What to Do After Inheriting Land in Wisconsin

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What to Do After Inheriting Land in Wisconsin

Bart Waldon

Wisconsin, also known as “America’s Dairyland”, is a midwestern U.S. state with abundant natural resources, including vast forestlands, fertile farmlands, and over 15,000 lakes. Known for its pleasant summers and long, cold winters with heavy snowfalls, Wisconsin's landscape consists of rolling hills, plains and valleys surrounded by forests full of outdoor recreational opportunities.

With its strong agricultural history, Wisconsin has a significant amount of rural and vacant land that gets passed down across generations. So what do you do if you inherit land in this northern state? Here is a helpful guide for new Wisconsin landowners navigating the first steps after receiving land inheritance.

Get Your Legal Ducks In A Row

Before doing anything with inherited property in Wisconsin, the first crucial step is making sure all legal matters tied to the land transfer are handled properly. This includes:

Confirm Beneficiary Status

Verify that you are officially listed as the beneficiary inheriting the land in any will or estate documentation. Being named is not enough - ensure the paperwork legally states transfer of land ownership rights to you. Consult an estate planning attorney if uncertain.

Handle Probate

If the inherited land in Wisconsin is part of an estate going through probate, follow legal timelines for submitting your claim as a beneficiary to the estate’s executor per state probate laws. This probate process can take six months to a year.

You’ll also need to pay any related probate fees assessed to the inherited property to clear probate court. Consider working with a probate lawyer to ease the process.

Review Title Search

Before taking ownership, request a title search on the Wisconsin land to uncover any potential title issues that could impact rights and usage. Handle any complications like disputed ownership claims, unpaid taxes/liens impacting title, missing documents, or inaccurate legal descriptions before finalizing transfer.

Title insurance can also help protect from any unknown title problems slipping through. Schedule a title search with a real estate attorney or title company.

Transfer New Deed

Once previous stated matters are handled, the next vital step is officially transferring deed to the inherited Wisconsin property into your legal name. This requires recording a new deed with county registers documenting transfer of land rights.

Hire a real estate lawyer to prepare the inheritor’s deed paperwork and complete recording. This deed transfer finalizes the land as rightfully yours.

Determine Land Value

Wisconsin land prices vary significantly based on exact location, acreage size, current property usage, and other individual attributes. Prices typically range anywhere from $2,500 per acre up to $10,000 per acre depending on land quality and site specifics.

To gauge true property value, consider:

Check Recent Comps

Research recent sales prices for comparable vacant land parcels to yours in the local Wisconsin area. This indicates current fair market value - although remember that rural land is an illiquid asset traded infrequently.

Few comp sales makes accurate pricing difficult. Use comps only as a ballpark reference when inherited land has been sitting unused a while.

Inspect Property Condition

Personally evaluating property condition reveals factors impacting worth - like old structures requiring removal, terrain challenges limiting development, access restrictions, agricultural productivity for farmland, etc. Consider hiring a land appraisal expert if needing a professional opinion on property valuation.

Weigh Development Potential

Development opportunities greatly influence land valuations in Wisconsin. Growth potential near expanding cities means higher prices than rural regions lacking infrastructure.

If land has strong residential or commercial development prospects, this adds substantial appraised ground value - but also uncertainty on if/when payoff occurs.

Carefully determine likely ROI timeline from any costly infrastructure improvements needed to enable development. This steers pricing.

Explore Ownership Responsibilities

Before deciding long-term plans for newly inherited property, understands key ownership responsibilities acquiring Wisconsin land transfers to you. This includes both legal and tax obligations associated with the land asset.

Comply With Regulations

Based on property type, various local, state, federal regulations come into play. Agricultural land may require special drainage systems, waste storage facilities, or soil conservation plans. Forested acres mandate sustainable logging practices.

Ensure compliance with any environmental, zoning, usage or other jurisdictional regulations on inherited land. Fines can result otherwise.

Pay Annual Property Taxes

In Wisconsin, county municipalities assess annual property tax levies on land and any buildings based on appraised fair market value. Rates range 1-2% typically but can fluctuate. Failure to pay owing annual taxes risks the county seizing asset ownership.

So don’t forget to budget for yearly tax bills as part of inherited land costs. Building structures on vacant land also increases future tax liability.

Handle Maintenance Needs

While vacant land itself requires little regular maintenance versus a full-fledged home, some preservation efforts may prove necessary. This includes clearing brush, removing trash dumping, posting signage warning against trespassing/hunting, gating access roads, etc.

Neglected lands can become overgrown eyesores affecting value - so stay on top of basic upkeep based on property terrain and structures.

