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How do you keep oil and gas royalties in the family?

Some Californians live on top of gas and oil. If these valuable resources are in the ground under your property, you may be getting some nice royalty income on a regular basis. Even if you sell your home, you can retain the rights to what is underneath it.

The disposition of those royalties should be dealt with in your estate plan. What's the best way to do that? If you want to ensure that the royalty income never goes to anyone but your descendants, you can place the royalties in a trust. The trust specifies that these rights only pass on to those within your own bloodline.

People may think that they have this covered by leaving the royalties to their children in their wills and specifying that they in turn must keep them in the bloodline. However, unless those beneficiaries have estate plans designating the same thing, their share of the royalties could end up in other hands.

One California attorney gives an example of a woman who passed her royalties down to her daughter. In turn, the daughter left the mineral rights to her children when she died. Both made the stipulation that the royalty rights remain in the hands of blood relatives.

Unfortunately, one of those adult children died without a will. Because he had no spouse or children and his mother predeceased him, under California law, his father was his sole heir. The father had children from an earlier marriage and may marry yet again. Since his son had no will designating to whom the royalties could be bequeathed, the father can legally give them to anyone he wants to.

Not everyone is particular about what beneficiaries do with their inheritances or to whom leave it when they die. However, if it's important to you that assets stay within a family, a trust can provide this assurance. Your California estate planning attorney can offer guidance on how to do this.

Source: Pasadena Journal, "All in the Family," Marlene S. Cooper, Feb. 01, 2017

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