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Legal Groundwork
By: Robert Moore, Thursday, July 11th, 2024


As the 2026 deadline for the significant reduction in the federal estate tax exemption approaches, high net worth individuals and estate planning professionals are seeking effective strategies to mitigate potential tax burdens. One possible strategy is the Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT), a tool that can offer substantial tax advantages while providing financial security for spouses. Our latest bulletin, "Using Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts in Estate Plans", delves into SLATs, offering an explanation of their benefits, mechanisms, and considerations.

Understanding SLATs

A SLAT is an irrevocable trust designed to provide income to a beneficiary spouse while removing the principal assets from the donor spouse’s taxable estate. This strategy can significantly reduce estate taxes and ensure financial stability for the beneficiary spouse during their lifetime.  The following are some of the key components and characteristics of SLATs:

  • Irrevocability: Once assets are transferred into a SLAT, the trust cannot be modified or revoked, and the assets cannot be returned to the donor spouse. This permanence is crucial for excluding the assets from the donor spouse's taxable estate.
  • Trustee Management: A trustee, who can be the beneficiary spouse, another individual, or multiple co-trustees, manages the SLAT’s assets. The trustee’s role is to ensure that the assets are used according to the trust’s terms and in the best interests of the beneficiary spouse.
  • Beneficiary Distributions: The beneficiary spouse receives income from the trust during their lifetime, providing ongoing financial support. Upon the beneficiary spouse’s death, the remaining trust assets are distributed to designated beneficiaries, such as the couple’s children, free of estate taxes.

Estate Tax Advantages of SLATs

SLATs offer two primary mechanisms for reducing estate taxes:

  • Exclusion from Taxable Estates: Assets transferred to a SLAT are excluded from both the donor and beneficiary spouses’ taxable estates. This means that any future appreciation of these assets is not subject to estate taxes.
  • Pre-Exemption Reduction Transfers: By transferring assets to a SLAT before the federal estate tax exemption is reduced, individuals can lock in the current higher exemption amount. Any value exceeding the new, lower exemption amount set for 2026 is not "clawed back" into the estate, providing significant tax benefits.

Practical Considerations

While SLATs offer substantial benefits, their effectiveness depends on careful planning and consideration of several factors:

  • Appreciation of Transferred Assets: The strategy is most beneficial when the transferred assets are expected to appreciate in value, as the growth occurs outside the taxable estates.
  • Exceeding the Exemption Amount: SLATs are particularly advantageous for individuals whose wealth exceeds the new estate tax exemption amount. Large transfers made before the reduction can result in significant tax savings.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Like most estate planning strategies, there are both advantages and disadvantages.  The advantages include:

  • Exclusion from Estate: Assets transferred into a SLAT are not included in either spouse’s estate, protecting any appreciation in value from estate taxes.
  • Lifetime Benefits: The beneficiary spouse can receive income and, in some cases, principal from the trust, providing financial support during their lifetime.
  • Asset Protection: SLATs offer a level of protection from creditors, safeguarding the assets from potential claims against either spouse.

Disadvantages to consider are:

  • Irrevocable Nature: The donor spouse loses control over the assets once they are transferred into the SLAT, which can be a drawback for individuals who prefer flexibility.
  • Dependency on Spousal Relationship: The effectiveness of a SLAT is tied to the stability of the marriage. Divorce or the death of the beneficiary spouse can impact the donor spouse’s ability to benefit indirectly from the trust income.
  • No Step-Up in Basis: Heirs do not receive a step-up in tax basis upon inheriting assets from a SLAT, potentially resulting in significant capital gains taxes.


The Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT) is a valuable estate planning tool that can help reduce estate taxes, especially in anticipation of the potential reduction in the federal estate tax exemption in 2026. While a SLAT is not suitable for everyone, it can be effective in specific situations, particularly for individuals with highly appreciating assets or those who can gift assets near the current federal estate tax exemption limit. Implementing a SLAT requires careful planning and close collaboration with legal and tax advisors. As always, consult with an experienced attorney and tax advisor to ensure that a SLAT aligns with your estate planning goals and complies with all relevant laws and regulations.


For more detailed information and practical insights, see the new bulletin, "Using Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts in Estate Plans" available at

Date and location of Cultivating Connections Conference with picture of Ohio farm and farm field.
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, July 09th, 2024

We're building a forum for professionals who meet a critical need: helping farm operations transition to the next generation. The second annual Cultivating Connections Conference is for attorneys, tax professionals, appraisers, financial planners, educators and others who work in farm transition planning. The conference is an opportunity to discuss laws, consider new tools, analyze planning strategies, work through a case study, and meet other professionals. If farm transition planning is what you do, we hope you'll join us for the conference in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 5 and 6. For those who want to attend but can't travel, we also provide a virtual attendance option.

Cultivating Connections Conference highlights include: 

  • Timely topics.  Sessions include preparing for the 2025 tax sunset, utilizing business entity discounts, understanding rural appraisals, drafting prenuptial agreements, divorce impacts on transition planning, implementing the estate plan and estate tax return, communication strategies, organizing client information, and ethical issues in farm transition planning. 

  • Expert speakers. A faculty of experienced attorneys, accountants, academics, and appraisers will share their knowledge and insights. 

  • Problem solving.  A real-life case study will provide an opportunity for collaborative in-depth analysis of practical farm transition planning techniques, estate planning considerations, and tax implications. 

  • Relationships. Attendees can meet new peers, share experiences, and build relationships with a network of other farm transition professionals. 

  • Continuing education credits.  We offer Continuing Legal Education credits for Ohio and Iowa, IRS Continuing Education credits, and assistance applying for credits in other states. 

The University of Cincinnati College of Law is the site of this year's conference, hosted by the Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program. Conference co-sponsors are Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation and the National Agricultural Law Center. The three institutions partnered on the inaugural conference last year, and have since formed the Association of Farm Transition Planners to continue supporting the nation's farm transition planning professionals.

The Cultivating Connections Conference agenda, list of speakers and registration are at  The website also highlights attractions and events for conference attendees, such as the nearby Cincinnati Zoo, Kings Island, the Newport Aquarium, and the Great American Ballpark, where the Cincinnati Reds will host the San Francisco Giants on August 4. Cincinnati is a prime location for those who want to combine farm transition learning with a little summer fun. We hope to see you there!

By: Barry Ward, Monday, July 01st, 2024

Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2024

Barry Ward, Eric Richer, John Barker and Amanda Bennett, OSU Extension

Farming is a complex business and many Ohio farmers utilize outside assistance for specific farm-related work. This option is appealing for tasks requiring specialized equipment or technical expertise. Often, having someone else with specialized tools perform tasks is more cost effective and saves time. Farm work completed by others is often referred to as “custom farm work” or more simply, “custom work”. A “custom rate” is the amount agreed upon by both parties to be paid by the custom work customer to the custom work provider.

Custom rates increased for the majority of field operations in 2024 as compared to surveyed rates in 2022 but the increases did vary by operation. Examples include an increase of 6% for Planting Corn (30 Inch Rows with Fertilizer Application), 5.6% for Harvesting Corn (Combine, Grain Cart, Haul Local to Farm), 21% for Spraying (Self-Propelled Sprayer, Crop Protection Chemicals) and 24% for Field Cultivator.

New field operations in this year’s survey and summary include drone/UAV application and cover crop seeding.

Ohio Farm Custom Rates

The “Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2024” publication reports custom rates based on a statewide survey of 333 farmers, custom operators, farm managers, and landowners conducted in 2024. These rates, except where noted, include the implement and tractor if required, all variable machinery costs such as fuel, oil, lube, twine, etc., and labor for the operation.

Some custom rates published in this study vary widely, possibly influenced by:

  • Type or size of equipment used (e.g. 20-shank chisel plow versus a 9-shank)
  • Size and shape of fields
  • Condition of the crop (for harvesting operations)
  • Skill level of labor
  • Amount of labor needed in relation to the equipment capabilities
  • Cost margin differences for full-time custom operators compared to farmers supplementing current income

Some custom rates reflect discounted rates as the parties involved have family or community relationships. Discounted rates may also occur when the custom work provider is attempting to strengthen a relationship to help secure the custom farmed land in a future purchase, cash rental or other rental agreement. Some providers charge differently because they are simply attempting to spread their fixed costs over more acreage to decrease fixed costs per acre and are willing to forgo complete cost recovery.

Charges may be added if the custom provider considers a job abnormal such as distance from the operator’s base location, difficulty of terrain, amount of product or labor involved with the operation, or other special requirements of the custom work customer.

The data from this survey are intended to show a representative farming industry cost for specified machines and operations in Ohio. As a custom farm work provider, the average rates reported in this publication may not cover your total costs for performing the custom service. As a customer, you may not be able to hire a custom service for the average rate published in this factsheet.

It is recommended that you calculate your own costs carefully before determining the custom rate to charge or pay. It may be helpful to compare the custom rates reported in this fact sheet with machinery costs calculated by economic engineering models available online. The following resources are available to help you calculate and consider the total costs of performing a given machinery operation.

  • Farm Machinery Cost Estimates, available by searching University of Minnesota.
  • Illinois Farm Management Handbook, available by searching University of Illinois farmdoc.
  • Estimating Farm Machinery Costs, available by searching Iowa State University agriculture decision maker and machinery management.

Volatility in diesel price may sometimes cause concern for custom rate providers that seek to cover all or most of the costs associated with custom farm operations. The approximate price of diesel fuel during the survey period (January – April 2024) ranged from $3.20 - $3.50 per gallon for off-road (farm) usage. As a custom farm work provider, if you feel that your rate doesn’t capture your full costs due to fuel price increases you might consider a custom rate increase or fuel surcharge based on the increase in fuel costs.

The complete “Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2024” publication is available online at the Farm Office website:



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Legal Groundwork
By: Robert Moore, Thursday, June 27th, 2024

The landscape of federal estate taxes is poised for significant change in 2026, with the potential reduction of the federal estate tax exemption on the horizon. Currently, the exemption stands at $13.61 million per person for 2024. However, without congressional intervention to extend or make permanent the current exemption, it is expected to drop to around $7 to $7.5 million, adjusted for inflation, in 2026. This looming reduction brings a sense of urgency for farmers and individuals with substantial estates to consider strategic planning to mitigate future tax liabilities.

The OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program has released a comprehensive bulletin, “Gifting to Reduce Federal Estate Taxes”. This bulletin delves into the nuances of gifting as a viable strategy to reduce federal estate taxes. It explores various gifting options, their implications, and the potential benefits and drawbacks associated with each approach.

Types of Gifts and Their Implications

The bulletin categorizes gifts into two primary types: annual exclusion gifts and lifetime credit gifts.

  1. Annual Exclusion Gifts: These are gifts of up to $18,000 per person, per year, to an unlimited number of recipients. This type of gift is not subject to federal gift tax for either the giver (Giftor) or the receiver (Giftee). For example, a grandparent can gift $18,000 to each of their ten grandchildren, amounting to $180,000, without incurring any federal gift tax. This strategy is particularly effective for those slightly over the estate tax exemption threshold, as multiple small gifts can cumulatively reduce the taxable estate.
  2. Lifetime Credit Gifts: These are larger gifts that exceed the annual exclusion limit and count against the federal estate tax exemption. For instance, if a mother gifts a farm worth $1,018,000 to her daughter, the excess amount over $18,000 (i.e., $1,000,000) reduces the mother’s estate tax exemption. While no immediate gift tax is due, the exemption is decreased by the value of the large gift. This strategy can be advantageous for gifting appreciating assets, as future value increases occur outside the Giftor’s estate, effectively reducing potential estate tax liabilities.

Strategic Gifting to Optimize Estate Planning

The bulletin outlines several strategies to optimize estate planning through gifting:

  1. Annual Exclusion Gift Strategy: By consistently making annual exclusion gifts, individuals can gradually reduce their taxable estate. This method is beneficial for those with many potential gift recipients and can effectively lower estate value over time. However, for those with significantly higher estate values, this strategy may have limited impact due to the relatively small amount per gift.
  2. Lifetime Credit Gift Strategy: Making large lifetime credit gifts before the 2026 exemption reduction can be a powerful tool. For example, a high-net-worth individual might gift $13.62 million in 2024, capturing the higher exemption before it potentially decreases. This preemptive action can save heirs millions in future estate taxes, although it requires careful consideration of the Giftor’s financial security post-gifting.
  3. Appreciating Assets: Gifting assets expected to appreciate significantly can maximize the benefit of lifetime credit gifts. By transferring these assets out of the estate, future appreciation is not subject to estate taxes, providing a substantial tax-saving advantage.

Considerations and Potential Drawbacks

While gifting can offer substantial benefits, it is not without potential drawbacks. The bulletin emphasizes the importance of understanding these implications:

  • Loss of Stepped-Up Basis: Gifting eliminates the possibility of a stepped-up basis at death, potentially increasing capital gains tax for the Giftee upon the sale of the gifted asset.
  • Loss of Control and Income: Gifting requires relinquishing control and ownership of the asset, which can be difficult for those reliant on the income generated by the asset.
  • Risk of Mismanagement: The risk of the Giftee mismanaging or losing the gifted asset to creditors is a concern, which can sometimes be mitigated through business entities or irrevocable trusts.


The OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program’s bulletin provides valuable insights into the strategic use of gifting to reduce federal estate taxes. As the potential reduction of the estate tax exemption looms, understanding and implementing these strategies can significantly impact future tax liabilities for farmers and individuals with substantial estates. However, due to the complexity and potential consequences of gifting, it is crucial to seek professional legal and tax advice before taking action.

For a detailed discussion on gifting strategies and their implications, access the full bulletin “Gifting to Reduce Federal Estate Taxes” at


Pile of compost up close
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, June 20th, 2024

Applying Ohio’s “agricultural exemption” from zoning is a constant challenge for county and township zoning officials. A township in Logan County faced that challenge when a landowner claimed its composting facility to be an agricultural land use that is exempt from township zoning authority.  After obtaining a composting permit from the Ohio EPA, the landowner established the compost facility, despite the township’s disagreement that the facility qualified for the “agricultural exemption.” 

When there is uncertainty about the meaning or application of a law such as the Logan County zoning situation, Ohio law allows a county prosecutor to request a legal opinion from the Ohio Attorney General (Ohio AG).  That’s exactly what the Logan County Prosecuting Attorney did, directing four questions to the Ohio AG that relate to how township zoning regulations, the agricultural exemption, and state permitting laws apply to the compost facility.  The Ohio AG’s resulting opinion offers helpful guidance for rural zoning officials who face the challenge of understanding whether a land use is an agricultural land use that is exempt from zoning. It also provides an explanation of the relationship between state issued permits and local zoning authority.

Here’s a summary of the Ohio AG’s response to the questions the Logan County prosecutor raised.

1. Is a compost facility considered “agriculture” that is exempt from township zoning under the agricultural exemption, and if not, is it subject to township zoning?  

Logan County didn’t receive a definitive answer to this question.  Instead, the Ohio AG explained that it does not have the authority to answer a question of fact.  It is the township zoning officials who must determine whether land is “agriculture” for purposes of the agricultural exemption, based upon the facts of the specific situation.  In doing so, the township may exercise its discretion and examine any factors necessary and relevant to making its decision, including the nature and character of all activities conducted on the land as well as activities to prepare an agricultural product that are not conducted on the land at issue, and the township’s decision is subject to judicial review.

The Ohio AG did, however, provide a useful summary of the agricultural exemption provisions in Ohio Revised Code sections 519.01 and 519.21, which apply to townships, as follows: 

  • ORC 519.01 provides a definition of “agriculture” as “farming; ranching; algaculture meaning the farming of algae; aquaculture; apiculture; horticulture; viticulture; animal husbandry, including, but not limited to, the care and raising of livestock, equine, and fur-bearing animals; poultry husbandry and the production of poultry and poultry products; dairy production; the production of field crops, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, ornamental shrubs, ornamental trees, flowers, sod, or mushrooms; timber; pasturage; any combination of the foregoing; and the processing, drying, storage, and marketing of agricultural products when those activities are conducted in conjunction with, but are secondary to, such husbandry or production.” 
  • The opinion explained that the terms “in conjunction with” and “secondary to” in the emphasized language above carry common meanings: “in conjunction with” means “occurring together” and “secondary to” means “of second rank, importance or value.” Because “composting” is not specifically listed in the agriculture definition, it must be done “in conjunction with” and “secondary to” the production of the agricultural products used for the composting.  The Ohio AG stated that, “If the composting facility is located on land that does not engage in agri-cultural activity, composts agricultural products that are not produced on its premises, or does not use the compost on its premises, then the composting facility is likely not “agriculture” pursuant to R.C. 519.01.”
  • ORC 519.21(A) contains the limitation on power that is the agricultural exemption:  “the Revised Code confers no power on any township zoning commission, board of township trustees, or board of zoning appeals to prohibit the use of any land for agricultural purposes or the construction or use of buildings or structures incident to the use for agricultural purposes of the land on which such buildings or structures are located . . . and no zoning certificate shall be required for any such building or structure.” 
  • The Ohio AG explained that taken together, ORC 519.01 and ORC 519.21(A) require that land on which the secondary agricultural activities of processing, drying, storage, and marketing of agricultural products occurs or land on which a building or structure is located must “be primarily used for an agricultural purpose to qualify for an exemption from the township zoning resolutions.” Conversely, agricultural activities that are merely an accommodation to a business are not “agriculture” under ORC 519.01 and could be regulated as a commercial use under township zoning regulations.

2. Can township zoning resolutions regulate composting facilities by considering such as a “conditional use” if the zoning resolution does not explicitly address composting as a permitted or conditional use? 

A simple explanation by the Ohio AG answered this question.  According to Ohio law, A township may only regulate a non-agriculture composting facility as a conditional use if the township zoning resolution includes composting or solid waste facilities as permitted conditional uses in the applicable zoning district.

3. What recourse does a township have if a composting facility claims to be exempt from zoning due to the agricultural exemption, even though composting is not included in the agricultural exemption statute? 

For a violation of a zoning resolution or a question regarding the interpretation of a township zoning resolution, the Ohio AG explained that a township may choose to utilize the remedies outlined in ORC 519.23 and ORC 519.24.  Those remedies include a criminal cause of action and fines or an action to enjoin or abate a violation.

4. Does a township have any recourse if the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) issues a permit for a composting facility when a property owner failed to secure a local zoning permit?

