A fellow attorney at our law firm recently went to a Corb Lund concert in Rapid City, South Dakota. She invited me to listen to Corb’s song, S Lazy H, which is a ballad about a man’s experience growing up on a ranch, and his sister’s desire to sell the land for real estate development upon their parents’ deaths, rather than keep it in the family. Being from a ranching community myself, and having the privilege of working with many ranchers in my law practice, this song brought many real-life examples to mind. This song, S Lazy H, is a great musical depiction of a very common scenario that plays out in many ranch families. There is often a child who has put many years of sweat-equity into the ranch, working alongside his or her parents to keep the family business going, and attempting to transition the business down to the next generation. Then, there are often siblings who left the ranch to pursue other things and do not have the same practical or emotional connection to the land. If the parents of these siblings have not done proper estate planning, conflict in probate court is likely. The child working on the ranch (the “on-ranch heir”) will justifiably feel entitled to receive the ranch as an inheritance, while the child who is not working on the ranch (the “off-ranch heir”) will often wish to receive the fair-market value of the ranch and its real property in cash. The on-ranch heir will then often be forced to either sell a portion of the ranch or take on debt to buy out the off-ranch heir’s interest in the land, causing considerable hardship for the ranching operation.
The problem described above and portrayed in S Lazy H is common, but also can be prevented fairly easily. A good estate planning attorney will be able to help the family by talking through their succession plan and suggesting potential solutions.
I could say much more on this topic, but I will leave the storytelling to Corb Lund. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.