Steps for Legacy Planning

STEP 1. Establish your vision and goals related to the property

Begin by thinking about what you want most—to see your land remain undeveloped forever? to maintain family harmony? to preserve flexibility for your heirs? You may want to rank your goals in order of their importance, and list any challenges standing in the way of your goals.

If you own your land with others, your next step will be to talk about your goals and values with your spouse or co-owners.

STEP 2. Start the conversation

Now that you’re clear about your vision and goals, you need to find out what others are thinking. Are your heirs interested in receiving a land legacy? Does their vision for the land align with yours? What concerns do they have about inheriting the property?

A family meeting is a forum in which family members can share their ideas and concerns. Family meetings provide a forum in which to share information and discuss issues important to the future of the land and the family, and celebrate successes. It is important to conduct these meetings in a way that fosters a culture of mutual trust and respect. Suggestions for holding family meetings can be found here.

STEP 3. Determining the future Ownership of your land

Do you want to determine who will own your land? If you don’t want to continue to own your land, you can sell it and use the proceeds to achieve your goals. If you do want to determine who will own your land in the future, there are conservation-based estate planning tools that will help you achieve your goals. 

STEP 4. Determining the future USE of your land

Do you want to determine how your land will be used? If you want to ensure that some or all of your land remains in its natural state, there are temporary or permanent tools to help you achieve this.

STEP 5. work with professionals to Develop an Estate Plan

With an understanding of your goals for your land and how you want it to be owned and used, you can work with professionals to develop an estate plan. 

Land protection specialist: Works for a state or private conservation organization.  Provides land conservation options and guidance to meet the conservation goals of you and your family.

Estate planning attorney: Writes a will or trust that includes your wishes for the land and can help you determine your best options for land ownership.

Financial planner: Reviews your current financial situation and anticipates future needs.

Tax attorney or CPA: Develops strategies to minimize your taxes, increasing the amount of assets given to your family. 

Appraiser: Determines the value of your land and the value of a conservation easement.

Forester: Provides land management options, develops an estimate of timber value, and provides information and guidance about the Current Use Value programs to save property taxes.