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During a recent Wyoming Stock Growers Association workshop on estate transfer, a panel of “next-generation” ranchers, all from Wyoming, delivered their perspectives on how their estate transfers proceeded.
Kit West’s family has ranched since the 1940s, and moved to Wyoming in 1987. They run a predominantly Red Angus cow-calf, yearling, stocker and heifer-development operation on 25,000 acres north of Chugwater. Five families are involved in the operation, which supports 1,800 pairs and yearlings.
“When I came back in the mid 1990s, my dad and I butted heads a lot,” West says. “I’m a management person who looks at books and money and how we can make things run easier; my dad just goes and does it, and doesn’t consider if it’s easy or hard.
“The whole family never really planned any type of transition; it just happened. About 10 years ago, I started saying we needed a transition plan. My sister and her husband were coming on, and we made room in the partnership.
“I pushed it, but my dad wasn’t ready to seriously discuss it. That went on for 10-12 years. But, two years ago, we were doctoring yearlings, and Dad roped a yearling. The horse went one way, the yearling went the other, and Dad went flying. He had a wreck and was laying there on the ground, trying to catch his breath, and something happened.
“It dawned on him that things needed to change, I guess. So, 12 months later, with the new gifting laws, we’d divided up the ranch. My sister got half, and I got the other half. She got the cows, but I got the land free and clear. My dad and I no longer butt heads, and we work together now better than we ever did before,” he says.