What To Do After Inheriting Land in New Jersey

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What To Do After Inheriting Land in New Jersey
By

Bart Waldon

Inheriting land in New Jersey can be a blessing but also comes with its own set of challenges. As the new landowner, you'll need to make some important decisions on what to do next. This guide will walk you through the key steps to take after inheriting land in the Garden State.

Get Organized and Review the Will or Trust

The first thing you'll want to do is get organized. Locate the will, trust, or other documents that detail the land transfer to you. Review the paperwork carefully to understand any conditions, restrictions, or instructions the previous owner left regarding the land.

Make copies of all documents and keep them in a safe place. You'll need these as you move forward with decisions on the land. Having clear paperwork trail will also be essential if you decide to sell or transfer the land later.

Identify Exact Location and Get Details on the Land

With inheritance land, you may not be familiar with the property or its exact boundaries. Your next step is to identify the precise location and get all the details you can on the land.

Start by looking at the legal property description in the will or deed paperwork. This should specify the plat, plot, parcel, lot number, county, acreage, and other geographic identifiers.

You can then lookup the land on your county assessor's website to view parcel maps and get additional info like property lines, size, zoning, assessed value, etc. Drive out to visually inspect the property and its current condition too.

Having all the details on the land will help you evaluate your options. Make sure to document the property condition with photos and notes in case you decide to sell.

Consider Whether to Keep or Sell the Land

Now comes the big decision - should you keep the inherited land or sell it? There are pros and cons to both options.

Keeping the land allows you to hold onto an asset that could appreciate over time. You may also have an emotional connection to the property. However, you'll also take on the costs and work of maintaining the land. Property taxes, insurance, vegetation control, and other bills still need to be paid.

Selling provides immediate cash and gets rid of the headaches of ownership. Yet you also lose the potential for the land to gain value down the road. Thoroughly weigh your options before deciding to sell inherited property.

If keeping the land, make sure you can afford the costs and are prepared to actively manage it. If selling, you’ll need to research land values and market the property to get top dollar.

Pay Off Any Liens Against the Property

Before doing anything with inherited property, you must clear any liens attached to the land. Common liens include mortgage loans, mechanics liens, HOA fees, unpaid taxes, and judgements against prior owners.

You can request a title search to uncover all debts or encumbrances tied to the property. Pay off and settle these obligations first, otherwise they can complicate further actions with the land.

Deal with Taxes and Transferring Title

The new landowner will be responsible for applicable property taxes going forward. Make sure these are paid and up to date after inheriting the land.

You'll also need to transfer title from the deceased's name into your name. The exact process depends on where the land is located:

  • For New Jersey real estate, file an Affidavit of Surviving Spouse or Heir-at-Law to affirm you are the rightful new owner under the will or state law. This gets recorded along with the death certificate.
  • For out-of-state land, each state has its own process, usually involving probate court or affidavits. Your estate planning attorney can help navigate the specific steps.

Having clear title will be key later if you go to sell the inherited property. Take time to properly document the ownership transfer.

Decide Whether to Keep or Update the Land Uses

Another choice is whether to keep the land as-is or make changes. Think about how the previous owner utilized the property and if you want to continue the same uses.

For example, if they leased it out for farming, do you want to keep managing those lease agreements? Or would you rather use it for another purpose like residential development?

Evaluate current uses in relation to zoning, access, soils, surrounding lands, and your own goals. Make any modifications you feel are needed.

Proper entitlements or permits may be required to change land uses. Consult local regulations before altering how the inherited property is utilized.

Explore Developing or Improving the Land

One option with inherited land is exploring development opportunities. Is the property in a high-growth area where you could build residential housing or commercial buildings?

Have the land surveyed and assessed to understand soils, drainage, and other factors impacting possible construction. Research local zoning and permit requirements too.

Development allows you to potentially maximize financial returns from the land. But it also requires upfront investment and risk, so study feasibility carefully first.

Even if not developing, look at relatively simple improvements to enhance the land. For example, you may want to clean up brush, install fencing, fix drainage issues, or complete other projects to boost the property's usage and value.

Generate Income Through Land Leasing

Leasing out the land is one way to generate ongoing income from inherited property. Possibilities include:

  • Farmland leases - Allow farmers to plant crops on acreage in exchange for rent fees, usually on a per-acre annual basis.
  • Solar leases - Lease open space to solar companies to install panels. Solar leases typically pay attractive rents with 20-year+ terms.
  • Billboard/cell tower leases – Lease land along highways or other high-visibility areas to advertising companies for billboards or cell carriers for towers.
  • Recreational leases – Allow hunting clubs, RV owners, or other recreation seekers to access the land for a fee.
  • Mineral & resource leases – Lease subsurface rights for oil, gas, gravel, timber or mining operations.

