Skip to comments.What can you tell me about a conservation easement?
Posted on 06/02/2014 7:01:40 PM PDT by lyby
My mother and her sister inherited a substantial amount of land from my grandparents. My sister, her husband, my mother, my aunt, two of her sons, and I met with the attorneys last Friday. Despite my voiced disagreement, it was decided to pursue a "conservation easement" for the mountain land. My mother has been trying to divide the property with her sister for over 20 years, since my grandmother's death.
The government now owns that land. They’ll go through the conservation pantomime for a few years, then they’ll sell it for a tidy sum.
What was the reason for this easement?
I’ve worked with people who’ve fallen victim to this scheme over the years. The govt. can promise all sorts of things to get hold of the land and then renege as they see fit to take control. Once signed away you have no recourse, regardless of what you are told today.
Why cede control of the land? What does dividing the land among heirs have to do with an easement?
The only reason for that type of easement is for tax purposes. If there are mineral rights or usable land rights then an easement destroys those rights. If the land has value you are a fool to give an easement which destroys your rights .
this link may help:
note: Qualifying For A Tax Deduction, and, Reducing Estate Taxes
basically the property has been greened so the owner of the easement holds the development rights. Usually its only building rights so you could farm or possibly build a ski run depending on the specifics. Plus side since the value of the property is in the toilet so taxes should drop 70-90%.
Generally with a conservation easement, the original owner still owns the land but sells a land use right that restricts what they can do with their land in the future, usually prohibiting subdividing, development, other intense use, etc.
All other uses that aren’t sold as part of the conservation easement are still allowed. Taxes should also drop to near zero since land is usually taxed at it’s highest POTENTIAL use, and that highest potential use is considerably lowered by selling off the development (or similar) rights.
Farm land is generally still farmable by the owner as well.
Conservation easements can be extremely good solutions to families that want to cash in on their property but don’t actually want to see it developed, but instead would like to see the land left in a beautiful state. Plus they still get to keep ownership of the land, have lowered taxes, and still have some use of the land, can pass it to the next generation, etc.
Around here people who really love their land frequently jump with joy regarding conservation easements. I think the main trick is to hire a KNOWLEDGEABLE and TOUGH representative who will negotiate the best possible deal for YOU, and doesn’t have other bigger vested interests in the long run with the other party after you’ve been screwed and are long gone.
(I’ve actually been involved with giving advice about a conservation easement to a neighbor of mine who’s a lifelong farmer, loves his land, and sooner or later is going to have to stop farming it, and is going to need some money to retire on.)
In small towns and rural situations, unless you have a COMPETENT family attorney who you’ve trusted for decades, I’m a big believer in hiring some top gun a long ways away from Podunk City, because the lawyers and such in those places are generally totally sold out in one way or the other to the local power elite, which as I’m sure you know, does NOT usually include you.
You need to draw a line on a map, have that line surveyed, and separate the property. My MIL got horrendously screwed by my FIL’s brother after FIL’s passing. Verbal agreement is just that. When one party to the agreement is no longer around, then the agreement means whatever the remaining party says it does.
FIL had 50% interest in acreage. Sank well. Built house. moved in. Died. FIL’s brother says “That’s all on my land.” No recollection of “we agreed to swap one acre here for one acre over there.” Never surveyed, never filed with the county; never happened.
Legal definition of conservation easement varies by state. Your mom has 50% interest in property and all of the votes of all of your cousins does not change that. Regardless of whether or not your mom wants a conservation easement, she should seek advice from HER OWN LAWYER, not one paid for by someone else. Might be the best $500.00 she ever spent.
The legal profession is like another ancient profession. They do what they’re told to do by the person who is paying their fee.
I appreciate your viewpoint - I thought I was being cynical...
Do you have any insight regarding trusts?
A local family here in NH just sold a conservation easement on several parcels of timber land they own to The Society for the Protection of New HAMPSHIRE Forests. They also own a local sawmill that has been in the family for 100 years. The easement lowers the real estate taxes on the land but allows them to harvest timber off the land to keep the mill running. It also ensures that these several hundred acres will not be developed into subdivisions. Therefore, I would not assume that a conservation easement is a necessarily a bad thing. I think it depends on who controls the easement. Hire a good real estate, tax attorney.
What was the reason for this easement?
My mother has been trying to get her sister to divide the property for over 20 years... Mama now has dementia.
I have lived away most of my adult life - you know, gotta go where you can earn a living...
My sister and brother-in-law, who have remained in the area for the last 30 years, proposed it. My aunt, who lives an hour away, will state that if there is a rock in the field that was 2nd base from a pick-up ball game fifty years ago, well, that rock needs to stay there. She and her sons were all over that proposal.
My husband, our three children, and I do not think it is a good idea - we have had many disagreements with my sister and brother-in-law.
I just know that my mama does not need to fret anymore with the land division...
“Do you have any insight regarding trusts?”
Unfortunately I know next to nothing about trusts.
Ive worked with people whove fallen victim to this scheme over the years. The govt. can promise all sorts of things to get hold of the land and then renege as they see fit to take control. Once signed away you have no recourse, regardless of what you are told today.
Exactly what my children have told me...
Looked at a property below market a year or do back. Beautiful property decent location. Called the realtor to ask about the conservation easement - she said I couldn’t build anything. So no house no sale. Over 100 acres.
Perhaps I should hire my own attorney? I do not know what to do...
My mama repeatedly states that my mammie said there should be “no jangling.” BUT, half of the Virginia land, which has been in her family since 1790, is HERS.
I just do not want to see her taken advantage of... As I stated previously, I do not live there, and I probably will not return (it pains me to write that).
My mama could come live with us in a heartbeat! I cherish the memories of HOME, and yes, I would like to have a piece of the land, but I want nothing more than to care for my mama.
H.L Mencken once warned, A plan to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
That is the exact same quote my son sent me!!!!! Wish I had been so wise at his age.
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