In response to this question, the Ohio AG explained that while some laws do preempt local authority over a land use, the state solid waste laws do not “supersede the authority of a township to enact zoning regulations.”  This means that a township is not required to permit a facility simply because the Ohio EPA issues a permit for it. The Ohio AG concluded that if a township determines that a composting facility is not “agriculture” and not exempt from zoning under the agricultural exemption, that facility then would be subject to the township zoning regulations and Ohio EPA composting facility regulations.

Read Ohio Attorney General Opinion No. 2024-004 in the Opinions Database on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

Header of tax return form.
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, June 14th, 2024

Income Tax Schools at The Ohio State University is excited to announce our dates and locations for our two-day, in-person tax schools, our 4-part webinar, introduction to tax preparation course, ethics webinar, and ag tax issues webinar. 

Our two-day, in-person tax schools and 4-part webinar will cover the following topics: 

  • Trusts and Estates
  • Related Party Issues
  • Limited Liability Company Issues 
  • Business Entity Tax Issues 
  • IRS Issues 
  • Agricultural and Natural Resource Tax Issues
  • Business Tax Issues
  • Rental Activities 
  • Individual Tax Issues 
  • New and Expiring Legislation
  • International Tax Issues 
  • Rulings and Cases

Our Agricultural Tax focused webinar will focus on: 

  • Business Entity Tax Issues: Split Interest Purchases, Partnership Issues
  • Disaster Tax Issues: Casualty Gains, Losses, Deferral, Demolition, Land Clearing, Etc. 
  • Expensing and Depreciation, with a Deep Dive on Section 179
  • Retirement Issues: Self-employment Tax/Social Security Issues,Review of Self-employment Tax Connection to Social Security, and Retirement Plan Options for Farmers. 
  • Lease v. Purchase, Capital Leases on the Farm
  • Tax Planning for Lean Years
  • Conservation Issues
  • Selling and Trading Property

Make sure to mark your calendars! A list of dates and locations can be found below: 

2024 Tax Schools Save the Date Graphic

Registration is not yet open! We hope to launch registration for the fall tax schools in early July. You can keep up to date with all the latest tax school information by visiting:

Registration for our summer course "An Overview of Small Businessses" is OPEN. You can find more information and register for the summer tax school by following:

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Barry Ward ( or Jeff Lewis ( We look forward to seeing you! 

Legal Groundwork
By: Robert Moore, Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

Those familiar with serving as an executor or navigating probate understand the daunting nature of the task. The process often entails numerous filings and can extend over several months or even years. Consequently, seeking legal counsel is frequently necessary to navigate this complex procedure and ensure the estate is managed appropriately. One common question concerning the engagement of attorneys for probate concerns their fees: what are their charges?

The Ohio Revised Code allows attorneys to receive "reasonable fees" for their services in aiding with estate matters. However, Ohio law doesn't offer a specific definition of what constitutes reasonable fees, nor does it prescribe a straightforward formula for determining them. Ultimately, it falls upon the county probate judge to decide whether an attorney's fees are reasonable for overseeing estate administration. Given the potentially burdensome task of assessing fees for each estate, many county probate courts set standardized rates that estate attorneys can charge, thereby streamlining the process.

The probate rates vary from county to county but generally range from 1% - 5% of the total value of the estate.  As an example, the following are the probate rates for Brown County, Ohio:

            For all personal property:

                        5.5% on the first $50,0000;

                        4.5% for $50,000 - $100,000;

                        3.5% for $100,000 - $400,000;

                        2.0% above $400,000.

            For real estate:

                        1% for all real estate transferred to a spouse;

                        2% on the first $200,000 transferred to a non-spouse;

                        1% over $200,000 transferred to a non-spouse.

Let's examine the potential probate fees for a medium-sized farm located in Brown County. This farm comprises $1,000,000 worth of real estate, $500,000 of machinery, $300,000 in crops/livestock, and $200,000 in savings/investments. Under these circumstances, an attorney could charge up to $37,500 in legal fees, which would be automatically approved by the probate court.

Probate fees work well for smaller/simpler estates. In fact, attorneys are sometimes justified in asking for more than the county rates to cover their fees. However, for farm estates, especially with significant real estate, the county probate rates can cause permissible legal fees to become very high.  For example, a large farm estate in Brown County with $5 million of land and $2 million of equipment/crops/livestock would result in permissible legal fees of $97,500.

To tackle the issue of high legal fees in farm estates, two strategies can be employed. Firstly, opting out of using the county rates to determine legal fees can be beneficial. The county rates represent the maximum fees that the court will approve but are not obligatory for attorneys to charge. For farm estates, billing on an hourly basis often leads to substantially lower legal fees compared to using the county rates. Therefore, when engaging an attorney for estate assistance, inquire about their estimated fees based on both the county rates and an hourly basis. If the hourly rate proves to be less expensive than the county rates, simply proceed with hiring the attorney based on their hourly rate. It's crucial to recognize that you always retain the option to request an attorney to bill on an hourly basis instead of using the county rates.

