Ranch families that have lived on the land for generations have built more than a business. They’ve built an enduring legacy through which future generations can prosper. And in many parts of the West, especially the oil-
rich Williston Basin of North Dakota and the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, that legacy can be substantial.

But how can you pass on your assets without exposing the family to heavy tax liabilities? If your estate exceeds $5.34 million in 2014, the amount above that could be taxed as high as 40 percent. In many cases, family limited partnerships are an effective way to reduce the taxability of your estate as well as reducing your current tax liability. A family limited partnership (FLP) is an entity created by the transfer of property from one or more individuals to the entity for the common economic benefit of family members.

We asked Ketel Thorstenson’s Jeffrey Stulken and Kevin Johnson some questions about FLPs.

What are the advantages of FLPs?
FLPs can preserve and pass on family wealth to younger generations. The general partner retains full control of their assets. The parent will transfer ownership interests to the children. Once this is completed, the limited partners cannot make investment, business, and management decisions nor can they individually remove assets from the partnership (via distributions or otherwise) without the general partners’ approval. FLPs can potentially save on income taxes by splitting the income with family members in lower tax brackets. There also may be special valuation discounts available on the transfer of FLP interests, which enables wealth to be passed on to younger generations at a significantly lower tax cost.

How can a FLP benefit a taxpayer who receives oil-and-gas payments?
There are numerous advantages to using an FLP to hold the rights under an oil and gas lease. Like a trust, the partnership protects the partnership assets from risks associated with creditors or divorce of family members. A family limited partnership allows control over the assets in the partnership to initially remain with the parents as General Partners, while gradually shifting ownership and eventually control to the children as Limited Partners. In addition, there may be a discount in valuing partnership interests that could be of benefit for those facing federal estate tax.

How are FLPs created?
A family limited partnership is a business created by an agreement between an individual and certain members of the individual’s family. It is typically used by an owner of real estate, a business, a farm and, for our discussion, oil and gas royalties. Your attorney will help you prepare the required documents, including the transfer of the assets to the partnership. The FLP can combine business operational planning, personal tax planning, transfer of family wealth, and business succession planning, all under one flexible arrangement.

Is a FLP right for my family?
Each situation is different, and in some cases a combination of corporations, trusts and FLPs can be appropriate. In proper circumstances, the use of FLPs should be considered for the potential benefits of providing administrative convenience, potential income, estate and gift tax reductions, and creditor deterrence. Be sure to discuss your individual case with your attorney and tax advisor.