One of the most important things you can do to protect your ranch is to have a solid, comprehensive estate plan in place. After all, when you work on a property with heavy equipment and large animals, safety is always a risk. If something should happen to you, having an estate plan will ensure that the property, equipment and capital investments you've made will be kept in the family or distributed where you want them. Without an estate plan, your land and cattle could end up in probate. Here are a few tips to help you protect your ranch and your family's financial investment.

Don't Put it Off

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to estate planning, particularly for a ranch or farm, is that the sooner you get the process started, the sooner you know that your property and cattle are protected. It takes time to go through the assessment of the property and get the paperwork filed, so it's in your best interest to get things going as soon as you can.

Create a Thorough Financial Inventory

Although you may assume that your estate planning documents are all you need to determine what's going to happen to all of your assets, the truth is that there are some assets that will be distributed based on the provisions for the asset itself. For example, your life insurance policies, IRAs, certificates of deposit and bank accounts are distributed according to the beneficiary documents you provide to the account agency.

Create a complete financial inventory for your bank accounts, investments and insurance. Provide the inventory to the attorney that creates your estate plan. That ensures that those accounts are handled properly as well.

Appreciate the Importance of Communication

When you establish an estate plan, take the time to communicate it to your family. Tell them not only what your estate plan consists of, but also who you've worked with. By communicating your plan to your loved ones, you can be sure that the person you intend to have control of the ranch is not only aware of the upcoming responsibility but also prepared to take it on.

Prepare for Any Eventuality

Sometimes, the hardest thing to plan for isn't your death. Don't overlook the importance of having a solid plan in place if you are unable to make decisions for any reason. With the hazards on the ranch, you never know when you might face an injury that leaves you incapacitated. One of the most important things you can do as you draft your estate plan for the ranch is to include a power of attorney form to give someone that responsibility in the event that you are unable to take it on.

As you can see, there are many different reasons for you to establish comprehensive farm and ranch estate planning. Not only is the ranch your home, but it's also likely your primary income source and biggest investment. With the tips here, you can protect your property.