Focus on succession planning for the future of family farms

A member of Shropshire’s leading agricultural law team is urging farmers to focus on their plans for the future ahead of a new initiative to encourage family discussions about succession planning.

Jane Hughes, a Partner with the Agricultural & Rural Services team at FBC Manby Bowdler in Shrewsbury, said formalising arrangements for a successful transition for a family business is vital if farms are to thrive and grow.

She made the comments ahead of ‘Succession Sunday’ on May 29, an initiative by NFU Mutual to encourage families to talk about succession plans.

Research by NFU Mutual revealed only 40 per cent of farmers have an effective plan in place to pass the farm on to the next generation, despite the fact most of them agreed this is vital to safeguard the future of a family farm.

Jane said: “Family farms are like any other business but it can be hard to start those sometimes uncomfortable conversations about planning for the future with your relatives.

“But not talking about it can jeopardise the future of your farm and your family so I welcome this new initiative to get people talking. It is a subject close to my heart as I am a farmer’s wife with a son at Harper Adams University and two daughters.

“It is an eternal problem for farmers trying to ensure that the family farm continues and thrives whilst at the same time making fair provision for non farming siblings. The problem comes in all shapes and sizes and is the eternal conundrum for farming families but there are solutions.”

Jane said legal advice should always be sought as complicated issues such as the division of an estate and property assets, will and tax planning and asset transfers could form part of the discussions.

“Involving a lawyer, particularly one that specialises and understand the issues facing the agricultural community, can provide a clear and impartial view and drive forward those discussions.

“The experience within the FBC Manby Bowdler team means that we can help tailor a succession planning that safeguards the future of the farm while ensuring that existing and future family members are provided for,” she added.

FBC Manby Bowdler’s Agricultural & Rural Services department was the only specialist legal team in Shropshire to receive a top tier ranking in the 2015 Legal 500 guide, which recommends the best law firms and lawyers in the UK.

It is led by Partner Steven Corfield who was the sole solicitor from the West Midlands to be named as a ‘leading individual’ in the agricultural and estates sector of the guide.

Four members of the team - Steven, Sarah Baugh, Tom Devey and Harriet Critchley - are Fellows of the Agricultural Law Association (ALA).

FBC Manby Bowdler has offices in Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth.