What Does the Future Hold for Your Land?
Your land is an important part of your estate, as well as your family’s history and future. You can protect that future by planning what will happen to the land when you’re no longer there to care for it.
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Many forests and farms are lost to development when land is transferred from one generation to the next. Those who inherit land don’t always know — or agree with — what their relatives wanted for the land. Creating an estate plan will help ensure that future use of your land is consistent with your values and wishes.
Estate planning ensures that your assets—including your land—will be distributed in ways that will address your and your family’s needs. As a landowner, making these decisions now is essential, not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of your community and the land itself.
This process can be complex, so it’s important to seek professional advice from a qualified estate planning attorney and financial advisor. And, as part of this planning process, Kestrel’s staff can provide information about the options for protecting your land.
Learn About Options for Conserving Your Land
There are a variety of ways to protect your land depending on your goals and whether it’s a wildland, woodland, or farmland. These guides explain the different land types and what you should consider as you start planning the future of your land.
For step-by-step guidance on estate planning for your land—along with tools, resources, and examples of how other landowners have made these decisions—download these guides provided by Kestrel’s partners at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership.
How can conserving my land also support Kestrel’s work?
Donating land, or your rights to develop land, to a qualified conservation organization is a powerful way to protect a place you love. It is also a major financial decision that may offer significant tax benefits.
- Land with conservation values that benefit the public—such as wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, or scenic qualities—may be donated to Kestrel Land Trust either in its entirety (“fee simple”) or by donating certain rights through a Conservation Restriction (CR).
- Conservation restrictions can help a landowner pass land to the next generation. Limiting land’s development potential lowers its market value, which lowers estate and sometimes property taxes. Whether the CR is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in heirs’ financial ability to retain ownership of the land.
- Charitable donations of conservation land or development rights—either at full value or through a “bargain sale”—currently enjoy federal income tax benefits that can be spread over a number of years to help landowners realize the full value of their donation.
- Houses, buildings, and other developed real estate can also be donated as trade properties. The sale of the property then provides funding for Kestrel’s conservation projects in the Valley.
Creating a Legacy: Landowner Stories
After consulting with Kestrel and professional advisors, Rebecca and Carolyn Greenberg learned that their family forest could help the sisters realize multiple financial goals—including personal income and tax relief – while protecting the majority of the property.
Peter and Peggy Hepler knew they wouldn’t always be their land’s stewards. They donated to Kestrel Land Trust a conservation restriction that will preserve the land in an undeveloped state forever. As a result of their donation, the Heplers received a state tax credit that reduced their income tax for several years.
Read more stories from Valley Visionaries