What to Do After Inheriting Land in Massachusetts

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What to Do After Inheriting Land in Massachusetts
By

Bart Waldon

If you've suddenly found yourself inheriting land in Massachusetts, you've got some big decisions ahead. Land can be a wonderful asset, but also a major responsibility. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the key steps involved in handling inherited property in Massachusetts.

Get Organized and Study the Land Firsthand

The very first thing you’ll want to do upon inheriting land is get super organized. Dig up all the paperwork related to the property - the deed, tax bills, title insurance, survey maps, etc. You need to understand exactly what you now own. Study the documents carefully to learn the property lines, total acreage, zoning, mineral rights, easements crossing the land, and any liens attached to the property.

Once you’re clear on the property basics from the paperwork, get out there and walk the land yourself. There’s no substitute for seeing the inherited land up close and personal. Trek the full property lines if you can. Take notes on what you find - streams, ponds, wetlands, woods, existing structures, fences, roads, trash dumps, or any other features. If there are buildings, bring in home inspectors to assess their condition and look for asbestos, lead paint, or other hazardous stuff. Try to spot any issues on the land that need immediate attention.

Getting to know the property well from both the documents and on-the-ground inspection will help you make smart choices.

Pay Off Any Liens, Loans, or Taxes on the Land

Here’s where things get a little less exciting. One of your first priorities needs to be dealing with any existing financial obligations attached to the inherited property. Common scenarios include:

  • Overdue property taxes - The town or county will place a tax lien on the land if the taxes go unpaid. Property tax liens must get resolved quickly before the municipality forecloses.
  • Loans taken out against the property - Banks will sometimes loan money with the land as collateral. These loans may have liens that have to get paid off.
  • Death taxes - Inheritances can trigger taxes like state and federal estate taxes. You’ll need to file returns and pay what’s owed within 9 months.

Clearing off any tax bills, bank loans, or other liens tied to the property is crucial for gaining free and clear ownership.

Decide Whether to Keep or Sell the Inherited Land

Now comes the fun part - deciding what exactly you'd like to do with the inherited land! Here are some of the key factors to mull over:

  • What ongoing costs will come with retaining the land - property taxes, maintenance, etc? Can you comfortably afford the costs?
  • How might you benefit from keeping the land? Maybe build a home, farm, hunt recreationally, harvest timber, lease for oil/gas rights? Run through scenarios.
  • Is the property conveniently located close to roads, utilities, amenities? Or is it very remotely situated? Location impacts usability.
  • Is the land readily usable or will it require major time and money to clear out or remediate issues before any use?
  • If interested in selling, is land in high demand in the area? Or is the market saturated with listings that take forever to sell?

Take a reasonable amount of time to analyze the pros and cons of both keeping or selling the inherited land in Massachusetts. The choice depends heavily on your personal financial situation, interests, and how advantageously the land could be used.

Transfer the Property Title from the Estate to Your Own Name

Before making big decisions, it’s essential to officially transfer the property title and ownership fully into your name. Here are the key steps for Massachusetts:

  • File a Petition for Probate in the appropriate county court to open probate of the will or request appointment as executor if no will exists.
  • The probate court will review the petition and issue a decree granting administration of the estate to you as the executor.
  • Once appointed, sign a new deed as executor conveying title from the estate of the deceased to yourself as the beneficiary.
  • Record the deed with the county register of deeds office to make the title transfer legally effective.

Getting the inheritance properly recorded in your name establishes you as the true legal owner. Now you can move forward with management and decision making.

Consider Rezoning or Subdividing the Inherited Land

Sometimes inherited land is more valuable if its zoning or boundaries get altered. Two options to consider:

  • Rezoning - If land is currently zoned as agricultural, you may be able to get it reclassified to residential or commercial zoning. Rezoning opens up more potential uses. But it involves permitting, hearings, costs, and is not guaranteed.
  • Subdividing - Breaking a large parcel into multiple smaller lots to sell individually can boost land value. You’ll need to go through a subdivision approval process with the town planning department.

Certainly consult with local zoning and permitting offices if either rezoning or subdividing seem worthwhile. Just know they come with additional time and expenses.

Use Smart Marketing to Attract Buyers if Selling

Selling vacant land requires unique marketing savvy to find qualified buyers. Without a home already built, buyers must visualize the potential. Tips for effective marketing include:

  • Hire a real estate agent experienced specifically in marketing and selling land. Their expertise is invaluable.
  • Invest time to take attractive photos and videos showcasing the property’s best attributes and possibilities.
  • Promote the listing across multiple platforms - real estate websites, social media, classifieds, land listing sites like Land And Farm.
  • Highlight key selling points like views, acreage, road frontage, zoning, use possibilities, etc. Drive buyer excitement.
  • List at a competitive but not inflated price, based on appraisal and recent comps. Adjust as needed.
  • Be prepared for a 1-2 year timeframe to sell in Massachusetts’ land market. Retain persistence.

