Protecting land is not a one-size-fits-all process.
Some landowners find a simple, immediate decision that feels right. Others benefit from a longer, strategic path to land protection involving more than one method used over time. The best answer for you and your land might evolve over time.
Combining methods can serve your changing needs as a landowner over time. Sometimes it can provide maximum tax benefits as well.
Here are three examples:
A bequest may become a donation
Some landowners enjoy the flexibility and peace of mind offered by a bequest of land to a conservation organization. They retain full ownership and enjoyment of the land: Nothing changes for them and the land except the certainty of a carefully chosen future owner.
There may come a time when a donation or a reserved life estate donation becomes appealing as a way to let go of responsibility for the land and to gain tax benefits that a bequest cannot offer.
A conservation easement may be followed by a bequest
A landowner may find a conservation easement appealing because the protected land remains in their ownership and care. Their primary protection goal is accomplished.
They still face the decision of an heir for the protected land — and they might choose a conservation agency or organization to accomplish additional goals such as public enjoyment or consistent land stewardship.
Multiple kinds of donations over time
When land is large, mixed in use or quite valuable, a landowner might find it useful to donate different portions in varied ways or time periods. For example, the woodland might be donated now to a conservation organization, while the cropland is donated with reserved life estate so that the landowner can continue to receive the crop income.
Situations and relationships evolve
The INHF staff has been fortunate to know some landowners well for 20 or 30 years. We’ve seen how life situations can change unexpectedly and how desires regarding land can evolve or grow over time.
So if you don’t know exactly what you want for your land or what action you want to take right now… know you are not alone! Don’t give up in confusion or frustration. It may become clearer with a little more discussion or time.