11 Things to Consider When Donating Land
Considerations before beginning the process of donating land or an easement
- Embrace the idea that you are making a gift to current and future generations regardless of potential financial gains or other considerations. If the motivation is purely financial then you may be disappointed and should seriously consider other options. But if you approach it as a balance of personal gain and public benefit you are on the right track to a successful transaction.
- Understand the value of the property. Get a qualified opinion of the property’s likely market value and a qualified appraisal. They both need to be considered.
- Understand your current financial situation. Are you better off liquidating property now? Should you wait to do a transaction when the property’s value or marketability has increased? Is there a possibility that you’ll have increased interest in potential tax savings in the near future? Do you have financial resources to commit to the donation process? It takes money to donate a property or easement. There will be accounting, legal (planning and the real estate closing), appraisal, and possibly consultant fees to consider. There are also costs related to the Land Trust’s acceptance of the property for which they typically require compensation. It is also typical for the land trust to request a gift to offset the expenses of both their broader mission and to compensate them for the added responsibility of taking over responsibility for the donated property. The total cost for these items various too much to even establish a typical average cost or even a range.
- Understand your property. Is there anything about it such as family history, locale, or usage that will make it hard for you to see a donation through to the end? Does the idea of giving it away completely make your uneasy? If you donate a conservation easement will you be able to work with the easement holder as a partner?
- Discuss with your family. Discuss with your friends. Discuss with your accountant. Enter the process with open eyes and caution, but have a good idea that it will work out.
- Consider multiple Land Trusts. Ask for and talk to their references. What are their goals and mission? Do you like them? Land Trusts are all unique. Be careful in deciding which one with which to begin the process. STPAL makes public access and benefit a big priority and require it on fee simple donations. We don’t require it to receive an easement, but it is where our heart is. If you want your property to be conserved and then locked away we might not be the best choice for you. Although we would rather have land conserved than not so don’t rule us out. But be clear with your priorities and expect clarity from the other parties in a transaction.
- Walk the land with a couple of people from the potential land trust. Talk and listen. This will reveal much and help both parties.
- Ask the land trust for case histories of other transactions. Look at sample baseline documentation reports, annual monitoring reports, deed restriction documents, management plans, and photographic records. Understand how they monitor and care for their properties. Expect that they’ll most likely need to redact documents for confidentiality reasons.
- Get an understanding of the Land Trust’s financial, management, and governance stability. Meet with the executive director and board members. Try to meet with other people that have donated a property or easement to them. Is it an organization that you trust with such an important transaction? It is not only important for them to love trees and squirrels. They need to be able to be a viable organization that complies with somewhat complex issues, standards and requirements.
- Do some research at www.lta.org and your state’s department of natural resources’ website.
- We would appreciate the opportunity to answer any questions.