The second option is to avoid probate.  The same $5 million dollars of land that can cost $50,000 to probate can be transferred for a few hundred dollars using a transfer on death affidavit.  It is relatively easy to transfer any titled asset outside of probate.  Bank accounts, investments, vehicles and business entities can all be transferred using transfer on death or payable on death designations.  Especially for financial accounts, an attorney may not even be needed to transfer the asset to the beneficiaries.  Let’s consider this point using an example:

Farmer owns $5 million of land and $2 million of equipment and crops in Brown County, Ohio.  As already provided above, county probate rates would allow legal fees for probating the estate to be up to $97,500.  Before death, Farmer executes a transfer on death affidavit transferring his land at death to his children.  Farmer also sets up a single-member LLC for his farming operation and transfers his equipment and crops into the LLC.  He then makes his LLC ownership transfer on death to his children.  Now, when Farmer dies, his $7 million of assets can be transferred outside of probate with only a minimal amount of paperwork needed. 

By spending perhaps a few thousand dollars on a transfer on death affidavit, an LLC and minor paperwork at death, Farmer can save his heirs up to $97,500.  Avoiding probate is a great way to minimize legal fees for an estate. For more information on avoiding probate, see the Legal Tools for Avoiding Probate bulletin available at

Farm estates are not obligated to adhere to the county probate rates. In fact, it's possible to title many, if not all, assets in a manner that bypasses probate altogether. For assets that do undergo probate, it's advisable to inquire with the estate attorney about the fees based on both the county rates and an hourly rate. While some extensive and intricate farm estates may still incur substantial legal fees even if probate is avoided and hourly rates are applied, for many farm estates, the legal fees could be significantly lower than those dictated by the county rates.

Tax guide for small businesses.
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, June 07th, 2024

Summer Tax School 2024
Income Tax Schools at The Ohio State University Announces A Summer Tax School "Overview of Small Businesses”
Barry Ward & Jeff Lewis, OSU Income Tax Schools

An Overview of Small Businesses is the focus of the upcoming Summer Tax School Webinar featured by Income Tax Schools at The Ohio State University. Long-time instructor, John Lawrence, will be the primary instructor for this webinar.

This webinar is scheduled for July 31st and registration is now open. The registration page can be accessed at:

This Summer Tax School is designed to help tax professionals learn about tax issues related to:

  • Selection and formation of a business entity
  • Operation of the business entity
  • Business entity transition and estate planning issues
  • Relevant updates on federal tax law issues 

By the end of this course, participants will have a thorough understanding of how to navigate the complex tax landscape, make informed decisions that optimize tax outcomes, and ensure the long-term success and sustainability of their businesses.

Webinar Agenda for July 31st:

9:00 Webinar room opens

9:20 Welcome and introductions

9:30 Session 1: Selection and Formation of the Business Entity: Tax Laws, Regulations, and Implications. 

10:50 Break

11:00 Session 2: Business Entity Operation: Tax Planning for the Present. 

Noon Lunch break

12:45 Session 3: Business Entity Transition and Estate Planning: Tax Planning for the Future. 

1:45 Break

1:55 Session 4: Update on State and Federal Tax Law Rules and Regulations for Small Businesses. 

2:50 Webinar concludes

Continuing Educations Credit Hours: 5
Continuing Legal Education Hours: 4

Registration cost is $200 and includes 5 hours of Continuing Education (CPE) and 4 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE).  Registration information and the online registration portal can be found online at:

Participants may contact Barry Ward at 614-688-3959, or Jeff Lewis at 614-292-2433, for more information.

2024 Summer Tax School informational flyer.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, June 05th, 2024

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA) is asking the agricultural community to weigh in on a new program aimed at the voluntary carbon market in the U.S.  The agency has published a Request for Information seeking input on what the agency should consider in developing rules for the new “Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program.”  The purpose of the new program, created by the passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act last year, is to facilitate farmer, rancher, and private forest landowner participation in voluntary carbon markets by: (1) publishing a list of widely accepted protocols designed to ensure consistency, reliability, effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency of voluntary credit markets; (2) publishing descriptions of widely accepted qualifications possessed by covered entities that provide technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners; (3) publishing a list of qualified technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers; and (4) providing information to assist farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in accessing voluntary credit markets.

