My family owns land that has been in our family for 100 years. I would like to leave this land to my wife, as we have no children. But what if she remarries?


Dear Quentin,

I would like your advice on how to structure my will.

We live in Ohio, but I own a property in Nebraska that has been in the family for over 100 years. My father grows it on a farm and is worth about $ 200,000. My wife and I started making a will. We agreed to leave everything to each other. However, I would like to know if there is a way to leave something to my wife and keep this property to my family. We have no children, but my brother has children.

My brother also owns a property adjacent to mine (where my father also owns a lifetime estate), but he and his children have not shown much interest in this property. I really wouldn’t want to overlook my wife and give the property to these kids if they intend to sell it, but it’s hard to know what they would do. I can understand if they don’t want to move their families there, and it’s not a decision we can ask for.

“I would like to leave the land to my wife, but I’m worried that if she remarried, the land could leave the family.”

I would like to leave the land to my wife, but I am concerned that if she remarried, the land could leave the family through her spouse. I could give it to my wife with a lifetime property, but we both agree that this would have to change if we ever got a house there. (It would not be fair to spend our savings on a house that my brother’s children inherit if he dies.)

If I’m writing the will to give him a lifetime property, I’m also worried that if we ever had to sell it while I was still alive, the kids might see it as a sale of their property. Are there other ways to give the land to my wife that reduce the risk of leaving the family? Some ideas I have thought of are to give a part of the land and a living estate to the rest. Another idea was to give the land with preferential rights to the children if he never decides to sell it.

Protect my family’s heritage

Dear Protector,

I understand your desire to protect your family’s land, which has been in your family’s possession for 100 years.

Undoubtedly, the earth comes with memories, a sense of continuity of a tradition and a sense of pride. It’s hard to deal with a piece of land that goes back generations, and no doubt your wife sees its historical significance in your family. A word of caution: there are no guarantees when it comes to a family inheritance. Your nieces and / or nephews can also sell the land, if they see more value in monetary value and want to collect.

A revocable trust is the easiest way to leave the land to your wife for the rest of her life, so that she can still earn income from the land. A trust will help you avoid the will of this land and reduce real estate taxes. With revocable confidence, you can, as a grantor, change the terms at any time. (Irrevocable trust, as its name implies, is permanent and cannot be changed.) You can read about trust types here.

Linda Farinola, president of the New Jersey-based Princeton Financial Group, says trust makes “a lot of sense” here. “With a trust, you have a lot of flexibility to appoint beneficiaries, successor trustees, etc. If you want, you can have your wife as a partial beneficiary.” However, he says the property may be worth more if it is part of the larger family plot, and assuming your wife does not live in Nebraska, you may not want to manage this land out of state.

“Ultimately, you want to do the best for the land and the people of this area, in addition to honoring your family’s legacy.”

Ultimately, you want to do the best for the land and the people of this area, as well as honor the legacy of your family. Sometimes liberating the land is the answer. Other times, conserving the land and working it with farmland to produce income and local employment is the answer.

This Department of Agriculture report on last year’s absent owners said: “Absent owners have the potential to alter the results observed in agricultural real estate markets, rural employment markets and participation in conservation practices. , as the incentives they face may differ from non-operating local operators or owners “

“We find that a higher prevalence of absent landlords is associated with lower rental rates and land values ​​at the state level, and there is no association with recent changes in rents or land values,” he added. “Furthermore, while we find contradictory results in terms of investments in land quality, we do find evidence that the prevalence of absent landlords is associated with declining local employment rates.”

You are taking the right steps by talking to your wife now and, as always, consult a estate lawyer before making any final decision.

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