Estate and Business Succession Planning: Contamination Issues

The Problem

Closely held businesses and investors often end up with liability for soil or groundwater contamination from gasoline or chemical constituents that have been spilled or released, and have migrated to the soil beneath a parcel of real property. In many instances, these business owners or real estate investors have no real concrete plans for addressing what happens to these environmental liabilities upon their death or departure from a business. This often leads to potentially catastrophic consequences for the heirs, surviving business partners, and/or surviving spouse.

Since environmental liabilities inherited by an individual can often remain with them for the rest of their life, it is especially critical to plan in ways that will avoid such draconian results, or at least plan for minimizing these concerns, while maximizing the potential for securing methods to fund environmental cleanup liabilities at death.

The Daehnke Cruz Approach

At Daehnke Cruz Law Group, our attorneys have been exposed to numerous situations over the last 25 years where business and personal estate succession issues have resulted in dire consequences which would have been largely avoidable with proper planning. Because of the situations we have encountered, and because of our years at the forefront of the cleanup of contaminated properties, we have developed strategies that can significantly minimize the concerns associated with the passing of contaminated properties to beneficiaries and business partners upon death.

Initial Planning Strategies

Planning strategies can be as simple as setting aside extra money to deal with site remediation issues at death, or including contamination issues in the valuation of a business or estate. However, at a minimum, effective planning requires identification of all potential environmental cleanup liabilities and the development of a workable plan for how best to deal with these issues at death. Proper succession planning for these eventualities also requires the intimate involvement of the tax, estate planning and business advisors of the business or estate.

In addition to one-on-one legal and strategic advice on preparing and implementing Toxic Succession Plans, the firm is spearheading the "Campaign 5000" effort to educate legal, accounting and financial professionals and fiduciaries on the need for up front toxic succession planning. (See or The firm's attorneys are also available to provide seminars, workshops and webinars on toxic succession planning to business and financial trade groups, and for more targeted brown bag lunch outreach events.