So you’ve found gold on your property. It may seem fairly straightforward. It’s your property. You bought it with your sweat and toil. So if you find gold on your land it’s yours, right? Not necessarily, if it’s more than just a stray nugget or two.
Let me tell you all a story ’bout a man named Jed… For those old enough to remember the popular TV series’ theme song, you know the story about how hillbilly Jed, while hunting, managed to shoot a hole in the ground which produced a highly lucrative oil gusher.
They don’t ask any questions about mineral rights in the program. But the truth is, unless Jed or one of his forebears had bought those rights when purchasing the property, that oil may not have belonged to him at all. Depending on which state you live in and a host of other factors, your ownership may not extend to valuable minerals below the ground’s surface unless those rights have been purchased separately.
Just as an example, we live across from a railroad track. When our western state was trying to entice the railroad to place a line through the area around a century ago, they did so partly with an offer of mineral rights to every-other square mile of land along the track.
It so happens our property lies in one of those square miles. So if I decide to expand my garden or put in a pool next year and discover a vein of gold or any other valuable mineral, the railroad would be the beneficiary of that find. It may not seem fair, but since the agreement was made long before we came along, it’s unclear how much success we might have in challenging it. If the railroad has any say, probably not much.
Know Who Owns The Mineral Rights
Understanding the mineral rights in your area can be complex and may require legal assistance. If you wish to claim, or someone else is trying to claim, rights to mine your property, it’s a good idea to seek professional counsel.
If, however, you are metal detecting on your property and should discover a hoard of gold items buried by some previous owner for safekeeping, that find is more than likely yours to keep. There may be questions about who buried the treasure and how long ago. A search of property records may be helpful in this case. “Finders, keepers” is a real legal bargaining chip if there is no one else who has concrete proof of ownership.
How Much Gold Did You Find?
If you find only a small amount of natural gold ore, it’s less likely anyone will try to take it from you. First, do some tests to ensure you have found real gold. Even if it checks out as authentic, the expense of mining the ore may well outweigh other legal factors.
If you decide to try to claim the mining rights for yourself, weigh your options carefully. Consider the chances that the cost of mining rights plus the great expense of accessing the ore may exceed the value of the minerals extracted. You’ll want some clear answers before digging that hole, both literally and figuratively.
Don’t Forget Your Tax Liability On The Gold You Find
Another consideration if you should find a significant amount of gold on your property is the need to have your find appraised for tax purposes. It is possible to lose up to half of a large find to various taxes. Any find over $1000 will certainly be assessed taxes of varying amounts depending on whether you’re keeping it or selling it, as well as how long you’ve owned it. This can also be a complicated procedure requiring the knowledge of a legal specialist.
Profit From Giving an Easement To The Gold on Your Property
If you did happen to find a large gold deposit on your property and do not own the mineral rights, don’t fear. You do still own the property at least from the ground up. The mineral rights owner cannot simply come and remove you and dig up your property. They would have to make some kind of deal with you as the landowner. These types of deals have been known to be quite lucrative. So even if you don’t come away with a mountain of gold, you may still make a nice profit from your find.
In short, if you find a few flakes or nuggets on your property, your best course of action is simply to put it away somewhere as a collectible or for a rainy day. If you find a large amount of gold, you may be in for some legal headaches, but with the right advice, you can still come away with a profit from your find.
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