What is a Conservation Land Trust
It is not easy to handle or talk about end-of-life matters, but it is something inevitable. Making plans, when healthy, can save your loved ones the time, money, and headache. The last thing the deceased’s family wants to do is deal with legal matters right after the burial. Therefore, consider working with land trusts to ensure your loved ones get the property while bypassing probates and other expensive legal processes.
But what is a land trust?
A land trust is an entity that holds property and other related assets, including mortgages, air rights, and property management notes. With a land trust, the owner is the beneficiary who directs the management of the land; however, the agreement deed dictates the level a control a beneficiary has.
Furthermore, the property owner also retains the right to develop, lease, or sell the land and, thus, considered a revocable trust. Landowners can even protect their land from commercial development, even after it’s sold out or donated, through a conservation easement.
Generally, a land trust is a nonprofit, charitable organization that deals with the conservation of a property. It either undertakes or assists in conserving land through sustainable practices. Through stewardship, land trusts can also invoke conversation easement acquisition.
They are different from government agencies and work independently for landowners who are interested in protecting the natural value of the site. However, they cooperate with several government agencies for land management and conservation.
The main objective is to bring lasting benefits to the communities through site conservation and improvement. In some cases, land trusts own and operate the recreational sites of the property that are open to the public, while in others, they only hold the conservation easement terms. There are some who acquire a property and transfer it to government agencies to use it for public benefits, such as a park, recreational site, and hiking trails.
While some are involved in carrying out these activities on their own, such land trusts operate educational and learning programs on the site. They also arrange or offer recreational facilities, maintain trails and assist municipalities with land planning.
What are the Conservation Priorities of Land Trust?
A land trust may have several responsibilities and set priorities when it comes to land conservation. Their foremost responsibility is to maintain the water quality of the site. Then depending on the conditions, a land trust can prioritize conservation tasks such as protecting parks, scenic views, wildlife, biodiversity, and gardens.
They may also be responsible for protecting farmlands, forests, agricultural sites, and trekking trails along with safeguarding hunting areas.
What is conversation easement?
Each conservation easement deed is unique in its nature, as it can be tailor-made according to your goals and objectives. Typically, it is used to:
- Protect vast land and open spaces from encroachment development, whether the property is a family farm, ranch, wetland, or forest. It also safeguards natural habitats, including birds, wildlife, and marine animals
- Protects the land’s agricultural value so allows you to continue farming-related activities, including ranching, harvesting, and husbandry purposes
- Let’s you conserve historically or culturally significant sites to preserve scenic beauties, biodiversity, and other recreational activities
- Improves soil quality by preventing it from soil erosion, droughts, and invasions
- Limits the fragmentation and parcelization of the property to avoid taxes
What are the benefits of a conservation easement?
Whether you reserve the entire site or a portion of it, as a beneficiary or property owner, you can enjoy numerous benefits, like:
Due to the conservation easement agreement, your land becomes ineligible for future developments, lowering the fair market value of the property. This, in turn, reduces taxes for the landowner. Once the land is passed to the next generation, the estate tax is further lowered, which makes it easier to keep the land intact and within the family.
State and Federal Tax:
A site with a permanent easement, when sold or donated to a land trust and meets IRS condition, qualifies for a tax-deductible charitable donation. This, again, reduces federal and state income taxes, only if your site is not restricted for development.
Easement agreements are typically permanent and tailor-made according to your needs and objectives. These restrictions remain unaltered even when the property is sold, donated, or inherited; thus, ensuring your land will remain protected even after your lifetime.
Privacy of Ownership:
Under the land trust agreement, the identity of property ownership is not disclosed to the public or any third party unless it’s a court matter or subpoena.
Limits Legal Fees:
A land trust allows you to assign your successor, and thus, the inheritor can avoid costly legal fees related to property transference.
Assists Multiple Ownerships:
If a real estate has several owners, then a land trust agreement can offer a clear, legal division of the property.
Things to Consider When Entering Conservation Easement
Since it’s a legal binding; therefore, all the aspects of the conservation agreement, including benefits and consequences, should be considered.
It also ensures that the vision and goals for property conservation are endured well after his demise. Thus, it is very important to find an easement holder and conservation partner who shares the same values and beliefs, ensuring land stability and long-term easement enforcement.
Although easements bring in numerous tax benefits, it also comes with a cost. As a beneficiary, you have to pay the legal fee easement tax, appraisal service charges, and stewardship fund contribution to establish the agreement.
Establishing a Conservation Easement Agreement
The easement agreement requires several steps, starting with your vision and objectives for property management and development. You would then need to collaborate with land conservation trusts to evaluate your property and the terms of your agreement. Only after that you can move forward with its legal and financial aspects.