Most people recognize that some form or manner of estate planning is important so that when a person or family member dies their wishes are carried out in an orderly manner. While we often think of things such as bank accounts, homes, land and other material things that are mentioned in an estate plan, how often do we think of things like a livestock brand?
Dr. Marsha Goetting, long-time MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist, has recently distributed a MontGuide that deals with the question of livestock brands and how they figure into estate planning. There are multiple ways of owning a brand, either through sole ownership, joint tenancy, tenants in common, in the name of a business entity or in the name of an estate or trust. Each of these brand ownership ways can be explored in greater detail with examples too large for one single article. For that reason, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this MontGuide at your local county Extension office or download it free from www.msuextension.org.
There are some things to consider when owning a brand though that I hope will help you through the estate planning process. First, who are the owners of the brand? You may want to review your brand certificate to be sure the brand is recorded as you want. If the brand is owned by more than one person, are the co-owners joint tenants with right of survivorship or tenants in common. With this and other options, I would encourage you to visit with an attorney so that you are choosing what you really intend for you and your family. If an “or” separates the names of owners on the brand certificate, the brand generally is owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship unless otherwise indicated. If an “and” separates the names of owners on the brand certificate, the brand generally is owned as tenants in common unless otherwise indicated, with the presumption that each co-owner owns an equal interest. If your brand certificate is an old one that says “and/or,” seek the advice of your attorney to clarify ownership.
The third question to ask is, whom do you want to own the brand upon your death? This is at the root of all the estate planning you’ll ever do. The last question to address is, when you transfer a brand, either by gift or will, do you want to distinguish between ownership of the brand and ownership of the livestock bearing the brand? If so, you need to make your intent clear and seek the advice of an attorney.
Determine whether current ownership of your brand is consistent with your estate planning wishes. If not, correct those inconsistencies. Please take the time now to be prepared for the future and your specific estate planning situations.