Estate Planning and Management

When you’ve made the decision to protect your land against irresponsible or destructive development, it’s important to know your bases are covered with regard to the tax implications of this choice — both now and in the future. Responsible estate planning is a complex topic with wide-ranging implications for you, your family and your land.

On this page, you’ll find a comprehensive set of resources that can help you understand and navigate the various legal processes involved in estate planning for land conservation, including succession planning, tax credit trading and 1031 exchanges.

Legal Resource Directory

Needless to say, these are complex issues that require the expertise of a qualified tax lawyer to properly negotiate. Let our servers do the walking to help you find local, regional or national professionals to assist you with your tax, estate, or conservation objectives. You can simply enter your ZIP code and specify just what type of professional you are looking for or you can build a team of qualified professionals in your town, county, or state.

Click your state to find Local Lawyers, Tax Advisors, Incentives and Programs

Responsible Estate Planning

Your land is likely to be a major part of your estate - to properly plan for the future, it's essential to clearly spell out whom will get it and how it may be used. Taking the time now to have these matters settled ultimately means less burden on your loved ones. You'll also have the peace of mind knowing your wishes of protecting your land will be honored long after you're gone

Use our Estate Planning Articles

Organize your farm business: Sub S Corporation simplifies ownership

Land Link: Connecting retiring landowners and beginning farmers to keep agriculture alive

Farm Succession plan important piece of the puzzle

pdf Glossary of Estate Planning Terms

pdf WY Wills: Some Suggestions for getting the most out of estate planning

pdf Introduction to Estate Planning

By: Aaron J. Lyttle; Cole Ehmke; Mary Martin; Bill Taylor
Many people tend to avoid the discomfort of issues relating to death and dying, including estate planning. Because of this, more than half of Americans lack basic wills. The subject can be unpleasant, but planning now can prevent painful difficulties down the road. It is often a good idea to deal with the topic sooner, rather than later, so everything is in place when you, a family member or other loved one, and possibly even a very close friend, dies. It is always best to consult an attorney, and possibly an accountant, in creating your estate plan.

pdf Estate Planning Checklist: Information to assemble before contacting an attorney

When to Use Life Insurance in Estate Planning

Consultant Urges Farmers to do Estate Planning Early

Estate Planning Questionnaire

By: Tim Eggers

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has created an Estate Planning Questionnaire that can help you get ready to meet with an estate planner or attorney. Use it as a guide to get the information that you need together to make a comprehensive estate plan and save time at the lawyers office!

Estate Planning: Lifetime transfers from parent to children

Down on the Family Farm: How to avoid five common estate planning mistakes

Estate Planning: Overview

By: Breana Behrens

Making a plan for your property for when you pass away is not usually an enjoyable task, but it is extremely important, especially for private landowners.  Your land is your legacy and it plays an integral role in the preservation of rural communities and our natural resources.

Organize your farm business: Sub S Corp eases estate planning worries

pdf Estate Planning for Forest Landowners: What Will Become of Your Timberland?

By: William C. Siegel, Harry L. Haney, Jr., and John L. Greene

The purpose of this book is to provide guidelines and assistance to nonindustrial private  forest owners and the legal, tax, financial, insurance, and forestry professionals who serve  them on the application of estate planning techniques to forest properties. The book presents  a working knowledge of the Federal estate and gift tax law as of September 30, 2008, with  particular focus on the unique characteristics of owning timber and forest land. It consists of  four major parts, plus appendices. Part I develops the practical and legal foundation for estate  planning. Part II explains and illustrates the use of general estate planning tools. Part III  explains and illustrates the use of additional tools that are specific to forest ownership. Part  IV describes the forms of forest land ownership, as well as the basic features of State transfer  taxes and the benefits of forest estate planning. The appendices include a glossary and the  Federal forms for filing estate and gift taxes.

What is a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)?

What is a Family Limited Partnership?

Best IRA Accounts of 2015

Planning a Successful Transition From a Family Operation to an Agricultural Business

By: Kylene Scott
Estate planning is one thing, but succession planning is a whole different story. Succession planning is about transferring decision-making. Success for the planning depends on three attributes of the people involved. First, the willingness to work, second discipline and focus, and finally third is the willingness to try new things. Historically speaking, this is not the way ranches, dairies or agricultural operations have been run, but eventually those who are farming or ranching will have to go through the “getting out of the business” process and there needs to be a plan. 

What is a Gift Tax?

What is a Trust?

Protecting You and Your Property – How to Plan for Mental Disability

Conservation Easements

Conservation easements are one of the most commonly used forms of succession planning . A conservation easement is a legal agreement that permanently restricts development on your property. Setting up an easement typically involves donating your property either to a land trust or a government entity; in doing so, you may forfeit some of your rights to the property, but are guaranteed the land will remain preserved for future generations.

Depending on the nature of the easement agreement, it may be possible to negotiate its terms. For example, many private landowners have managed to retain the rights to grow crops and perform other revenue-generating activities.

Conserving your land with a conservation easement may earn you a significant tax rebate, provided it can qualify as a charitable donation under the terms of IRS Section 170(h) . As well, your loved ones will benefit from reduced estate taxes. The following articles on conservation easements and estate planning are provided by our sister site the Conservation Tax Center . Click on an article and you will be directed to over to the CTC where you will be connected to a library of tax and estate planning articles that can help you conserve your land as well as a directory of qualified attorneys and estate planners.

