The Weeks Bay Foundation is an accredited land trust and protects important coastal habitat in several ways. If you would like to discuss any of these options further, please feel free to call us at 251-990-5004.
Conservation easements (CEs) are a way for you to own your land, live on it, pass it down to your children, or even sell it without worrying about the conservation value being lost. A CE allows you to keep certain reserved rights, while donating other rights to the land trust (The Weeks Bay Foundation, in this case). Each of the rights you donate is worth a certain value. A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements–it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The value of the donation is the difference between the land’s value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on your property may also result in property tax savings. You will need to talk to your financial or tax advisor about any possible tax savings.
Here is an example of how a CE could work: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” have a 150-acre property bordering Fish River. They have a home there, a barn, and a couple of horses. They love the property and its natural beauty. They have no intention of developing it further. They would like to pass it down to their daughter, but are not sure she would have the same love of the land.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith work out a conservation easement with the Foundation that protects the entire property from harmful activities by donating the right to log, mine, commercially develop, or subdivide the land. They reserve the rights to live on the property, maintain their home, keep their 3 horses, and have a small garden. They also reserve the right for one 2-acre development parcel for their daughter to build a home.
In this way, the Smiths are able to keep the family property, continue their current lifestyle, pass the property on to their daughter, and still ensure that it will be conserved once they leave it. Conservation easements cannot be extinguished except by imminent domain or a court order.
If you do not wish to live on or develop your land in any way and you do not wish to pass it along to your heirs, you may consider donating the land. This can be a good way to get income tax deductions and estate tax benefits. It also makes it so that you no longer have the responsibility to manage the land. Land can be donated for its conservation value and will be protected by the land trust, or it can be donated as a trade land for the trust to sell or trade for the ability to protect more valuable conservation land.
Donating a remainder interest in land
If you would like to donate your property but want to live out your days there, you can donate a remainder interest and retain a “reserved life estate.” To simplify, you donate the property but retain the right to live there until you die. Upon your passing, the land trust gains full title and control over the property.
Donating property by will
If you want to own and control your land during your lifetime, but assure its protection after your death, you can donate it by will. You should make sure the chosen recipient is willing and able to receive the gift.
Bargain Sale of Land
If you would like to protect your land, but cannot afford an outright donation, there is the possibility of a bargains sale. This is the sale of the land for less than its fair market value. This is important because it makes it more feasible for the Foundation to purchase it, since we have limited funds. It also avoids some capital gains tax and allows you to take a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference in value. The Foundation has very limited acquisition funds and only pursues the purchase of property in cases of critical conservation habitat.
Your Next Step
Talk to your legal and financial advisors about what land protection choices might be right for you. Then, give us a call at 251-990-5004 and we can talk about how we might be able to preserve your land together!