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Transition Planning: What’s the Lawyer’s Role?

What is the proper role of the lawyer in transition planning? A good legal advisor can be a great asset, in addition to a solid team of other professionals.

Many potential clients ask me, what is the lawyer’s role in farm transition and succession planning? It’s a good question, and here are some helpful things to think about.

1. Build a Team of Advisors

Like a well functioning machine, every one of your transition advisors has a special role to play in the process. Typically, the players on your team would include a lawyer, accountant, investment advisor and banker. Each of these advisors has a different role based on their professional credentials and experience. If you’re missing one piece of the puzzle, your transition machine won’t run as effectively or perhaps not at all.

2. Lawyers aren’t Accountants and Accountants aren’t Lawyers

A common question is: can’t I just talk to my accountant? While accounting professionals are an essential part of any transition plan, there are certain aspects of a transaction or transition plan that would typically be handled by a lawyer. These include an analysis of your legal rights and obligations, drafting of wills, personal directives and powers of attorney, applications for probate or grant of administration for estates, conducting real estate transactions including conveyancing, drafting commercial contracts and agreements, and documenting and implementing corporate reorganizations as a part of the transition plan (i.e. “putting things to paper”).

In any event, it is vital that your accounting and legal advisors work together seamlessly and this will give you the most bang for your buck in transition planning.

3. What Does a Lawyer Do Anyway?

Generally speaking, lawyers advise as to your “legal rights and obligations”. While this can include drafting documents and implementing transactions, it can also include interpreting the law and giving you advice as to potential pitfalls and traps in your transition plan in different areas of law. Think of a lawyer as an "interpreter" or "advisor" helping you understand the law as you move towards a stated objective. It is also important to ask your lawyer what they can and cannot do, as most lawyers have different areas or levels of experience or competence.

While many believe that lawyers get involved to "tie up loose ends", having a good lawyer on your team to explain legal hurdles along the way can be a helpful addition to contribute to a well executed transition process.

Our team at Dalke Law Office are here to assist you with your farm transition journey. We're passionate about agriculture and ready to lend a hand where we can. For assistance, please call 403-398-2496 or email for an initial consultation.

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