Create a list of the things you don’t want to see happen on your property, now or in the future. An example might be that you wouldn’t want to see fifty houses on your property in the future, but you wouldn’t mind three, or maybe you’d prefer that your land not be subdivided. The land restrictions set forth in your conservation easement agreement are your restrictions. The Trust does not tell you what to do with your land.
2. Drafting the Conservation Easement
Once you have made your list, we will work together to draft a conservation easement agreement that properly and clearly conveys your goals. There is no charge for this service, however a refundable $200 posting fee is requested. The fee is refunded when your easement is signed.
3. Title Search and Mortgage Subordination
Your attorney or title company will need to draw up a title report. If there is a mortgage on the property, the Trust will need to contact the mortgagor to discuss the effect of the easement on the mortgage and to develop a written agreement. For those wishing to take advantage of the federal income tax deductions, the mortgage agreement is required under IRS regulations. The cost of the title search is your responsibility. *
4. Baseline Documentation
IRS regulations require documentation establishing the condition of your property at the time your conservation easement is signed. Specific conservation values, such as soil types, tree types, aerial photographs, and location of wetlands, will be recorded in the baseline document. By signing the baseline, you will agree that the document’s content appropriately represents your property at the time the conservation easement is signed. There is no charge for this service.
In almost every case, the boundaries listed in your deed will suffice to determine the land protected by your conservation easement. In the unlikely event a new survey is needed, you are responsible for the cost.*
6. Presentation of the Easement to the Trust’s Board
The Trust’s Board of Directors reviews and must approve all conservation easements held by the Trust.
7. Final Easement Document
We will review with you and your legal advisor the final conservation easement document, maps, exhibits, and the baseline documentation. If acceptable, we will obtain your, as well as your legal advisor’s, approval to move forward to the conservation easement signing and recording process.
8. Easement Signing and Recording
You and the Director of the Trust will sign the final conservation easement document as well as an affidavit certifying the accuracy of the baseline document. A notary will be present. The Trust will ensure that the conservation easement is recorded immediately. Recording costs (usually less than $50) are the responsibility of the landowner. *
9. Tax Deductions
Landowners wishing to take advantage of the tax benefits of conservation easement donations will need to obtain a qualified conservation appraisal. The Trust will provide a list of qualified appraisers. The value of the conservation easement is equal to the value of the property before the easement is signed minus the value of the property after the easement is signed. You should seek advice from a tax attorney or accountant if you plan to claim the value of the conservation easement as a charitable donation for federal taxes. Fees for these services are the responsibility of the landowner. *
A gift to our Stewardship Fund is not a requirement. Annual monitoring by the Trust is the only way to ensure that the goals of your conservation easement are being achieved. If the property changes hands, the Trust will establish a relationship with subsequent landowners, regularly inspect the property, and resolve issues regarding continued protection of the land. It requires financial resources for land trusts to provide these services in perpetuity. We would be delighted to help you explore the many ways to make such a gift. *
* When fees are associated with the donation of a conservation easement, these costs are usually tax deductible. We suggest you contact your accountant for details.