WLG On Our Mind

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Hidden Wealth: Planning for Mineral Rights in Your San Diego Estate Plan

Many Americans unknowingly own mineral rights, or have the potential to inherit them. These rights encompass resources like oil, gas, precious metals, and more. Even if you don't live in a traditionally "mineral-rich" area, these rights can be passed down through generations, creating a surprise windfall, or posing a complex estate planning challenge.

What are Mineral Rights?

Mineral rights grant the owner the right to explore, extract, and sell any minerals beneath a specific property. These rights can be severed from the surface ownership, meaning you might own the mineral rights under someone else's land, or vice versa. Minerals can be valuable as construction materials (like sand, gravel and crushable rock), as industrial and chemical minerals (like limestone, clays, phosphates, borates, feldspar and talc), or as Metallic and rare minerals (such as gold, silver, gemstones and optical grade calcite). Most San Diegans are unaware of the number of precious and semi-precious gemstones that can be found in the county, including garnet, tourmaline, beryl, and kunzite. I will always remember the look in my oldest son’s eyes (he was a fourth grader then) when we visited a former gold mining site only about half an hour from our house.

Why Include Mineral Rights in Your Estate Plan?

Mineral rights can be a valuable asset. Unfortunately, they are too frequently accidently lost to memory and stolen away. Identifying mineral rights and including them in your estate plan gives your family the chance at preserving these rights.  Mineral rights unique nature requires careful planning. Here's why:

  • Valuation: Mineral rights values fluctuate based on market demands and potential resources. Accurate valuation is crucial for tax purposes and fair distribution within your estate.
  • Distribution: Mineral rights can be a source of conflict among heirs with differing financial goals. A clear plan ensures your wishes are respected regarding distribution or ownership.
  • Management: Mineral rights require careful management. You'll need to decide how best to handle these rights.  Are they to be held till later? Do you want to lease them for royalties, sell them outright, or actively develop them?

An estate plan can outline your wishes and designate knowledgeable parties to manage the decision-making process.

What to Include in Your Estate Plan

If you own or expect to inherit mineral rights, consider these steps:

  • Conduct a Title Search: Verify ownership and understand any existing leases or agreements.
  • Conduct Genealogical Research: Inheriting some mineral rights may require proof of your relationship to the original owner. Genealogy research can help establish your lineage. Many families have sold properties while retaining the mineral rights’
  • Seek Professional Valuation: Obtain a fair and current assessment of the value of the mineral rights.
  • Consult an Attorney: A San Diego estate planning attorney can guide you through complex legalities and draft appropriate documents to ensure your rights are incorporated responsibly into your estate plan.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Furthermore, by proactively addressing mineral rights in your estate plan, you can:

  • Minimize Tax Burdens: Proper planning can help reduce estate and inheritance taxes associated with mineral rights.
  • Reduce Conflict: Clear instructions regarding ownership and management can prevent future disputes among heirs.
  • Maximize Value: Your plan can outline strategies to maximize the benefit your beneficiaries get from this unique asset.

Getting Help

Don't let mineral rights become a hidden complication in your estate plan. Contact an experienced attorney in San Diego to discuss your situation and ensure these valuable assets are handled according to your wishes. You can reach our law firm by calling 619-281-1888. 

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The Attorneys of the Weissler Law Group assist clients in San Diego, California as well as in: Coronado, Pacific Beach, Del Mar, Solana Beach, La Jolla, Del Cerro, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee, El Cajon, Rancho Bernardo, Poway, Escondido, National City, Spring Valley, and Chula Vista.

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