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How to Keep Your Farm or "Family Property" in the Family for Future Generations

Many parents who have both children and grandchildren want to keep some of the property that they own so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy the property for many years to come. Perhaps the parents have seen how much their kids and grandkids enjoy the property.

However, when parents pass away and their property is left to children, property rules apply that may conflict with what the parents are trying to accomplish. Customizing the right legal program can ensure that one rogue descendant, or perhaps even the spouse of one child or grandchild, will not be able to mess up or destroy the family property that you'd want them all to enjoy.

First, let's look at some of the Louisiana laws that apply when multiple owners own real estate in Louisiana. Louisiana has a rule that states that no owner can be compelled to own property with another. When children inherit their parents' land, the children are considered "owners in indivision."

Anyone who owns an undivided interest in real estate in Louisiana, regardless of how big or small their ownership interest, can sell their ownership interest, or can force a "partition" of the property. The two kinds of partition are "partition in kind" and "partition by licitation."

When a piece of property is susceptible to being divided into lots, an owner can force a partition in kind whereby each owner would wind up with their own tract. Or, particularly if property is not susceptible to division into lots, an owner in indivision can force a sale of the property and the proceeds would be distributed to the co-owners in proportion to their ownership interest in the property.

Due to these rights that co-owners have, family property often gets sold eliminating future descedants from being able to enjoy the property.

Some owners of property think that by forming a limited liability company (LLC), the owners can keep the property in the family for generations. While owners of property should consider forming an LLC, and transferring their property to it, this is more of a "protection from lawsuits" vehicle than a "keep it in the family for generations" vehicle. Placing the property in an LLC and leaving membership interests in the LLC to your descendants won't prevent an owner/member from (1) selling or disposing of their LLC interest; (2) a member's creditor seizing their interest; or (3) giving or bequeathing their LLC membership interest to a non-family member.

These conversations about keeping property in the family for generations often turn toward creating a family trust. Parents would name a trustee or co-trustees (perhaps the "responsible" descendant") who will manage the trust assets for the benefit of all of the children and grandchildren. Backup trustees would need to be provided for since this trust may be in existence for many decades. Thanks to trust law, the descendants (trust beneficiaries) would not be permitted to sell, alienate, or mortgage, their interest in the trust, and the creditors of a beneficiary could not seize their interest in the trust.

Other issues to consider before pulling the trigger on something like this include the gift and estate tax, future Medicaid qualification, leaving funds to the trust to provide for ongoing management and expenses, and perhaps having the parents transfer the property (or their LLC which owns the property) to a revocable trust now (which trust would become irrevocable when the parents die) in order to avoid having the property go through a court-supervised probate proceeding when they pass away.

Every set of family circumstances is unique. You likely only have one "shot" to get it right. And the decisions that you make (or don't make) will affect your descendants for many, many years to come.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450