In 2005, Elizabeth Marshall Maybee inherited a 3000-acre Northern California ranch from her grandmother that had been in the family since the 1880s.

However, “the Marshall Ranch, which survived the Great Depression and survived a case of eminent domain for the building of a water treatment plant, according to Maybee, faces its biggest hurdle yet.

The federal estate tax.” When the IRS sent her a bill for $2,005,389, she knew she needed to forfeit parts of the land if she hoped to preserve any for her daughter. Otherwise, she would never be able to pay the tax. Although Maybee argued the bill down to $1.7 million, she is still saddled with astronomical debt—an amount far-surpassing a rural schoolteacher’s salary. Even by working day and night, the ranch no longer receives much profit. Instead, any funds pay property taxes and liability insurance, which became particularly true following the real estate market downturn that decreased the need for lumber. As a result, the ranch is stocked with trees, horses, cattle, and other wildlife that need to be maintained but are not used to maximum degree. These expenses, coupled with a lack of sufficient income, mean that the estate tax will be impossible to pay off without succumbing to selling. Hence, Maybee’s dreams of creating a nature camp for children are all but dashed with the continued existence of the estate tax.

Elizabeth Marshall Maybee
Rural Schoolteacher