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Estate plan important for disposition of land

Real property purchased by a party during their lifetime often becomes a part of their estate after they pass away. An estate plan created while the person is alive can direct the actions that an estate, through an executor, will take after the person dies. The options for property distribution are varied and can involve trusts or long-term asset distribution to beneficiaries. State laws, including those here in Texas, govern much of the distribution of an estate.

When an estate owns real property, the executor or their assigns may have the responsibility to maintain the land or even make decisions regarding its sale. The decisions of the executor are governed by the will left by the deceased party. This document can be very powerful and is a facet of a strong estate plan.

In a case that may be of interest to Texas residents, a woman purchased a property by the seashore in Ocean County more than 50 years ago. At the time of the purchase, the property was considered unbuildable due to flooding issues. However, the land became more valuable after a project to raise it approximately 10 feet was completed in 1992. When the woman passed away in 1998, the land became a part of her estate.

After her death, her estate, through its representatives, applied for a permit to build a family home on the improved property. Initially the permit was denied and the estate sued in 2008. Then, an intent to permit was issued by the state's Department of Environmental Protection, and a 30-day review period began.

The county is currently exploring the possibility of applying for grants and other funding in order to purchase the property from the estate. The potential purchasers intend to restrict building on the land if they are able to consummate a transaction. They apparently want to halt the proposed family home construction project or other structures in the future.

Important to this matter is that the executor or their representatives must act for the benefit of the estate and its beneficiaries. This may be influenced by directions left by the deceased woman in her estate plan prior to her death. A carefully drafted estate-planning document can detail the wishes of the landowner for the benefit of one's heirs.

Source: Ocean City Gazette, "Council to consider asking for Green Acres funding for Schilling Estate," Claire Lowe, Feb. 10, 2012.

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