Earth Day Estate Planning, Part 2

estate planning wills trusts environmentWelcome to Part 2 of my series concerning estate planning with the Earth in mind. You are probably familiar with  land development in your area that is happening at a breakneck pace. We all know of favorite fields plowed under for a new housing development or shopping center. One way to help the natural world is to leave your land in a conservation restriction as a part of your estate planning.

When you use a will or trust, you are leaving your assets, including your property, to individuals or organizations. When you draft your estate plan, you can include a conservation restriction – called a conservation easement in other states – to protect your property from development. A conservation restriction is a legal document between a property owner and a conservation organization. That organization agrees to monitor the property and enforce the restriction, even if the property changes hands. The property owner can place a restriction that prohibits any development or can state exactly what kind of development is allowed. For example, a property owner could place a conservation restriction on a 50-acre farm and allow one more home to be built on the property but no other buildings. Conservation restrictions can be tailored to meet the property owner’s wishes, and it’s better if they explicitly list what the owner allows and what the owner prohibits to be done to the property. It is considered a deed restriction and goes with the deed to the land, meaning it applies to anyone who purchases the land.

If you want to place a conservation restriction on your property in your will or trust, it is a good idea to check with some conservation organizations to make sure they will accept your property into their land trust program. If you find one or several that will do so, you can even include their names – or name the one you prefer – in your will or trust so the representative or trustee knows who to contact when the time comes to place the restriction. You can even attach a draft of the conservation restriction to your will or trust so that your wishes are clearly articulated.

While it is best to think of these issues before death, a representative or trustee can place a conservation restriction on property after the death of the property owner. It needs to be done quickly, before the federal estate tax is filed, which is usually nine months after death.

Contact me if you want to learn more about conservation restrictions and your estate plan.

 

Earth Day Estate Planning, Part 1

donation trust will On April 22, we will celebrate Earth Day. You have probably read about different ways people are recognizing the day and bringing greater awareness to ways we can help our planet, and you may be taking part in some of those activities yourself. Did you know that you can also do things with your estate plan that help the earth? When you make an estate plan, you have probably been advised to think about your assets and your beneficiaries. One of your beneficiaries can be the earth, and this can be accomplished in several ways. In this 5-part series, I will explore these different ways.

A popular way to help the natural world is to bequeath property or money to a nonprofit organization or a business that engages in work that you support. Recently, a woman used her trust to leave $1 million to three Washington National Parks. Elizabeth “Bette” Wallace established a trust so that money could be used to support causes when she died. Her trust, through her niece acting as its trustee, already made contributions to help the homeless and to Washington schools. The latest donation is to the Washington National Park Fund. The amount will be evenly split between Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks. Ms. Wallace spent 14 years growing up in Washington and through this generous donation via her trust, she can help the land there and to help people experience that land.

attorny lawyer estate planning horses massachusetts online affordable convenientWhile not everyone has the ability to make such a generous donation, you can make donations via your estate plan to support environmental causes after your death. Using a trust can be the best way to do this, although you can also do it through a will. A trust is a private document that is not filed in the court system, so you don’t have to worry about people finding out about your donation unless you want it publicized. A trust is also a faster way to donate because a will can take 9 months to several years to go through the court probate system. You can either make a specific bequeath through your trust or you can give your trustee discretion concerning what individual, organizations, and companies receive the money. Even a few hundred dollars can go a long way to help an organization such as an animal shelter.

Come back tomorrow and find out another way to help the Earth with your estate plan. This week, I am offering a 10% Earth Day discount on all my legal services, so please feel free to contact me about your estate planning needs, whether you need changes made to your existing plan or you need an entire plan drafted.