Do your homework to understand lease rates in your area. Hire an attorney to review any lease agreements before signing.

Pro Tip: Seek multiple bids for any land leases to get maximum value.

Hold for Appreciation or Retirement

If keeping the land long-term, you can strategically hold inherited property to provide substantial gains over time as values increase. The land may also grow into a nice retirement asset one day.

Be prepared to pay carrying costs and taxes in the meantime, and have a plan to eventually sell or transfer ownership when ready.

Patience and a long-term view allows you to maximize financial returns from inherited land assets. The property could be worth much more 5, 10 or 20+ years into the future.

Donate Land for Tax Benefits

You can also donate inherited land to a qualified charity, land trust, municipality, or other nonprofit entity. This may provide tax benefits in the form of income tax deductions.

Work with a tax professional to properly structure and document the donation for maximum deductions. You’ll need a qualified appraisal of the land’s value too.

Beyond tax incentives, donating unwanted land is a simple and hassle-free option to relinquish the property. The land can continue providing value for conservation, public space, or other community uses.

Sell For Cash to a Land Buyer

Selling the inherited property is often the best route, providing immediate funds without the hassles of land ownership. But finding buyers can take time. Traditional options include:

  • Listing with a real estate agent
  • For sale by owner
  • Auctions

These methods work but often take 12-24 months to actually close a land sale. You also have to market the property extensively, handle buyer inquiries and negotiations, coordinate closings, and pay commissions and fees.

A faster option is selling to a land buying company like Land Boss. They purchase land directly from owners and pay with cash, typically within 30 days. This avoids the time and costs of traditional sales.

Land buyers pay fair prices based on market comps. Owners also incur fewer fees since there are no agent commissions or closing costs. This nets more cash overall even if the gross sale price is discounted somewhat.

Selling inherited land for cash is usually the simplest and most efficient option. Landowners receive funds quickly to pay bills or reinvest, while avoiding the responsibilities that come with property ownership.

Consult Professionals to Evaluate Options

Certain decisions like land development, leases, donations, or complex sales may require professional help. Seek out advisors like:

  • Real estate attorneys – Help handle title transfers, review regulations, provide legal guidance.
  • Land & development consultants – Assess feasibility, coordinate projects, manage details.
  • Tax professionals – Provide guidance on minimizing taxes from land sale or donation.
  • Land management companies – Oversee rural land, provide services like maintenance.

Don’t be afraid to utilize professionals to ensure you make informed choices. They can provide expertise you likely lack as a new landowner.

Act Decisively to Avoid Hassles

Failing to make prompt decisions on inherited land can quickly become a burden. Property taxes, squatters, weather damage, and legal liability don’t stop even if you do nothing.

Act decisively within the first 6-12 months after inheriting land – either move forward with development plans, get it producing income, donate, or get it sold. Don't let the property become an ongoing headache.

Know your options but don't overanalyze. As long as you've done due diligence, trust your judgement on the best path forward.

Final Thoughts

Inheriting land in New Jersey can be a great opportunity but also carries real responsibilities. Educate yourself on the property, pay off any debts, transfer ownership properly, and evaluate the best uses for the land. Develop a decisive plan of action within the first year.

Selling for cash to a company like Land Boss is often the easiest option, allowing you to exchange the property for immediate funds. But you may also consider holding long-term, generating lease income, developing, donating for tax benefits, or other alternatives.

Consult professionals like attorneys and land consultants to ensure you make informed, wise choices. Through proper planning and decisive action, you can make the most of inherited land.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do I have to act on inherited property?

You typically want to make decisions on what to do with inherited land within 12 months or less. Letting it sit idle too long means shouldering unnecessary carrying costs and legal liability. Act decisively to either sell, develop, donate, or start generating income from the land.

What taxes or fees are owed on inherited land in NJ?

You become responsible for paying property taxes going forward once you inherit land. Make sure to get all taxes current after the transfer. If selling, NJ real estate transfer taxes of 1-1.5% of sale value may apply. And income taxes are owed on any gains if you sell for more than the inherited basis.

Is it better to keep or sell inherited land?

Weigh factors like emotional attachment, development potential, projected long term appreciation, and your ability to cover ownership costs. Selling the land for cash often makes sense for many owners rather than keeping it. But do what aligns with your personal financial situation and goals.

How long does it take to sell inherited land?

Traditional sales through agents or auctions often take 12-24 months to complete. This includes marketing time plus finding qualified buyers willing to pay fair prices. Selling to a land buying company like Land Boss can be done much quicker - often within 30 days or less.

What costs are involved in donating inherited land?

You’ll need to pay for an appraisal to establish the value for tax deduction purposes. There may also be nominal legal fees to transfer deed ownership. But donating bypasses most sales costs like commissions. Overall it's a simple and low-cost way to relinquish unwanted inherited land.

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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