Spreading the word across multiple marketing channels gives sellers the best shot at connecting with buyers eager to snap up land.

Negotiate Carefully With Potential Buyers of Your Land

When fielding offers on your Massachusetts land, negotiate wisely to maximize your sales price and terms:

  • Don’t get overeager with the first offer that comes in. Wait for serious, qualified buyers.
  • Require all offers be submitted in writing, not just spoken verbally.
  • Research the market thoroughly so you can benchmark against fair value. Gauge how reasonable offers are.
  • It’s totally appropriate to counter back at a higher price if initial offers seem too lowball. Stand firm if needed.
  • Seek assistance from an attorney to review offers, draft contracts, handle negotiations. It provides needed protection.
  • Move ahead to close only when you’ve achieved agreeable offer terms. Don’t get pressured into accepting less.

With strategic negotiations, you can often improve the price and contract conditions. Don't leave money on the table in your eagerness to offload the property.

Close the Sale or Ownership Transfer Carefully

The last big step is carefully handling the closing process to transfer ownership of the inherited land. For sales, make sure buyers conduct due diligence inspections before closing. Require any sale terms or contingencies be met. Review closing documents closely and get legal guidance.

For title transfers, record the new deed at the register of deeds to assign ownership according to probate court orders. Finalize any estate administration filings so you can distribute assets from the inheritance.

Either way, tread cautiously and involve real estate attorneys to help close out the conveyance smoothly, ethically, and legally. Don’t cut corners.

Leasing Land Can Also Provide Income

Selling the land isn’t your only option for profiting off inherited property. Leasing out usage rights is often easier and more passive. Typical lease options include:

  • Leasing acreage to local farmers to plant crops or raise livestock.
  • Allowing managed timber harvesting. You still own the land itself.
  • Leasing out small portions for cell towers, billboards, storage units.
  • Letting hunters, hikers, campers access the land seasonally.
  • Leasing oil, gas and mineral rights for extraction royalties.
  • Using for grazing livestock you own yourself.

Consult lawyers to structure fair leases that outline usage rights, restrictions, terms, and payment schedules. Record leases on property title records. Then bank the profits over time as rent checks roll in!

Get Local Help Making a Wise Inherited Land Strategy

Inheriting vacant land in Massachusetts presents both opportunities and obligations. With good organization, research, and strategic planning, your inherited property can become a prized asset. Seek insights from local real estate attorneys, appraisers, tax advisors, and land management specialists. Their expertise will prove invaluable as you evaluate options and chart the right course. Although handling an inheritance represents a major responsibility, making prudent choices will allow you to prosper!

Final Thoughts

Inheriting land can seem incredibly overwhelming at first. But with a methodical step-by-step approach, you can evaluate the inherited property and make the most prudent decisions. Be sure to assemble all the related documents, visit the land, address any liens, and transfer ownership properly into your name. Carefully weigh whether keeping or selling the land aligns best with your personal financial and lifestyle goals. If opting to sell, be patient in your marketing efforts and negotiate skillfully with buyers to maximize profit. Consult specialists like real estate attorneys and land appraisers to leverage their invaluable local expertise. While inheriting property comes with big obligations, you can transform your unexpected inheritance into a cherished asset if you make informed choices. With proactive yet careful handling, the land that you suddenly find yourself owning can become a true gift.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do I have to pay estate taxes after inheriting land?

In Massachusetts, there is no state estate tax, but federal estate taxes may apply for large inheritances over $12.06 million. If federal estate taxes are owed, you must file the appropriate tax forms and pay any taxes due within 9 months of the original owner's date of death.

Can I be forced to sell inherited property to pay off debts of the deceased?

Possibly, if the debts and liens against the inherited property exceed its total value. Creditors can sometimes petition the probate court to force the sale of inherited property to settle the deceased's outstanding debts. An attorney can advise you on the risks.

I inherited only a portion of land co-owned with siblings. Can I buy them out?

Yes, you can offer to purchase your siblings' fractional ownership interests in the inherited land. It allows you to gain full control and ownership. Work with an attorney to draw up a contract offer and get it negotiated.

A squatter is living on land I inherited. What can I legally do?

Give a formal notice requiring them to vacate within a set timeframe, usually 30 days. If they don't leave voluntarily, you can file a trespass lawsuit to have them evicted at the end of the notice period. Hire a real estate lawyer.

Someone is disputing the boundaries of land I inherited. How do I confirm the true property lines?

Hire a licensed surveyor to formally survey the land and mark the legally recorded boundary corners and property lines. Their professional survey will hold up as documentation if boundary disputes persist.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.

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