What To Do After Inheriting Land in South Carolina

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What To Do After Inheriting Land in South Carolina

Bart Waldon

Inheriting a piece of land, no matter how big or small, can seem like a blessing and a burden all at once for some. On one hand, it's real estate you acquired without having to put any money down. On the other hand, now you have to figure out what to do with it.

If you recently inherited property in South Carolina, you’re probably wondering about your options. Should you sell it? Keep it? Improve it? Read on for tips.

Understanding South Carolina Property Laws

Before deciding your next move, get familiar with South Carolina's property and inheritance laws. This will help you understand your rights and responsibilities as the new land owner.

Some key things to know:

  • South Carolina recognizes transfer-on-death deeds. So if the previous owner drafted one of these, the land transferred directly to you or the beneficiaries when they passed away, avoiding probate.
  • If the land went through probate, you’ll need to record documents with the county register of deeds to formally transfer it to your name.
  • South Carolina doesn't collect state inheritance or estate taxes. But federal estate taxes may apply for high value estates.
  • You’ll be responsible for applicable property taxes and possibly inheritance income taxes. Calculate this into your plans.

Getting clear on the legalities from the get-go makes managing inherited property less complicated down the road.

Evaluating Your Land

Next, learn everything you can about your vacant land so you can make informed decisions:

  • Run a title search - This confirms ownership and checks for liens or back taxes tied to the land. Don’t skip this!
  • Review the deed and plat - This shows property boundaries, applicable easements, zoning classification and other encumbrances.
  • Check current assessments - Determine the county’s valuation and property tax estimates. Is the land currently being taxed as agricultural or commercial property?
  • Conduct a site walkthrough - Visiting the land heightens awareness of conditions and development potential. Note terrain, vegetation, access issues, neighboring lots and more.

Once you have a handle on the land’s particulars, identify your goals. What outcome would you like to see? That guides which path to take next.

Options for Your Inherited Land

When you inherit vacant land, you typically have five options on the table:

Keep and Develop the Land

If you want to make your inherited land a moneymaker, consider developing it in some fashion:

Build a residential property - Construct a new main home or vacation getaway for your own use, to lease out or flip for resale. Do your homework to pick the right dwelling style and size for the region and market.

Construct commercial buildings - This route takes more capital, construction savvy and permitting legwork. But retail, warehouses and mixed-use buildings in the right locales can deliver strong rents and appreciation over time.

Establish an income-producing use - Turning all or a portion of your land into farmland, timberland or mineral rights leases can supplement your current income and establish sweat equity.

Just know that any major development requires preparation work - soil testing, permitting applications, architect plans, utility coordination and more. Also budget for new access roads, drainage systems, fencing/gates and basic land clearing too.

Lease Out the Land

Not ready to build or Businesses sometimes lease vacant parcels on a triple net lease basis. This lets you collect steady rental income while they tackle taxes, maintenance and insurance.

Farms, mining interests, advertisers for billboards/cell towers and recreation operators like ATV rental companies commonly participate in land leasing. You grant them usage rights for a defined period in exchange for lease payments.

Starting small with a one-year agreement lets you test out prospective tenants before locking in longer commitments. Just consult an attorney to draft a solid lease agreement protecting your rights as the property owner.

Hold the Land as an Investment

Like any asset, land can gain value over time - especially if nearby development raises demand. So after inheriting property, you may opt to simply keep and monitor it.

This is a more passive strategy but low risk. Your tax and maintenance responsibilities remain, but you’re essentially betting on increased future earning potential.

Raw land generally appreciates faster than constructed properties in thriving areas. But perform your due diligence before banking on short-term or long-term gains.

Donate the Land

You can also donate inherited property to a non-profit land trust or charity and get tax benefits in return. This removes your ownership duties while fueling a good cause.

Qualified appraisals are required to substantiate your charitable deduction amount for the land’s full market value. So leave ample lead time for assessment procedures prior to making an official donation.

Sell Your Inherited Land

If holding onto land feels like too much trouble or financial risk, liquidating through a sale frees you from the burden entirely. Just know that selling land solo takes effort and patience.

On one hand, you can earn top dollar by selling to an end-user homebuilder or developer. The buyer handles construction then sells finished residences for full retail pricing.

But these buyers can take months (or years) to materialize for vacant land. You’ll have to list with a real estate agent or market independently via online ads or signs on-site.

Closing piecemeal home site deals this way means waiting for multiple purchases to unfold - while still covering taxes and other site obligations.

