Trusts and estates lawyers in Central and Western Pennsylvania said they've recently seen an uptick in inquiries from landowners with oil and gas interests who are interested in beginning the process of estate planning.
But, those lawyers added, there are several schools of thought regarding when -- and even if -- it's advisable for a landowner to consider gifting those interests.
R. Douglas DeNardo, a shareholder at Rothman Gordon in Pittsburgh and chairman of the firm's estates, trusts and taxation department, told the Delaware Law Weekly that inquiries have been "way up" recently, mostly from people who own land in the Utica Shale regions of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, where there are high concentrations of "wet" gas.
Wet gas is a combination of methane and other components such as propane, benzenes and ethane that, in the current market, is much more valuable than "dry" gas, which is almost pure methane.
Dale A. Tice, head of the gas planning group at Marshall, Parker & Associates in Williamsport, Pa., said he began receiving an influx of calls from landowners with oil and gas interests in 2010, when the estate tax was originally scheduled to revert back to a $1 million exemption at the beginning of 2011.
While a last-minute agreement between President Barack Obama and Congress stopped that from happening, Tice said his practice has continued to be busy.
"There has certainly been an increase in the amount of work I'm doing for landowners with the goal of protecting their oil and gas rights and royalty income for future generations," Tice said.
But while DeNardo called the oil and gas boom "the most exciting thing that's come along in estate planning in years," he noted that not everyone is a good candidate, explaining that there are several considerations to be made before moving forward with estate planning.
First of all, DeNardo said, not all landowners with potentially valuable oil and gas interests are necessarily wealthy.
For them, he said, it's especially important to consider whether it would be prudent to give those interests away -- and to spend money doing so -- prematurely.