17 Jul, 2023

Life happens but succession can be planned

How one farmer’s life-altering encounter with a bull fast-tracked his succession plans.

November 29th 2019 is a day that Clive Gillespie will never forget. An otherwise humdrum day while testing cattle for TB on his Tipperary farm ended with being airlifted to Limerick hospital with a series of injuries that included six broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, kidney failure, broken bones – and even heart failure as a result of the trauma to his system.

 Clive acknowledges that things often have to be done quickly on a farm, but stresses that he always took extreme precautions when working around animals. This was particularly true when working close to the offending bull, even though it was a normally very docile animal.

“One moment, I was facing his rear-end, but in no more than a second or two, he was looming over me, and I think that he hit me five times in all, though my memories of the event are shaky, to say the least.”

Clive’s return to full health has been slow and complicated by heart issues. Thankfully he’s now back in full harness, albeit by his own admission, he’s slower and less able for a full workload than before the accident.

Prior to the accident, there was a certain understanding of how succession would work, but this was accelerated hugely due to the life-changing injuries that Clive suffered. His son Barry was well advanced in agricultural studies and was lining up as an eventual successor for when Clive decided to retire or step back a little.

The farm had been converted into a limited company in 2018, with Clive and his wife, Meryl, as the directors. Barry is now being added to the directors and will play a pivotal role in the everyday management of the farm. With succession planning well underway, Barry will eventually take over the farm when the time is right for Clive to retire.

As part of the changeover to a limited company, Clive was advised by ifac to address the issue of life cover, and he laughs ruefully at how close he came to making a claim on his policy. “The life cover would have paid off the director’s loans of around €100,000 and also left a tidy lump sum for the family. What it didn’t cover, of course, was support for me if I’d been left permanently in a wheelchair. The bottom line is that you should really go deep into the terms and conditions of any cover that you take out." 

“Even more important is the fact that you need to have a comprehensive Will made that sets out what you want to happen when you’re no longer around. In my own case, I needed to be conscious of the needs of my wife, Meryl, my two adult daughters and Barry. And if your circumstances should change, make sure that you update the will to reflect it.”

Our Head of Tax, Marty Murphy, seconds Clive’s sentiment, encouraging all business owners, including farmers, to have a comprehensive Succession Plan in place. It is never too early to start your succession journey and put plans in motion. 

With Farm Safety Week taking place from 17th – 21st July, Marty also highlights that a range of safety equipment now qualifies for accelerated capital allowances with the relief enhanced under changes to the Finance Act 2023.