Case #221

Written by Michael Baron on . Posted in General Estate Planning, Life Estate, Long-Term Care, Planning Documents

Emil and Diana Dewald came to see me in 1998 – almost twenty years ago. Like most people, Emil and Diana had no clear plan for their family farm when they first came in other than they wanted to make certain their son, Jeff, got the opportunity to farm.

“The other children certainly helped” said Diana “But Jeff is the one who has stayed with us. His dream is to run the family farm and turn it into an organic farm as we don’t have a lot of land and that’s his best chance of profit”.

Emil said “We’d like to design something whereby if Jeff stays with us on the family farm, he would have to pay less and less to the other children for their share of the land. I think it would be fair if he got a percentage of the family farm for each year he continues to work with us!”

After much discussion with Emil, Diana and Jeff, they came to an agreement that Jeff would receive a reduced price on the farm for every year he stayed with the family farm. It was one of the first ‘years of service’ estate plans I had ever worked on and still remains a stable of what I do today. We took it to an attorney and had him draft it into a will.

Jeff came to me later and told me “Health issues have became a concern for Dad and Mom (Emil and Diana) and we need to do something more to protect the land”.

The will then morphed into a life estate deed to protect the property from possible long-term care. However, the provisions on the original will stayed with the life estate deed and all the children agreed to those provisions by signing they understood there were conditions, as per the attorney’s instructions.

Diana’s health took a sudden turn for the worst and she died leaving Emil by himself. Unbeknownst to many people was that Diana was helping Emil who had begun showing signs of dementia.

After Diana’s death, Jeff and his wife Janet and the rest of the family tried to help Emil as best as they could. For a time they were able to take care of him at home but eventually Emil needed to enter a long-term care facility.

Because Jeff had stayed on top of the ongoing process of estate planning, the long-term care costs did not cause the loss of the family farm. Jeff was constantly checking and calling to make certain things had been done right and understood the concept ‘estate planning is a journey – not a one-time thing’.

As situations changed and evolved, Jeff made certain he – and his parent’s estate plan – changed and evolved with it.

Emil lived for a few years in the long-term care facility and Jeff spent a lot of time dealing with both the facility and Medicaid to make certain Emil received the best possible care. He had both power of attorney and power of attorney for health care for both of his parents and these papers proved invaluable in the process of taking care of his parents.

Many people overlook the fact their power of attorney for financial and for health care needs to be done and updated as needed so the best possible candidates are in position to help when time comes.

Emil died and Jeff – who had always insured that he would be able to buy out his siblings – was able to do just that. His dream of turning the family farm into an organic farm has also been realized as he finally owned the land in its entirety and was able to move forward the way he had hoped.

Jeff Dewald did everything right through a very difficult time period with his parents and the farm economy. He stuck with it through more down times than up but his determination and perseverance paid off. Unfortunately, at the time he was successful in reaching his goals, God had another plan for him and I write this with a sad heart. Jeff died last week of esophageal cancer at the age of fifty-four.

“Keeping the Family Farm in the Family”
Great Plains Diversified Services, Inc.
1424 W. Century Ave., Suite 208
Bismarck, ND 58503-0917
Telephone: 701-255-4079
Fax: 701-255-6106
Toll Free: 1-800-373-4078

Michael Baron is not an attorney. Information given through written, verbal, or electronic means by Michael Baron or Great Plains Diversified Services, Inc. is not to be construed as legal advice. An attorney, tax advisor, or other registered advisor is needed for the completion of the estate planning process. An attorney must be consulted for legal advice and the drafting of legal documents.