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.
A gianormous gift to the greedy grifters who perch atop the uber-green-weenie enviro-whacko movement. And as soon as they take control of it, any promises made to you will be forgotten. They are parasites, and they will devour every bit of land they can.
A high school friend of mine and our family minister succinctly analyzed the situation for me: it’s the difference between democrats and republicans.
Saving that quote.
I believe it’s land you can’t use (except perhaps to gaze upon) but are obligated to pay taxes on.
The value of your property goes to zero.
My high school yearbook was named the “Kanawhan,” after the locks on the James River... Spelled differently than the inscription on your knife. But is it the same?
Actually, I did it as a joke for a thread back in 2006 when Freeper “Kanawa” killed a bear with a knife. Although, I believe my great-grandfather was living in, I think, Kanawah County, when he joined the Confederate army in 1861.
Look up Drakes Bay oysters and what a conservation easement did for their business.
Your family will regret this move. Totally.
I looked at buying a lot of land in the west. If it had a conservation easement, that meant I could build nothing on it. So I never bought a property with a conservation easement. Point is, think about potential future buyers. The easement will be limiting that pool.
Please take my advice, and get an attorney. And for further advice, make sure you get an attorney you can trust (which hopefully your gut instincts/trusted references/logic can tell you about that attorney). If something doesn’t make sense, research the applicable laws, ordinances, etc.
Otherwise, you will be steamrolled. It won’t matter if you are right, you will probably still lose unless you take the proper actions to protect your and your mother’s best interests.
There are a lot of vultures out there and in the case of family land, most of us are related to those vultures.
Also, find a realtor/appraiser in whom you have confidence to tell you the approximate value of your and your mother’s interest in the land, and weigh the amount of money you are willing to invest in any legal action to fight it against that amount.
Best of luck to you. I’m not an attorney, but I’ve had more than my fair share of horrible land disputes.
i would get on my knees and pray for guidance and perspective on this one. and i’d point them all to this link.
Thank you to each of you who have taken the time to reply to my inquiry! I am so grateful for the advice and the links to information... Ya’ll are the BEST!!!!
Bright young man. Good on you for doing something right.
Conservation easement... You pay for lower taxes.
google: Henry Lamb conservation easements for more info
Conservation Easements and the Urge to Rule
Again, I thank ya’ll for your invaluable input. Tomorrow I will re-read each of these posts and the links, which I have saved. Tomorrow will shed new light and insight on this situation (I just drove 10 hours back home to Alabama from home in Virginia). In HIS name be the glory. G’Night.
“I just do not want to see her taken advantage of... As I stated previously, I do not live there”
And that’s the problem we all face when our elderly parents live far away. We’d like to help them with a variety of issues and prevent them from being ripped off via a variety of schemes, but it’s very difficult to project any real influence from such a long distance, especially if there’s a passel of other relatives right on the spot already.
Your best bet is to quit objecting to the conservation easement idea, say you’ve thought about it carefully and realize it’s the right thing to do, that it solves a bunch of problems, back it wholeheartedly, express and interest in trying to help them get the best deal possible, and see if they’ll agree to involving you in the negotiations, work with their attorneys, etc. Of course you’d actually have to be willing to put substantial time into actually making yourself useful.
Hiring your own attorney would be EXTREMELY counterproductive unless such an attorney was to help YOU review the proposals and contracts, but that would be useful ONLY if they allow you to be involved in the negotiations in the first place!
Being so far away, your best bet might be to simply offer to go over the proposals BEFORE anything is signed with the intent of helping to make sure they get the best deal possible. You could THEN use your own attorney to help YOU. But you really need to bring something positive to the table that helps and DOES NOT impede their efforts at negotiations.
This sounds like very bad advice. I would not advise the OP to do what you suggested without independent legal counsel.
Just my opinion.
Your family sounds a bit like my own; there are lost of people living an hour or more away in Fantasy-Land. I’ve seen this before and I’d concur with the advise given above. Hire good counsel of your own familiar with this subject. It sounds as though your family may be working to devalue or wipe out what may be a substantial asset.
There are many examples, but I'll give you one that will be familiar to many freepers. If you know the Antietam battlefield, you will know the Roulette farm, which fronts Bloody Lane. (For those who don't know the battle, this is smackdab in the middle of intense and prolonged fighting; we're not talking outlying ground here.) For years, the Roulette house and neighboring fields remained in private hands while the surrounding land was acquired for the park. Along the way, the Park Service acquired a conservation easement. Decades went by. Whether the farm remained in the same hands, I don't know. But as the story was told to me, eventually the current owners saw a chance to cash in, and huddled with a developer to subdivide the land and put up McMansions. These would presumably fetch a hefty price, located as they would have been right in the middle of a scenic park.
Fortunately the owners ran up against the easement. I'm told they tried to break the agreement, but they finally had to concede that the Park Service lawyers way back when had done their job well, and there weren't any loopholes. The land had to remain undeveloped. So they sold to the Park Service, and that tract has now been incorporated into the park. If you've not been to Antietam in some years, it's time to go back, as that ground in front of Bloody Lane that has always been fenced and posted is now open.
That's a dramatic example. One could come up with many more. The issues are site specific, but easements are a very good preservation tool. Whether the land is eventually acquired by a park is secondary; that may or may not happen, depending on the long term plans of the owner, but the easement allows the preservation of important ground without forcing an owner off his property.
plus, upon transfer to us, the little lib turd who runs it, in his first interaction, sought hunting rights, and with our decline, has been a nit picker since.
The only saving grace is we get a 25% break on the property taxes.
We manage it to the baseline inventory and appearance
My advise if they plan to go forward is to get a lawyer and reserve as many rights (including construction) as possible. I personally implore your family to run as fast as possible. If they are concerned about keeping it forever wild, consider deed restrictions
I don't mean to pry into family quarrels, but your account, on its face, implies that: (1) you were not the owner of the land in question; (2) you disagreed with the owner's chosen disposition of the land; (3) you anticipated that the property would eventually pass to you, so you now find that the gleam in your eye regarding future uses of the property has been foreclosed.
The key here is that you were not the owner when the easement was granted. My earlier post had to do with battlefield preservation. Very often, the owners of historic land or homes appreciate what they have and have lovingly cared for their property, in its historic state, for many years. They would like to pass it along in its historic form as part of their legacy. But can you trust the succeeding generations to share that commitment. If not, an easement can be a good option. Sooner or later, an heir will come along who is ready to sell to the developer. The easement prevents that. This is the owners' call, not the heirs.'
I will acknowledge that your dad’s alzhiemers is a complicating factor. If you believe your inlaws took advantage of diminished capacity to talk him into something against the family’s best interests, that is a legitimate issue. But that is separable from the question of an easement.
see your freepmail
Yes. I think we agree.
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