Decide What To Do With The Land

Once you have a firm handle on legal ownership transfer, land valuations, and maintenance duties, the big question remains what to do with inherited Wisconsin property as the new owner. Common options to consider include:

Keep For Personal Use

If the inherited land holds special meaning or suitability for personal recreational enjoyment, keeping it in the family offers certain rewards. This might include acres converted into a private campground for vacations, cultivated into home vegetable/fruit gardens, dedicated to hunting excursions, or set aside for sentimental legacy purposes.

Just remember to account for ownership costs like taxes and basic upkeep in family budget planning. Also develop backup contingency plans if future circumstances change.

Sell For Cash Proceeds

Many inheritors opt to sell inherited property in Wisconsin simply to gain proceeds from land value. This converts hard-to-use land into usable cash funding other priorities - whether paying off debts, growing retirement savings, or distributing value among multiple heirs.

Selling also transfers future tax and maintenance obligations onto a new buyer. However, finding buyers willing to pay fair prices can prove challenging and time intensive. Most inherited rural land sits on the market around two years.

Be prepared for aggressive low-ball offers from fast-paying cash land buyers too. Reaching full retail land value often requires substantial patience and marketing effort.

Develop For Commercial Use

If land conditions suit commercial development potential - like expanding suburb regions near cities with strong infrastructure/zoning allowances in place, some landowners pursue building retail spaces, office complexes, industrial warehouses, apartment blocks, mixed used spaces, etc for lease/rent/sale income.

However, land development ventures demand extensive upfront capital, longer ROI time horizons, and risk tolerance to carry through on complex projects. Ensure proper financial resources and expert partnerships first.

Explore Land Leasing

Leasing land out to other area farmers, agricultural producers, industrial operators, recreation managers or other entities needing property access allows benefiting from land potential without assuming direct operations. Land leases provide more passive rental income with fewer demands than development or private land usages.

This can be an appealing option for those inheriting rural Wisconsin property with limited time, in-house expertise or risk appetite to get more actively involved. Just be sure lease agreements clearly outline terms.

Final Thoughts

Receiving an unexpected inheritance of Wisconsin land likely prompts mixed emotions - grief over loss, anxiety over unknowns ahead, maybe combined with hope for new possibilities. Handling matters methodically step-by step helps map out the wisest path forward.

Start by formalizing legal ownership transfer with proper deed recording. Then realistically evaluate land value based on inspection, market comparisons and development costs/limitations to set reasonable price expectations. Also commit to fulfilling annual tax and maintenance obligations to retain land health.

Finally, explore options either to retain for private use, capture cash from a sale, develop commercially or lease out based on personal financial needs and risk appetite. Proper planning helps unlock inherited land’s full potential reward through methodical decision-making.

With Wisconsin’s natural bounty and opportunities expanding near its bustling metro regions, a windfall of inherited property may prove more blessing than burden in the long run if handled patiently and strategically. Let this guide serve as a knowledge base empowering your next steps. The land you inherit may become part of family legacy for generations down the road.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I just inherited some rural farmland in Wisconsin from a relative. What are the first things I legally need to do before I decide what to ultimately do with the land?

The first crucial legal steps are confirming your formal beneficiary status in any will or estate paperwork, navigating the probate process if applicable, conducting a title search to uncover any ownership issues, and recording a new inheritor's deed transferring legal rights to the property into your name. Taking care of these administrative items solidifies you as the lawful owner.

I have no idea what my inherited Wisconsin farmland may be worth or where to start with determining its value. Any basic tips?

Review prices fetched by recent comparable vacant land sales in the local market to establish fair market ballpark pricing. Just remember rural land trades hands infrequently so comps help less. Also factor in property condition inspection results revealing usage limitations that could impact worth. If needing a professional opinion on valuation, hire an accredited land appraiser to assess your specific inherited site’s worth.

Does inherited vacant land typically get taxed at high rates in Wisconsin? What happens if I fail to pay taxes I owe?

County governments assess annual property taxes on Wisconsin land based on appraisal values and local tax rates, typically averaging 1-2% of assessed worth. Unpaid taxes over a period of a few years can actually result in the county seizing ownership. So you must budget for yearly tax bills as an inherited landowner. Building structures adds liability too.

My inherited country acres in Wisconsin currently just sit vacant. What basic regular property maintenance duties should I expect to now have?

Vacant rural land generally needs just minimal oversight like clearing brush and trees, hauling off any illegally dumped items, installing fencing/gates to deter trespassing if a problem, posting warning signs, etc. The goal is preventing the property condition degrading to negatively impact land valuations over time through basic preservation efforts. Abandoned lands risk becoming eyesores.

I inherited lakefront recreational land in northern Wisconsin. If I opt to keep for private family trips/getaways, what should I know?

Retaining special inherited lands for continued family enjoyment can make sense if valued for more than just financial gain. Just realistically budget for ongoing ownership costs like yearly county taxes and basic upkeep. Also develop backup contingency plans for the future if circumstances change where you might need to sell one day.

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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