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Working Ranch - March 2018

and support staff, which sometimes includes babysitting duty. The transition plan has also included an arrangement where, as part of their compensation, Carissa and Phil gain ownership of cattle. In another few years, and without laying out any cash, they will own one third of the cows on the place. “According to our estate plan, Carissa and her brother will each be heirs to half of the land and half of the ‘ranch company’ cattle, but Carissa and Phil will already own a third of the cows,” Lynn explains. “I guess you’d say that’s their sweat equity.” DON’T LEAVE ANYONE OUT There are too many heart-breaking stories about families divided because ranch succession plans or estate settlements surprised some of the interested parties. Lynn has heard plenty. That’s why Creston has always been kept in the loop as plans developed for transitioning management of the ranch to his sister and brother-in-law. Nebraska rancher Lynn Myers is a strong advocate for communication among farm and ranch families, particularly as it pertains to estate planning and generational transition of ranch businesses. “Too often, somebody is left out of the discussion. They’re left to feel their opinion doesn’t matter, and that can cause hurts that may never heal,” Lynn warns. “Family should come fi rst. Family relationships are more important than the ranch.” By working to assure that everyone has been heard and everyone else actually listened and understood, Lynn thinks the Myers-Munn family has arrived at what he calls “a really good situation”. Still, he knows that even the sweetest plans can turn sour because of pride and greed. A smooth transition could be derailed by debt, divorce or death. Stuff happens, and it’s impossible to draft a plan that protects a family against every eventuality. “I think you’ve got to have a plan that allows some fl exibility. As things move forward, you may fi nd that you have to make changes to adapt to what life hands you,” says Lynn, noting that many divisive issues start out small. “You’ve got to talk to each other, and remember to listen too. Address the little matters before they become big problems. And sometimes you may have to tweak your plan,” emphasizes Lynn. “It’s not something you sit down and do all at once. It’s a process and it takes time. It can take years. But it will be worth it, I think, as long as you keep communicating.” TROY SMITH Phil Munn now makes most of the dayto day management decisions, while wife Carissa says her main responsibility is bossing Phil. COURTESY CARISSA MUNN MARCH 2018 I WORKING RANCH I 75


Working Ranch - March 2018
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