O’Neill highlights the importance of Succession Planning
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has highlighted to farmers that the lack of a Will can lead to the issue of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) being frozen.
Single Farm Payment is claimed by approximately 38,000 farm business across the north. The death, or mental incapacity of the head of holding where no Will has been made can cause significant delays in receiving payment of entitlements such as the SFP and also increase anxiety in an already difficult situation.
In addition, the introduction of SFP has resulted in potential difficulties with Wills made before 2003. Wills which were made before SFP was introduced do not specifically mention SFP or entitlement to SFP. There is, therefore, the potential for this asset to be distributed with the residue of the estate rather than pass to the person who inherits the farm business.
Minister O’Neill said: “There are currently around 250 farm businesses where the payment of Single Farm Payment has been frozen due to outstanding Grant of Probate. This figure is aggregated over a number of years and reflects the fact that although a minimum of six months usually elapses between the time of death and the clearance of probate, it is not uncommon for periods of time well in excess of this to be associated with the process. Such circumstances can lead to hardship for farm families but having a Will in place can help avoid unnecessary delays with payment.
“During this period when farmers are completing their applications for Single Farm Payment, I would strongly encourage farm families to consider the issue of succession planning and to take advantage of a number of initiatives which are currently available to help farm families consider when making a Will.”
The Minister continued: “I have provided funding to the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster to promote succession planning to their members and their families. In addition, it is one of the issues that mentors frequently discuss with farm family members participating on the Farm Family Options Mentoring Programme. Through this programme, up to £250 can be made available towards the cost of legal and professional advice. My Department has also produced a leaflet entitled 'Succession Planning for Farmers' which is available on the DARD website as well as in hard copy from local DARD Direct offices.”
The Farm Family Options Mentoring Programme, which is delivered as part of the Rural Development Programme by Countryside Agri-Rural Partnership, provides free, one to one, independent and confidential support including information on succession planning to farm families. This support is available to all farm families and mentors will visit families in their own homes at a time which suits them.