Educators to focus on family relations and succession planning to establish successful, forward-thinking farm operations

November 3, 2021
By Laura Wormuth

Estate planning for farms is a difficult subject to navigate -- families must create a plan of succession for the business, understand the legalities of property inheritance, all while dealing with the emotional toll of having difficult conversations with their loved ones. 

University of Maryland Extension specialists have joined forces to create a workshop that not only helps farm families maneuver through the legal portions of estate planning, but also provides tools and techniques to break down the barriers of communication that make these conversations so difficult.

Developed jointly by Alexander Chan, family relations and mental health specialist, and Paul Goeringer, senior faculty specialist in agricultural law, the first Family Communications and Estate Planning workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2021 at the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center located at the Chesapeake College Wye Mills campus, with other upcoming opportunities both regionally and virtually.

“When it comes to these conversations, we all know we have to have them and make a plan, but what should be easy seems so difficult,” said Chan. “Our workshop gives farm families the communication tools they need to start these conversations without it devolving into doomsday scenarios, it helps them break down those emotional walls of communication so that they can develop a plan.”

The first part of the workshop will offer concrete skills that help participants practice seeing things from other people’s perspectives, allowing people to work past the fear of starting that conversation, said Chan.

“We offer techniques to open the door to conversations, allowing everyone to feel heard,” Chan said. “These strategies help people respond without anger, and prepares them to listen and validate one another’s emotions, fears, and needs.”

The second part of the workshop, run by Goeringer, focuses on the legal aspects of estate planning, and the actual steps farm families need to take to assure their succession plan is in place accordingly.

“Our partnership in the workshops will help families start these difficult discussions, allowing them to get to the details and legalities of estate planning,” Goeringer said. “We all know we have to make these plans, but it can be challenging to know where to start, or how to start.”

Future workshops are planned for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2022 which will be held virtually, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2022 at the Carroll County Extension office. To register, go to For more information, contact Alex Chan at or 301-405-4153.