Farmers haven’t engaged in the voluntary carbon market to the extent some predicted several years ago, when “carbon agreements” began circulating through the agricultural community.  A carbon agreement is a private  contract that compensates a farmer for adopting practices that sequester carbon, with one ton of sequestered carbon creating a “carbon credit.”  Those who pay farmers for the carbon credits can retain the credits or trade the credits through a carbon market.  The owner of the carbon credits can use the credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of reducing their “carbon footprint.”

According to USDA Secretary Vilsack, “high-integrity voluntary carbon markets offer a promising tool to create new revenue streams for producers and achieve greenhouse gas reductions from the agriculture and forest sectors.  However, a variety of barriers have hindered agriculture’s participation in voluntary carbon markets and we are seeking to change that by establishing a new Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program.”  In its Request for Information, the agency seeks responses to eight questions:

Question 1: How should USDA define the terms “consistency,” “reliability,” “effectiveness,” “efficiency,” and “transparency” (see 7 U.S.C. 6712(c)(1)(A)) for use in protocol evaluation?

Question 2: What metrics or standards should USDA use to evaluate a protocol's alignment with each of the five criteria to be defined in Question 1? What should USDA consider as minimum criteria for a protocol to qualify for listing under the Program?

Question 3: In general, after a new protocol is published, how long does it take for a project to use the protocol and be issued credits ( i.e., what is the lag time between protocol publication and first credit generation)?

Question 4: Which protocol(s) for generating voluntary carbon credits from agriculture and forestry projects should USDA evaluate for listing through the Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program?

Question 5: Additional information for any protocol(s) identified under Question 4.

Question 6: How should USDA evaluate technical assistance providers (TAP)? What should be the minimum qualifications, certifications, and/or expertise for a TAP to qualify for listing under the Program?

Question 7: Should the qualifications and/or registration process be different for entities and individuals that seek to register as a TAP?

Question 8: What should be the minimum qualifications and expertise for a third-party verifier to qualify for registration under the Program?

The agency will accept comments on the questions until June 28, 2024.

Part of a broader policy initiative

USDA announced the Request for Information on the same day that Secretary Vilsack, Energy Secretary Granholm, and Treasury Secretary Yellen, published a Joint Statement of Policy and Principles for Voluntary Carbon Markets, which outlines seven principles for the government’s approach to advancing “high-integrity voluntary credit markets,” summarized in a White House Fact Sheet:

  1. Carbon credits and the activities that generate them should meet credible atmospheric integrity standards and represent real decarbonization.
  2. Credit-generating activities should avoid environmental and social harm and should, where applicable, support co-benefits and transparent and inclusive benefits-sharing.
  3. Corporate buyers that use credits should prioritize measurable emissions reductions within their own value chains.
  4. Credit users should publicly disclose the nature of purchased and retired credits.
  5. Public claims by credit users should accurately reflect the climate impact of retired credits and should only rely on credits that meet high integrity standards.
  6. Market participants should contribute to efforts that improve market integrity.
  7. Policymakers and market participants should facilitate efficient market participation and seek to lower transaction costs.

The recent USDA announcements once again suggest that there are many issues for farmers considering engaging in the carbon market.  Caution is usually warranted when dealing with a new, developing market.  For farmers who do want to enter into the carbon market, be sure to refer to our posts on Carbon as a commodity for agriculture? and Considering carbon farming? Take time to understand carbon agreements.  The Farmers Legal Action Group also has an excellent publication on Farmers Guide to Carbon Market Contracts in Minnesota, also useful for Ohio farmers.


Department of Labor Website
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, May 31st, 2024

With Memorial Day behind us, the unofficial start of summer is here, and we are back to bring you another edition of the Ag Law Harvest. In this Harvest we discuss OSHA’s proposed workplace heat hazard standards, DOL’s new H-2A Farmworker rule, an interesting income tax credit in Colorado, and a proposal to limit Ohio property tax increases. 

OSHA Advances Proposed Rule to Mitigate Workplace Heat Hazards.  
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced that it is advancing a proposed rule to mitigate workplace heat hazards, following unanimous approval from an advisory committee. The rule aims to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and fatalities, particularly in agriculture. While OSHA works to finalize the proposed rule, OSHA “continues to direct significant existing outreach and enforcement resources to educate employers and workers and hold businesses accountable for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause, 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1) and other applicable regulations.” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker explained that as OSHA moves through the regulatory process, “OSHA will use all of its existing tools to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect workers from known hazards such as heat. . .” Since 2022, OSHA's National Emphasis Program has conducted nearly 5,000 inspections to proactively address heat-related hazards in workplaces with high heat exposure. The agency prioritizes inspections in agricultural industries employing temporary H-2A workers, who face unique vulnerabilities. Employers are reminded that they are legally required to protect workers from heat exposure by providing cool water, breaks, shade, and acclimatization periods for new or returning workers. Training for both workers and managers on heat illness prevention is also essential.