Learn about Conservation Easements

pdf Conservation Easements: Land Trust

pdf Conservation Easements: Choosing a Land Trust

pdf Uniform Conservation Easement Act (with 2007 Amendments)

pdf Farmland Conservation 2.0

Conservation Easement Checklist

By: Breana Behrens
Placing a conservation easement on your land is a great way to ensure that your land remains in its current state for generations to come. However, in doing so, you are giving up certain rights to your property. Since each conservation easement is different, it is important that you take the time to understand what rights you have and what rights you are giving up. Use the following checklist as an overview on what to look for. 

Hypothetical: How a Conservation Easement Works

The Enhanced Conservation Easement Tax Incentive

Drafting Conservation Easements

By: Jessica Jay

Drafting the conservation easement influences everything about the protected property after the easement’s grant: it guides the landowner’s use of the protected property, it guides Land Trust’s monitoring and stewardship of the property, and it guides Land Trusts enforcement of the conservation easement against the original landowner and all future landowners, forever.

Extinguishing, Transferring, and Amending Conservation Easements

By: Breana Behrens
To obtain a charitable deduction for the donation of your land for a conservation purpose the IRS requires that you donate it in perpetuity. The conservation easement that you draft must also last for that long. But, what happens when in ten, one hundred, or a thousand years things change? While there is substantial debate on how to end, modify, or transfer a conservation easement, the following quickly explores how it may be done.

Baseline Documentation

Baseline documentation is a record of what the land subject to a conservation easement looks like at the time of the donation. Maps, descriptions, and pictures of the preserved property and resources are important for outlining the conservation goals of the donor, as well as enforcing the conservation easement and settling future disputes about the use of the land. Baseline documentation is required by the IRS if a donor reserves a right to the land that may impair a protected conservation interest. 

Who Can Enforce A Conservation Easement?

6 Basic Steps to Conveying a Conservation Easement

By: Robert Levin

How does one go about donating or selling a conservation easement.? There is no one right way to go about it. However, the following outline shows the most common steps to the process. Conveying an easement may take anywhere from a few months to a couple years, depending on a variety of factors. The landowner usually must pay for basic legal expenses, and appraisal, and in many cases is asked to make a stewardship donation to ensure that the land remains protected forever. Although the following outline discusses easements, a similar process typically applies to donations of whole interests in land as well.

The Conservation Easement Quiz

Recordkeeping and Substantiation

Qualified Mineral Interest

Determining the Value of the Donated Interest

In order to claim a charitable tax deduction for the donation of a conservation easement, you must determine the value of the easement. This is a subjective determination, which makes it a likely for the IRS to challenge it because different appraisers can come to different resulting values very easily. This is why it is very important to ensure that you take the time to find a qualified appraiser and substantiate the value of your donation according to the IRS requirements for a qualified appraisal.

What is a Conservation Easement?

What are Valid Conservation Purposes?

Treasury Regulations 1.170A-14 explains that a conservation easement must be for a conservation purpose in order for a donor to recieve a charitable tax deduction. There are four conservation purposes that the IRS will consider valid preservation for; outdoor recreation or education, natural habitat, open space or certified historic structures. 

Uniform Conservation Easement Act Summary

Qualified Conservation Contribution

The IRS defines in Treasury Regulation 1.170A-14 what a qualified conservation contribution is. Basically, it requires that you donate a qualified real property interest to a qualified organization, which is exclusively for a conservation purpose and in perpetuity. A qualified conservation contribution is an exception to the general rule that you cannot take a charitable deduction for a donation of something less than your whole interest in what it is that you are donating. This exception ensures that you can donate a conservation easement on your land, obtain a charitable deduction, and still be able to use your property as a working farm, ranch or forest. 

pdf Agricultural Easement Narrative

Tax Benefits of Donating Conservation Land

By: Robert Levin

There are several kinds of tax benefits available to donors of land or conservation easements. This article attempts to summarize these benefits and provide some examples of how they work. If you are uncertain about the differences between bargain sales and donations, or conservation easements and whole interests in property, go to the 'Definitions' article for a quick brush up.

The Importance of Land Trusts to Forestry

By: T.J. McEvoy

Almost everyone in forestry has heard of land trusts since they have become a common fixture especially in areas that are rapidly urbanizing. But the unfortunate perception of many forest and farm owners is that land trusts are not to be trusted because their real purpose is to steal private property and pull lands out of production. Nothing could be further from the truth, but critics rely on false ‘private property’ threats to turn land owners away from land trusts even before owners understand how they work. A forest owner who knows how land trusts operate is more inclined to protect lands from development than owners who know little about this highly innovated to protect forest lands from development.

What is Natural Area Dedication?

pdf Conservation Easements: A Tool for Preventing the Fragmentation of Family Lands

pdf Conservation Easements: Responsibilities

By: Lorie Woodward Cantu
“Conservation easements cannot exist without trust between landowners and land trusts,” said Blair Fitzsimons, CEO of the Texas Agricultural Land Trust. “And trust is built when partners communicate openly and uphold their responsibilities. Of course, it is imperative that the responsibilities are delineated and understood early on.”

pdf Finding Farmland

Drafting Conservation Easements for Agricultural & Ranch Land

Who We Are

Private Landowner Network is an initiative of the Resources First Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting the conservation needs of private landowners across the United States. To do this, we’ve built a network of online resources that help landowners and rural residents make informed decisions about their property. To support us in this valuable work, consider making a donation or becoming a member today.