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Handing Over the Reins

Reading Time - 3 min Category -
  • Business Succession

Mark Brandsma

Partner, Relationship Manager, Financial & Estate Planner VIEW BIO

On September 11, 2006, Charlie and Alice Elgersma received a call that no parent should get. Their son, Marvin, had been involved in a serious car accident on Highway 1, just east of Chilliwack, BC.

He had instantly died as a result of the multiple injuries he sustained, including the one to his head. Marvin was 26 years old and worked with his father at Boa-Vista Farm Inc. (Boa Vista), the family dairy farm in Chilliwack. He was survived by his parents and his older siblings, Trudy and Steven.

Twelve years later, Charlie and Alice, at the age of 78 and 76, respectively, decided to finalize decisions and implement plans that had been on their minds for several years. The time had come to hand the reigns to Steven after years of loyal service to the farming enterprise.

At the time of Marvin’s passing, Marvin was on a path to taking over the family farm. He had acquired some common stock and saw that value grow. Since he was single, he had named his parents as sole beneficiaries of his estate. Upon inheriting his shares, Charlie and Alice updated their Wills to be distributed to charitable purposes in Marvin’s memory.

Within the month of Marvin’s passing, Charlie and Alice decided that they did not have a choice but to sell the farm. Arrangements were made and auction date set. 

It was at this time that Steven came forward, after prayerful consideration, requesting that Dad not sell and hat he be given an opportunity to work there. Charlie and Alice obliged. Meanwhile, Trudy continued to raise her four children and work with her husband, Bill, in their real estate development business.

As the years passed by, Steven developed as a farmer and earned the opportunity to become a shareholder in Boa Vista. Steven, his wife Christine and their two boys, Tim and Ben, have lived on the farm since October 2006. Through this time, Charlie had various health challenges, but he and Alice still held the keys of decision-making authority. Father and son did not always see eye to eye, and at times, both questioned what the future for the family farm should be. In the fall of 2018, Charlie and Alice agreed to engage in a process that would set the direction for Boa Vista’s future. It began with a lively family meeting where varying perspectives were shared, and emotions from the past bubbled to the surface. It was through this that a healthy process gained traction, and a plan began to take shape.

Steven with sons Ben and Tim

The plan included a freeze of value, with 100% of future growth attributing to Steven and Christine. Steven now has final decision-making authority for the farm but was also asked to make a significant payment to his parents for this opportunity. With valuable input from their long-time accountant and lawyer, the required documentation was prepared and signed.

For us at Covenant, it has been a joy to journey with this family and play a part in their business succession. Charlie and Alice miss Marvin very much, but for the family members that remain, they are building a positive legacy that will last for many years to come.

Charlie & Alice Elgersma

Charlie and Alice have always been faithful in their giving to organizations that their values align with. They view it not as a duty but as a blessed opportunity. So, when the possibility arose for them to receive a measure of liquidity through the succession plan with Steven, they jumped at it. They live a modest lifestyle and certainly were not looking for cash to spend on themselves. Instead, it created an opportunity to make a significant gift to a public foundation, through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) in their name. This gift happened to be for the same value they received from Marvin’s estate. Through their DAF, they are enjoying the process of making significant ‘top up’ gifts to their favourite charities while at the same time, adding new ones. If there are still funds remaining in their DAF after their passing, a Letter of Direction has been signed, guiding their Executor.

Meanwhile, Steven continues to devote his efforts to running an efficient and productive dairy farm. Despite the hard work, he and Christine very much appreciate the farming lifestyle, and so do Tim and Ben. At 17 and 15, respectively, they may one day represent the 3rd generation of Elgersma’s owning and operating Boa Vista Farm.

Although Trudy does not have a role in the farming operation, she plays a critical administrative role in the real estate development and building business with her husband, Bill, and sons Brad and Clay. Daughters, Brianne and Chelsea, are attending university and are developing their career paths.

In observing Charlie and Alice, two honourable virtues stand out. First, they have a tireless work ethic. Now in their late 70’s, Charlie is still active in helping Steven on the farm, and Alice keeps up her volunteering for the Gleaners. Second, Charlie and Alice remain very humble. They recognize that their wealth is a blessing from God and have a desire to be wise stewards with what they have received. They are also painfully aware that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and rest in the fact that God is in control.