Department of Labor Finalizes and Publishes Rule Enhancing Protections for H-2A Farmworkers. 
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a final rule to strengthen protections for H-2A farmworkers. The new rule titled “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States” includes the following provisions: 

  • Adding new protections for worker self-advocacy: The final rule enhances worker advocacy by expanding anti-retaliation protections and allowing self-organization and concerted activities. Workers can decline attending employer-led meetings that discourage union participation. The rule permits workers to consult legal and other key service providers and meet them in employer-furnished housing. Additionally, workers can invite guests, including labor organizations, to their employer-provided housing.
  • Clarifying “for cause” termination: The final rule clarifies that a worker is not “terminated for cause” unless the worker is terminated for failure to comply with an employer’s policies or fails to adequately perform job duties in accordance with reasonable expectations based on criteria listed in the job offer. Additionally, the rule identifies five conditions that must be met in order to ensure that disciplinary and/or termination processes are justified and reasonable: These five conditions are: (1) the worker has been informed, in a language understood by the worker, of the policy, rule, or performance expectation; (2) compliance with the policy, rule, or performance expectation is within the worker’s control; (3) the policy, rule, or performance expectation is reasonable and applied consistently to H-2A workers and workers in corresponding employment; (4) the employer undertakes a fair and objective investigation into the job performance or misconduct; and (5) the employer corrects the worker’s performance or behavior using progressive discipline. 
  • Seat Belts: Any employer provided transportation must have seat belts if the vehicle was manufactured with seat belts. All passengers and the driver must be wearing seat belts before the vehicle can be driven. 
  • Ensuring timely wage changes for H-2A workers:  The final rule establishes that the effective date of updated adverse effect wage rates is the date of publication in the Federal Register. 
  • Passport Withholding: The final rule prohibits an employer from holding or confiscating a worker’s passport, visa, or other immigration or government identification documents. An employer may, however, hold a worker’s passport for safekeeping only if: (1) the worker voluntarily requests that the employer keep the documents safe; (2) the employer returns the documents to the worker immediately upon their request; (3) the employer did not direct the worker to submit the request; and (4) the worker states, in writing, that the three conditions listed above have been met. 

The final rule is effective on June 28, 2024. However, the DOL has made it clear that H-2A applications filed before August 28, 2024, will be subject to the current applicable federal regulations. Applications submitted on or after August 29, 2024, will be subject to the new rule. For more information, visit the DOL’s “H-2A Employer’s Guide to the Final Rule ‘Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States.’

Colorado Establishes State Income Tax Credit for Qualified Agricultural Stewardship Practices. 
Beginning in 2026 Colorado farmers and ranchers will be able to qualify for an income tax credit for actively engaging in conversation stewardship practices. The newly enacted legislation creates three different tiers of income tax credits. 

  • Tier 1: A state income tax credit equal to at least $5 and no more than $75 per acre of land covered by one qualified stewardship practice, up to a maximum of $150,000 per tax year. 
  • Tier 2: A state income tax credit equal to at least $10 and no more than $100 per acre of land covered by two qualified stewardship practices, up to a maximum of $200,000 per tax year.
  • Tier 3: A state income tax credit equal to at least $15 and no more than $150 per acre of land covered by at least three qualified stewardship practices, up to a maximum of $300,000 per tax year. 

However, only $3 million worth of tax credits can be issued in one tax year. Any claims for the tax credit beyond the $3 million dollars are placed on a waitlist in the order submitted and a certificate will be issued for use of the agricultural stewardship credit in the next income tax year. No more than $2 million in claims shall be placed on the waitlist in any given calendar year. Additionally, only one tax credit certificate may be issued per qualified taxpayer in a calendar year, and the taxpayer can only claim the credit for up to three income tax years. 

Ohio House of Representatives Proposes Joint Resolution to Limit Property Tax Increases for Ohio Property Owners. 
The Ohio House of Representatives have proposed to enact a new section in Article I of Ohio’s Constitution. Section 23 would limit property tax increases on Ohioans. Under the proposed change, the amount of real property taxes levied on a parcel of property cannot exceed the amount of tax levied on that parcel in the preceding year plus the rate of inflation or four percent, whichever is lower. There are some exceptions that allow a one-time increase in property tax liability in excess of the four percent limit. The exceptions include: (1) when a parcel is divided; (2) the expiration of a tax exemption, abatement, or credit that applied to the parcel in the preceding year; or (3) when a building is completed or significantly improved and is added to the tax list on the parcel. We will continue to closely monitor how the proposed resolution fares in committee and beyond. If the resolution passes both chambers of the Ohio Legislature, the proposed change would be voted on in the November 5, 2024, election.