Or you can contact local land buying companies like Land Boss. We purchase raw land for cash, skipping traditional listing hassles. Sellers complete one streamlined closing, and we take over ownership responsibilities moving forward.

This simplified approach allows everyday landowners to dispose of unwanted parcels faster. We pitch fair all-cash offers considering recent comps and current property conditions. There's no financing contingencies or drawn-out buyer negotiations.

Get Solid Guidance

Seeking input from specialists makes navigating the inherited land dilemma smoother:

Tax accountants explain capital gains taxes from sales and other relevant inheritance/estate tax issues.

Land use attorneys assist with title transfers, boundary disputes, mineral/water rights questions and land contracts.

Civil engineers assess site feasibility for building plans or retracting easements/encumbrances.

Commercial real estate brokers pinpoint zoning barriers, estimate market values or list land for sale if desired.

Forestry experts detail timber harvesting potential or oversee timber sales on wooded acreage.

Don’t struggle alone exploring scenarios. Knowledgeable contacts offer objective insights on maximizing gain from your newly acquired land.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

Once you review all the angles, create a comparison checklist to identify the prime option for your situation. The main considerations:

Land Development

Pros: Total control to upgrade value; income from rents/leases, farming or timber; establish family legacy

Cons: Hefty upfront financial obligation; ongoing maintenance and taxes; vulnerable to market shifts

Land Leasing

Pros: Relatively passive; consistent cash flow without selling long-term

Cons: Limits certain usage and control; locks into lease period; need tenant insurance

Holding Land

Pros: Retains full ownership; avoids broker fees or contingencies

Cons: Still pays taxes/insurance; speculative payoff; ongoing liability


Pros: Tax write-off; feel-good philanthropic outcome

Cons: Appraisal and transfer fees apply; fully relinquishes control

Selling Land

Pros: Eliminates responsibility; pays lump sum cash

Cons: Extensive time and effort to coordinate sale; discount pricing tendencies

Apply your priorities to pick the scenario delivering the best personal outcome from your inherited real estate.

Take Things One Step at a Time

Don’t get overwhelmed by all the dynamics involved with making the most of your unexpected land ownership. Start with foundational moves like formalizing ownership transfers and analyzing property specifics.

Determine approximate market value for budgeting purposes too. This gives perspective on feasible development projects or expected sale proceeds down the line.

From there, simply explore options at your own pace. Seek professional assistance when needed to offset knowledge gaps.

Eventually a prime course of action matching your risk tolerance and financial capabilities will emerge. Pursuing smaller preparatory projects first can help build confidence as well.

With the right guidance, inherited property can transform into a lucrative asset. But don’t force major decisions immediately. Thoughtful planning today prevents regrets tomorrow.

So embrace your new land as a blank canvas. Then make strategic strokes over time to create something of lasting value for your future.

Final Thoughts

Inheriting land can certainly feel overwhelming, spurring loads of open-ended questions about potential and risk. But with prudent evaluation procedures, credible team insights, and a methodical action plan, your unexpected property can pay dividends for years ahead. Carefully weigh the pros, cons and must-dos associated with keeping, improving, donating or selling newly acquired land. This ensures you craft the right strategy for redirecting your inherited asset toward a destiny matching your personal financial and legacy goals. With ample diligence and patience, your recently passed-down dirt can transform into a coveted family treasure delivering lasting financial gains.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I have to pay inheritance taxes on land I inherit in South Carolina?

No. South Carolina does not have a state inheritance tax. You may owe federal estate taxes if the estate value exceeds $12 million. For lower value estates, inherited land can typically be passed to heirs tax-free.

Do banks offer loans for building on inherited land?

Yes, you may be eligible for construction loans to develop inherited land by building a residential home or commercial property on it. Most banks require formal property title transfer and 6-12 months of inherited possession first.

Is inherited land treated differently for capital gains tax calculations?

Yes. Your cost basis for inherited land resets to the property's valuation on the previous owner's date of death. So you'll only owe capital gains taxes on appreciation that occurs after you inherit the property.

Can I split inherited joint/common ownership land with other beneficiaries?

Yes. You can partition inherited land by filing a lawsuit for judicial division. Or easier, get consent from other co-owners to subdivide the land for separate ownership. Costs apply so weigh options carefully first.

Can siblings force the sale of inherited co-owned land?

Yes. Any single co-inherited land owner can file a partition lawsuit to compel the entire property's sale. This converts jointly owned land into cash disbursements allocated to each party's fractional interest.

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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