WHAT'S going to happen with the farm?
It is one of those thorny topics that pops up, uninvited, about this time of year.
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For hundreds of farming families, Christmas is one of the rare times when everyone straddles vast distances to get together, and when such sticky issues might get an airing.
Farm succession planning is one of the sector's most complex and unique quandaries.
While advisers working in the field say we are getting better at navigating it, horror stories continue of huge family rifts caused by off-farm members being excluded, or those who have worked the land not getting fair reward.
Agreeing on what is fair is often the hardest part.
The question of who gets what, and fairness versus equity, is a tough one for farm families.
In some families, the issue of gender, and sometimes an unspoken expectation or understanding that the son gets the farm, continues to cause division.
Another common scenario seen more often in recent years is conflict caused by siblings, male or female, who work off-farm, but still expect an "equal" amount of the farm as inheritance as on-farm siblings who could arguably be justified in getting a bigger share.
The first step for any farm family that wants to talk about succession planning is to be open and honest, professionals in the field say.
One of Australia's leading succession experts, Dubbo-based Lynne Sykes, said it was "high risk" to exclude anyone from a family business without their consent.
"People who feel excluded are not likely to co-operate, particularly if a relationship ends," she said. "Inclusion creates an environment where people are more likely to be open and generous."
Ms Sykes said circumstances in which decisions were made by some members on behalf of others were "not uncommon" and often led to crises.
Siblings' behaviour also often changed once their parents died, she added.
Parents needed to ask themselves whether their children remaining friends was a priority and, if so, succession planning was vital.
A will was not a succession plan and without a plan "all hell can break loose, families can be ripped apart".
Ms Sykes said she had encountered young women - when faced with their family not treating them fairly in their succession plan - who ended up very angry at their parents, deeply confused and hurt.
She said: "I've had young women, in tears, who say to their parents, 'Why did you raise me to think I can do anything when you've excluded a heap of options?' - in the situation where the farm was to be left only to sons.
"I think, for reasons and attitudes like that, there are many women from farming backgrounds, who have a belief that somehow, they don't quite measure up."
Many families shied away from succession planning due to fear of "opening a can of worms". But the can would be opened at some point, she said.
But Australian farm families are getting better at planning for the next generation.
When Ms Sykes began in the field 25 years ago there were "high levels of conflict and crisis points", but now most of her work centres on earlier planning.
Farm leaders agreed succession planning was one of the major challenges farm families needed to overcome.
While they all agreed gender should never be a factor in decisions, many thought that family members who worked the farm should have a greater share of the asset if they were to run a viable business in future.
National Farmers' Federation president Jock Laurie said he was going through the "succession planning headache" with his own farm.
He was "struggling" with how to pass on a viable farm enterprise fairly to his two sons and one daughter. Mr Laurie explained: "I'm just not really sure what is fair. If we split it up equally it may put the farmer(s) in the position where the farm is not a viable business for anyone. But each farm business is different and invariably complex."
He said thinking had changed in recent years, and off-farm children often no longer expected an "equal share of the asset". It was more likely those building careers off-farm expected to inherit less than farming siblings.
On the topic of where women fitted in, Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said discouraging daughters or wives from being involved in family farms was "totally wrong".
"There are lots of very active women around who are just as good farm managers (as men)," he said. "Farming is not about manual labour; it is more about how to run the business."