Triggers for landowner decision-making

Having goals isn’t always enough to motivate landowners to plan the future of their land. It can be hard for landowners to find the time and motivation to undertake the estate planning process, and not every landowner is ready to do so. It is common for landowners to let years or even decades go by without doing any planning for the future of their land. Rather than try to engage landowners who are not ready to think about the future of their land, it is often more effective and efficient to focus on landowners who are at a decision point about their land. Typically, only those landowners who have experienced some sort of motivating event or circumstance are open to starting or continuing with this process. Triggers are often related to one another, so it may be the convergence of several events or circumstances that cause a landowner to begin the process.

The following triggers have been identified through interviews with landowners, estate planning attorneys, and land protection specialists, as well as through our mail survey:


The older the landowner is, the greater likelihood he or she will engage in the process of estate planning, as the circumstances described below are more likely to happen or happen with greater frequency.

Health Issues

Poor personal health, or even the poor health of a friend or family member, often reminds landowners of their mortality and could trigger the process.


Ensuring that there will be enough money to live on, especially in retirement or as a precautionary measure should health issues arise, could cause landowners to begin the estate planning process. A change in their financial circumstances, such as losing a job, could also trigger decision making. Changes in the larger economic landscape (estate tax policy, national economy, etc.) could also motivate landowners to begin the process of estate planning.

Life Events

Significant events—such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces—could compel a landowner to begin the estate planning process.

Family Dynamics

Fearing that his or her heirs would either not be able to agree on what to do with the land or make a decision counter to the landowner’s wishes could spur a land- owner to take action.

Other Families

Seeing another family struggle with the decision of what to do with the land can trigger landowners to start planning.

Nearby Development

Seeing development of nearby land can motivate landowners to start planning the future of their land.