There are several ways you can ensure that your land will be protected as open space forever. The government has provided tax incentives to help make each approach affordable.
Responsibility of the Land Trust
In order to ensure that easement land is protected properly, the law requires that a qualified Land Trust monitor the land periodically and enforce the terms of the conservation easement.
Because there is considerable expense involved in monitoring a protected property and enforcing the easement, a Land Trust needs to assess a stewardship fee for each easement which it accepts. The landowner is usually asked to contribute the fee, though in special cases other funding may be made available.
Advice on Land Preservation
The Orange County Land Trust has been helping landowners and communities protect land for more than a decade. We will be happy to discuss your situation with you. We also recommend you discuss your situation with an attorney and tax consultant who can advise you on real estate and tax matters.
DONATION OF LAND.
A donation of land to the Orange County Land Trust is considered a charitable donation by the IRS. This will give you a substantial reduction in both federal and state taxes. The deduction can be taken over several years to maximize its effectiveness.
If you sell your land to a qualified Land Trust at a discount (i.e., less than the appraised value), the amount of the discount is a charitable deduction that can be spread over several years' tax returns.
With a conservation easement on your land, you are assured that your land will be protected forever without giving up ownership of the land. Each agreement is tailored to the individual circumstances, and may permit or prohibit special uses (e.g. logging, public access) as agreed between the landowner and the Land Trust. If you donate an easement to a qualified Land Trust, the value of the easement (calculated as the difference between two appraised values: the value of the land at current market price; and the value of the land with an easement that prohibits development) is a charitable donation, and you may deduct it from your taxes over several years' returns. At the discretion of your town assessor, town taxes may also be lowered as the assessed value of your property is lowered.
If you ever sell your land, the easement (filed in the County Clerk's office in the deed registry) follows with the land, so that it remains protected forever.
DONATING YOUR LAND OR A CONSERVATION EASEMENT BY WILL, REMAINDER TRUST OR GIFT ANNUITY
You may donate your land to a Land Trust in your will. A conservation easement can also be granted in a will, but arrangements must be made with the Land Trust in advance, since the Land Trust must agree to accept its obligation under the easement. Although donations made in a landowner's will do not result in tax savings during his or her lifetime, they may significantly reduce inheritance taxes. Other creative estate-planning tools include remainder interest, charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder unitrusts. Contact us to learn more about these options.