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What if toxic pollution erodes value of bequeathed assets?

The best-laid plans can be messed up by things not anticipated. This is something about which skilled estate planning attorneys in Texas are aware. Estate planning actions taken with all good intention can lead to some very unsettling family conflict if proper care isn't taken. What's most unfortunate is that oftentimes the issue doesn't surface until after the person making the bequest has died and the estate is in probate.

A scenario out of California is what brings this issue to the fore for this entry on our blog. On the face of things, everything seemed straightforward. An elderly couple with three sons decided to will three parcels of land to their offspring. The belief was that each of the properties was about equal in value. But in the course of the planning process, they learned that one site might be chemically contaminated and need cleanup. Talk about your devaluation.

In this case, the parents decided to clean up the site and sell off the property. From a tax perspective, that meant something of a loss to the estate. From a peace-of-mind perspective, it meant that the parents could bequeath cash of an indisputable value to their heirs.

Some legal observers call this issue toxic succession. While state and federal laws typically protect buyers of land that might be contaminated, those protections don't extend to property willed to others. Unless advisers take the initiative to raise the question, some loved one could wind up receiving a dreaded millstone rather than a welcome windfall.

Source: FinancialPlanning.com, "Toxic Inheritance: When a client’s property is contaminated," Ingrid Case, accessed Sept. 14, 2016

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