting on the other side to continue your legacy.

The first level of engagement is making sure your heirs at least like being on the land.  Do treasure hunts with younger kids, let your teens camp out or play paintball, provide a country retreat for your stressed-out city-dweller heirs.  Once they have a warm spot in their heart concerning your land, they will be more willing to take on its challenges.

The next level of engagement is encouraging buy-in to the land.  Everyone needs to feel they’re bringing something to the table and that they are getting something valuable out of the land.  It can be as simple as organizing family work-days where everyone takes time out to do regular maintenance like repairing roads and pulling weeds.  Make it fun by throwing a barbecue afterward.  Make sure that your heirs get some share in the rewards, too.  If they don’t yet have official ownership shares, they can get paid in kind with firewood, or some other product of your land.  If they do have shares, they should get some form of income or distribution.

The most effective family buy-in is encouraging your heirs to use the land assets for small side businesses of their own.  I’ve talked to very enthusiastic next-generation heirs who were doing such things as being big game hunting guides, keeping apiaries for wildflower honey, cutting and selling firewood, and making and selling Christmas wreaths.  The most important part is that the side business must be mostly the kid’s idea and they should do the work.

If you get that deer-in-the-headlights look from your family any time you discuss business operations or financial matters, it’s time to take matters in hand.  Your heirs are not going to want to hold onto your land if they feel overwhelmed by the size or complexity of it.  You need to raise their comfort level by introducing them to your business team, including your forester, your accountant, your lawyer and whoever else helps you manage your business and keep your paperwork in order.  Whenever possible, bring them along on meetings so they can hear first hand how the decisions are made and executed.

Obviously, engaging your heirs starts well before they are even aware of the succession process.  The goal is to have enthusiastic heirs by the time you start building your official succession plan.

Write us with your comments at:

attn: succession planning
P. O. Box 66868
Scotts Valley, CA 95066

email us at:

Future articles will address the following topics (In no particular order):

  • Scoping the property/ business
  • Deciding on the participants
  • Apportioning ownership
  • How do you add people?
  • How do people opt out?
  • What are the participants duties and responsibilities?
  • Contributing and noncontributing participants and how to fairly reward both
  • How do you declare and communicate your ideas and visions?
  • How do you factor in your heirs ideas and visions?
  • How do you distribute proceeds?
  • Do you need an external manager?
  • When do you dissolve the business?
  • Inheritance taxes
  • Ongoing business expenses
  • Business forms that encapsulate the succession plan and how they are formed.
  • Government reporting requirements
  • Questions, answers and suggestions from readers


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment